Mitt Romney is one of Donald Trump’s biggest Republican critics on Capitol Hill. He’s the only GOP senator who voted to convict the president for abuse of power earlier this year, and he regularly calls Trump out on policy and personal conduct.
Yet the Utah lawmaker, who was his party’s presidential standard-bearer in 2012, believes Trump is likely to win reelection this November.
Asked why he foresees that outcome, especially with most public polls showing Trump trailing badly behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Romney offered three reasons.
“There are enormous advantages to being the incumbent, number one,” Romney told HuffPost on Thursday. “Number two, I think [Trump] will tack more towards the middle in his communication than he has so far.”
“And number three, I think the voters that are most animated in opposition to the president tend not to come out to vote ― and that’s young people and the minorities. They’re active in polls, but not necessarily active at actually getting out to the polls,” the senator said.
The futility of expecting Trump to somehow moderate his tone aside, Romney’s theory about the nature of the electorate and polling is an interesting one.
Current polling methods don’t accurately sample minority and young voters for a variety of reasons. Racial minorities for whom English is not their native language and young adults are often underrepresented in phone surveys, for example. Pollsters attempt to correct for those difficulties by applying sampling weights based on their assumptions about the ultimate makeup of the electorate. Partisans on both sides of the aisle have attempted to “unskew” unfavorable polls by tinkering with those assumptions.
Moreover, Romney might not be right on who will show up to vote in November. He lost to President Barack Obama in the 2012 election due to unexpectedly high turnout from young people and minorities. He later blamed his defeat on what he called “gifts” the Obama administration gave to key voter blocs, including African Americans, Hispanics and young women.
Romney’s loss came as a complete shock to the candidate and his campaign, who believed they were headed for victory on Election Day based on rosy internal polling. Romney’s confidence in victory was so great that he reportedly never even wrote a concession speech.
Neil Newhouse, his campaign pollster at the time, suggested that the voters who turned out in 2012 were overall much younger and less white than the campaign anticipated, especially across the Sun Belt states.
“The Colorado Latino vote was extraordinarily challenging,” Newhouse said in 2012. “As it was in Florida.”
In other words, don’t count out all those young and minority Americans fed up with Trump. But Biden has also shown an unusual strength among older voters ― a group that at least in modern history has tended to favor GOP presidential candidates. That could give him a path to the White House that doesn’t necessarily rely on a surge of young and minority voters.