Kevin Madden Credits the Obama Campaign for Changing the Electorate

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The Romney aide reflects on where things went wrong with his candidate's polling.

Kevin Madden worked on and off with Mitt Romney for six years as Romney pursued his quest for the presidency. On Wednesday, Madden, who served as Romney's traveling press secretary, sat down at the Washington Ideas Forum and graciously praised the campaign of his boss's rival. He cited President Obama's team for getting its election polling right -- and for changing the picture of who votes in this country enough that the Democratic incumbent could win.

 Washington Ideas Forum Conversations with leading newsmakers. A special report

"I don't think the Obama campaign gets enough credit for actually changing the electorate," Madden said. "I think their turnout model is extraordinary. They did very well, and they made sure they had the exact model of the electorate that they needed to win."

Romney's campaign, by contrast, "looked at a lot of the models," he said -- the 2000, the 2004, the 2008 ones -- and decided that, with the enthusiasm that the GOP had and the enthusiasm gap on the Democratic side, "we just don't believe it's going to be the same turnout and that there's going to be the composition of the electorate, it's going to look exactly like it did in 2008."

In Ohio, for example, campaign people on the ground did a kind of internal version of unskewing the public polls in order to discount for the Democratic party identification turnout advantage the polls were picking up. But in the end, those polls actually turned out to be right.

"That's unfortunate," he said. "But we just didn't believe that, that it was going to happen. And that's one of the hard things about making assumptions and guessing [about] turnout."



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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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