In the endless twilight struggle against reality among the Republican right, their latest skirmish with everybody else concerns polls — especially those that show Barack Obama increasing his small but durable lead over Mitt Romney. Voter surveys by mainstream media organizations are wrong because they “oversample” Democrats, but they aren’t merely mistaken. According to several leading right-wing theorists on the radio and Internet, those discouraging polls are designed to mislead by the liberal biased media, so that good Republican voters will simply give up.
Slate’s Dave Weigel has dubbed them “poll sample truthers” and perhaps needless to say, there is scant truth in their feverish accusations.
Nevertheless, prominent figures have promoted versions of this conspiratorial analysis, including radio behemoth Rush Limbaugh, Redstate blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson, Sean Hannity, columnist and author Ann Coulter, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and a host of lesser voices floating through the ether. After all, it perfectly reflects their cartoonish worldview, in which scheming media liberals seek to manipulate the sheeplike public against embattled and righteous “conservatives.”
“They want you thinking your side’s lost. They want you thinking it’s over for what you believe. And that makes you stay home and not vote. That’s what they’re hoping.”
This theory suffers from many defects — not least of which is that many of these same right-wing geniuses were predicting President Obama would defeat Romney months ago, long before any of the suspect polls were published.
Limbaugh himself cast doubt on Romney’s November prospects during the Republican primaries, even though he never quite had the guts to endorse Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum. For months, he sneered loudly and repeatedly at the notion that Republicans should line up behind the former Massachusetts governor because he was the most viable candidate against Obama. “From the get-go, the reason to support Romney is that he’s the guy that can beat Obama,” he roared last January. “Mitt Romney is 9-16 in his electoral career. He’s nine out of 25. That’s Mr. Electability? I don’t understand.”
Until Romney finally sewed up the nomination, Limbaugh continued to mock the electability argument, pointing out the candidate’s weaknesses and insisting that he won primaries only by vastly outspending and maligning underfunded opponents. Yet now Limbaugh insists any poll showing Romney behind must have been rigged.
The most predictable poll truther is Newt Gingrich, who has made a long and profitable career from attacking the press. Last week he told Fox viewers that poll results showing Romney behind in key states were produced by “the most intensely biased media you could imagine.” Referring to a Virginia poll with results he didn’t like, Gingrich said it “shows Obama up by four points. And you evaluate the poll and realize it’s probably off by 12 to 15 points in the number of Republicans and yet it’s page one. It’s a big story…You go through item after item like this.”