Republicans’ Last Hope: The Polls Are Wrong

Republicans rooting for Donald Trump's election are clinging to one last, long-shot hope in the final stretch of this presidential campaign: The polls are wrong.

With Hillary Clinton holding an average national polling advantage of 5 percentage points, as well as single-digit leads in a majority of battleground states with only two weeks left until Election Day, many GOPers are casting aspersions on the numbers.

Trump himself gave the burgeoning argument new steam during a rally in St. Augustine, Florida, on Monday, declaring that despite the sum of public data, he was ahead of Clinton.

"When they leave them alone and do them properly, I'm leading," Trump complained, referring to the presidential polling. "They're polling Democrats. The system is corrupt and it's rigged and it's broken and we're going to change it."

He added later: "Folks, we're winning."

The numbers in most surveys, of course, tell a different tale.

In must-carry Florida, where Trump will spend three consecutive days campaigning this week, the GOP nominee is fighting from about 4 points behind, according to the last two surveys.

But Peter Feaman, a Republican National Committee member in the state, says he suspects pollsters are undersampling Trump supporters.

"I think it's a dead heat," he says. "In the Republican primary, we were doing polling by the party and it seriously underreported Trump. I'm using that as a benchmark. I think they're still not picking up voters for Trump like they weren't in March."

He's also using Trump's large crowds as anecdotal evidence to support his theory that his candidate is not behind.

"There's something going on. I just can't ignore that," he says.

In New Hampshire, where Clinton campaigned alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Monday, the last two surveys of the race showed Clinton's lead over Trump falling at 8 and 15 percentage points, respectively.

Steve Duprey, a Granite State member of the RNC, doesn't buy those margins, either.

"I don't think he's down as much as the Emerson or UNH polls show," Duprey says, citing the two most recent surveys from Emerson College and the University of New Hampshire. "My read is Donald Trump is down 5 to 6 points in New Hampshire."

That would roughly match the final deficit Mitt Romney saw against President Barack Obama in 2012, when he was defeated by 5.8 percentage points in the state.

But it would also place the state within the realm of possibility for Trump as he scurries around the country in a final frenetic push for votes.

"It's not out of reach," Duprey says. "I don't see anywhere near the kind of fervor among independent voters or young voters for Hillary Clinton that you did for Barack Obama. That's the reason the Democrats are sending everybody and his brother to New Hampshire."

He does worry, though, that large public polling gaps feed the narrative of a predetermined result, and could dissuade turnout.

"Folks on the fence, they see these polls and may get discouraged from voting," Duprey says. "I don't think it's as far apart as some of those polls are showing."

In North Carolina, another state that Trump must win in order to have a path to the presidency, recent polling has tilted ever so slightly toward Clinton. A survey out Monday from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Clinton up by 3 points in the Tar Heel State, while a new Monmouth University survey placed her up by just a single point.

Carter Wrenn, a longtime Republican operative in the state, says he would give a slight advantage to Clinton there due to her solid debate performances and the revelation of the tape that exposed Trump making lewd and predatory comments about women.

But he says that's not the consensus view among his party brethren.

"The Republicans are very much convinced he's got a shot. A lot of them believe the polling isn't accurate and that there is a hidden vote for Trump," Wrenn says. "I don't see it the same way. There's not often a hidden vote. Trump probably has two or three ways to win; there's probably 10 ways Hillary can win it.

"It's tight, but Hillary has the edge. I think she could win by 5 or more points."

On Rush Limbaugh's radio program Monday, Trump's running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, pushed the narrative that the Clinton campaign is using its media "allies" to dampen GOP hopes.

"There's two ways you can defeat your opponent. No. 1, you can defeat them outright. Or, No. 2, you can just demoralize them. I think that's what they're trying to do here. But I don't think the American people are buying it," Pence said.

But also Monday, Limbaugh conceded to his listeners that he was mistaken in 2012 to dismiss the vast amounts of polling showing Obama ahead of Mitt Romney.

"I wish that I could sit here and tell you that I, without question, think the polls are rigged. I have thought so in previous elections," Limbaugh said on his radio show. "In 2012, honest to God, folks, I thought Romney was gonna win by 5 or 6. There weren't any polls that said that."

With Election Day now looming, the gaps between some polls are cavernous.

Whereas a recent ABC News survey measured Clinton hitting 50 percent and grabbing a sizable 12-point lead over Trump, another read of the race from Investor's Business Daily and TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, or TIPP, had the two candidates tied at 41 percent.

Along with the Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California tracking poll, the Investor's Business Daily survey has been an outlier this cycle, consistently finding the race to be more favorable to Trump than other media-sponsored polls.

In 2012, stat guru Nate Silver found the IBD survey to be one of the most accurate of the cycle, an honor that TIPP President Raghavan Mayur takes seriously.

All of his company's polling calls are performed live – not by automated computers – and two-thirds of respondents are on their cellphones. His most recent five-day flight polled 291 Democrats, 235 Republicans and 271 independents.

Mayur does not believe this election will see the record turnout that the Clinton campaign is forecasting.

"The excitement for Mrs. Clinton to win is much less than 2012. If she does win it'll be in the ballpark, it'll be somewhere between 0 to 3.6 points," Mayur says. "Any poll over 7 points is an outlier."

Asked how confident he is in his numbers when many other pollsters are showing significantly larger advantages for Clinton, Mayur raises the stakes for himself.

"If I call this race most accurately, I will go down in the history of polling. This is like the Olympics for me," he says. "I'm comfortable and I go to bed very calm."

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