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"Skewed" Polls, ACORN, And Right-Wing Delusion

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When you live inside a bubble, denial comes easy. And for conservatives in the media searching for an explanation for why President Obama seems increasingly well positioned to win re-election, denial comes way to easy.

After four years of relentlessly condemning Obama as an historic failure and all around bad person, conservatives are desperately trying to explain the disconnect between their dire Obama denunciations and the on-the-ground political reality about Obama's polling surge. They need a scapegoat, and pollsters have been cast in the role.

Just as left-leaning community organizers at ACORN were selected as unlikely scapegoats for John McCain's loss in 2008, pollsters today have been tapped by the far right as conniving conspirators in cahoots with Democrats to seal another election for Obama.

Recall that four years ago little-known ACORN was allegedly trying to flood ballot boxes with fraudulent votes. The rhetoric was so persistent that a 2009 poll found a majority of Republicans believed ACORN "stole" the election for Obama, who defeated McCain by more than nine million votes.

This year, instead of producing too many votes, pollsters are allegedly doing the opposite - making sure fewer people cast a ballot on Election Day. Teaming up with the media, pollsters are suppressing the vote by concocting phony results; by skewing the data. That drumbeat of results is supposedly designed to "depress Republican enthusiasm," which in turn hands victories to the Democrats.

"The intended effect is to suppress Republican turnout through media polling bias," said Romney's pollster John McLaughlin this week. And who was way ahead of McLaughlin and the Romney campaign in pushing the polling conspiracy claim? Rush Limbaugh, of course.

From September 10 [emphasis added]:

The polls are just being used as another tool of voter suppression. The polls are an attempt to not reflect public opinion, but to shape it. Yours. They want to depress the heck out of you, and they want to suppress your vote.

It's hard to imagine a campaign conspiracy more unbelievable than 2008's ACORN fantasy, where underfunded activists somehow "stole" the election from the mighty Republican campaign machine. But today's Alice-in-Wonderland polling plot seems to surpass it in terms of being nonsensical. (i.e. Why would professional pollsters cook the books for Obama and then run the risk of ruining their reputation for accuracy?)

In fact, in a strange marriage of right-wing paranoia, the blogger who launched the uskewed polling site, Dean Chambers, actually ties the polling and the ACORN conspiracies together. He claims pollsters are trying to keep the race close enough so the Obama campaign and "their allies and former members and leaders in groups like ACORN" can come in and steal the election at the end via voter fraud.

But note what's really happening now isn't just conservatives carping about polling methodology. What's unfolding now is that conservatives are constructing, from the ground up, an elaborate, all-purpose explanation for Election Day if Obama wins. It's unlikely conservatives will admit their attacks on pollsters were wrong if Obama wins. Instead, they'll insist the pollsters' voter suppression plot worked and that Romney's loss proves it!

An Obama victory will confirm that bloggers and talk shows hosts were right all along because the skewed polls worked (as the conspiracy intended) and drained Republican enthusiasm. And that's why Obama won re-election: Not enough Republicans voted!

It will be like how Obama's win in 2008 confirmed every deep suspicion Fox News and right-wing radio conjured up about ACORN during the campaign.

The bigger question though, is why is there a need for such elaborate schemes and conspiracies when Republicans lose on Election Day, and particularly when Obama is involved in the campaign?

The problem stems from the canyon-size disconnect between the four years of apocalyptic rhetoric the right-wing media have used about Obama, and the fact that he seems to poised to win re-election, and may even win by a comfortable margin.

It's not only that the loudest, most radical voices in the conservative media oppose Obama or hold his political views in contempt. It's that they have portrayed him as a monster, bent on destroying the American way of life. He hates white people, America, and Israel. He sympathizes with terrorists and is purposely driving more Americans into unemployment and onto the welfare rolls.

If Obama ends up winning, what does that say about the right-wing media's ability to influence American politics?

The truth is, lots of right-wing commentators can't comprehend that Romney's behind in the polls. They think he should be winning in a walk because of Obama's "trainwreck" presidency. "Why Isn't Romney Up by Ten Points?," asked a recent National Review Online piece.

Some conservatives insist Romney is winning. "The sense of the growing panic among Obamians is palpable," wrote talk show host and blogger Hugh Hewitt this week, dismissing as untrustworthy and useless recent polling results that brought dire news for Republicans. Rather than trailing Obama, Romney's campaign is actually "in an enviable position," Hewitt stressed.

I'm not sure Hewitt understands what "palpable" and "enviable" mean. Either that, or he and fellow conservatives have become incapable of participating in a reality-based campaign season. Mortified by an avalanche of polls re-affirming Obama's increasingly strong chances for re-election, Hewitt and company have retreated to the comfortable confines of the right-wing media bubble.

And inside that bubble they've concocted the fantastic claim that pollsters are conspiring with Democrats to unethically clinch the election for Obama.

Just like ACORN did four years ago.

Crossposted at County Fair, a Media Matters for America blog.