Please, No Mind Loss

Okay, I’m seeing people write some really wild stuff about today’s polls and the state of the race. And that’s putting it mildly. For myself, I don’t buy it. The first debate was clearly a major pivot point in the race. But all the data I’m seeing — including today’s Pew poll — are consistent with the idea that Romney got a solid bump out of the debate which then started to fade over the weekend. As I noted this morning, all the tracking polls seem to point to this conclusion.

Also remember, challengers generally have good showings in the first debate and the incumbent frequently underwhelms. That often leads to at least a near term gain in the polls for the challenger.The Pew poll that was released this afternoon was eye-popping, as I noted here. It was confounding — among other reasons — because the poll ran Thursday through Sunday but did not appear to show any of the trail-off apparent in the trackers.

My hunch is that it’s mainly showing us the race as it was late last week. And that surmise is at least somewhat confirmed by the news that only about 13% of the interviews in the Pew poll were done on Sunday, the day when much of Obama’s apparent rebound started showing up in the tracking polls.

We should also resist the weak human tendency to recast our entire understanding of the reality we see through the prism of polling data. This doesn’t mean not believing what the polls tell us. I mean inferring everything back from them. So Mr. X is a genius and doing great. Until the polls change in which case Mr. X is a moron.

This isn’t clear or good thinking.