Jewish World Review Nov. 3, 2004 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765
In the end, George W. Bush won the election. But the net works were afraid to report that fact to us because their exit polls showed Kerry winning. Conditioned to believe that exit polls could never be wrong, the news anchors were left stuttering and stammering.
Before the polls closed, a friend called me with the results of the ABC-TV tracking polls reflecting a Kerry win in all but one of the swing states. Like the network anchors on election night, I concluded that Kerry would win in a walk.
But then the returns came in. In state after state, it became clear that Bush was running ahead of his performance in 2000: first, Kentucky, three points better, then Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, all for Bush by more than he had in 2000.
Was Bush just piling up votes in his base states? Then Massachusetts came in. Bush lost Massachusetts with 37 percent of the vote a wipeout but he had lost the Bay State in 2000 getting only 32 percent of the vote.
That Bush ran better in Kerry's home state than he did in 2000 when he opposed a Tennessean gave me a clear sense that Bush was going to win.
Why did the exit polls show such a Democratic win when the Republicans were ahead all along? Why did they bias the coverage in the favor of the Democrats when Bush was winning from the beginning?
Exit polls are almost impossible to get wrong this way. They are based on interviews with voters as they leave the polling places having just cast their ballots. They don't reflect absentee, mail-in or early-voting ballots, of course but these voters generally tend Republican. When you combine military votes with those of voters who are likely to travel and need absentee ballots, the bias is all pro-Republican.
So why were the exit polls wrong?
That an exit poll is always right is an axiom of politics. It is easier to assume that a compass is not pointing north than to assume that an exit poll is incorrect. It takes a deliberate act of fraud and bias to get an exit poll wrong. Since the variables of whether or not a person will actually vote are eliminated in exit polling, it is like peeking at the answer before taking the test.
But these exit polls were wrong. And the fact that they were so totally, disastrously wrong is a national scandal. There should be a national investigation to unearth the story behind the bias.
In this election, we have seen CBS go with a story on Bush's National Guard service based on forged documents. We have seen the New York Times and CBS report 377 missing tons of explosives that were not missing, not that many tons and confiscated by American troops. And now we have seen exit polls that were wrong, quite possibly deliberately biased.
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, most recently, "Rewriting History", a rebuttal of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) memoir, Living History. (ClickHERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Dick Morris