Roger L. Simon

Return of the Bradley Effect: What if ALL the Polls Are Wrong?

Many of us oldsters remember the Bradley Effect. Back in ye olde 1982, Tom Bradley, the longtime popular mayor of Los Angeles, a nice affable fellow in my recollection, ran for California governor against a fairly faceless guy named George Deukmejian. Most of the polls — including exit polls — showed Bradley with a significant lead. But Deukmejian won, narrowly.

This was all put down to a form of covert racism. People didn’t want to admit they wouldn’t vote for a black man. As an ex-civil rights worker, I remember being hugely depressed by Bradley’s defeat.

Times have changed. These days the significant racism emanates mainly from atrocious reactionary bigots and race baiters of the Al Sharpton ilk.

But the Bradley Effect has resurfaced dramatically in a different manner in the Wisconsin recall vote. The polls — and, yes, the exit polls as well — were showing Scott Walker in a narrow victory. But he won beyond anyone’s prediction.

Apparently, the silent majority of Wisconsin voters didn’t want to admit to nosy pollsters and anyone else that might be listening that they were opposed to runaway unions, runaway spending, or the Democratic administration. They just wanted to cast their votes. And they did.

This Bradley Effect, then, is not like the Bradley Effect of yore. It’s about race to some degree, but I suspect there are much larger components of being fed up with elites of all sorts, interest groups, media groups, union groups, all sorts of groups telling the average citizen what he should and shouldn’t think, openly or covertly threatening to ostracize him or her for not going along with the pervasive liberal status quo. This was a cry of “Ya, basta!”

So if I were a member of the Democratic Party this morning, if I were David Axelrod and his team of so-called wise men, I would be wondering — what if all the polls are wrong? What if this is true across the entire country?

Even if these polls are wrong by three or four points in only a handful of states, the results of the coming election could be disastrous for the Democrats. Romney could win in a walk and bring a Republican House and Senate with him. And then, if the economy revives….

You can bet that many Democratic politicians are scratching their heads. Is it time to desert Barack Obama before it’s too late? (Bill Clinton evidently did long ago.) How many of them are suddenly going to be going Blue Dog?

(Surprisingly, Charles Krauthammer, of all people, missed the point on Fox when he pointed to Obama’s nine-point lead in Wisconsin exit polls as indication the state would not be in play in the presidential election. It was those same exit polls that said the recall election would be close.)

And needless to say, the mainstream media are going to be doing mental cartwheels, trying to think of ways to spin this. It’s not going to be easy. The sons and daughters of Grub Street are going to have to explain away a horrendous economy. They invented Barack Obama (quite literally); now they are going to have to live with him.

And make no mistake about it — this election was only partly about Wisconsin. It was about the state of the nation. All eyes were glued on it.

Sure, people are tired of public sector unions holding the taxpayer hostage. Why wouldn’t they be? But they’re tired of a lot more than that. This is only the beginning.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on multiple images.)