The exit polling scam theories from this past Tuesday might be wrapped up in paranoia, but I doubt it. Both Dick Morris and Michael Barone think the Exit Polls were rigged to make Bush look bad, get the Republicans depressed, and supress the Republican turnout — much like what happened in the panhandle of Florida when the media called Florida for Gore while the panhandle was still voting.
I worked at MSNBC during Election Day. We all knew, thanks to Drudge, that the exit polling data would be coming out at 2pm. At about noon, several people started talking about the exit polling. They started giving out numbers that Bush was losing. There was chat at the mydd.com website with the information — before the 2pm release. People were getting emails with all the information — state by state details of the exit polling.
Throughout the day the steady tide of exit polling data came trickling in — even at hours when the information had not been released. Yet, time and time again, when the 2pm and 5pm release times came, the data released was the data being talked about already. The Kerry campaign had it and the Bush campaign had it. The information hit the Drudge Report just after 2pm and the wailing and nashing of teeth began after Kathryn Lopez at the Corner posted the information and thereafter spread across the blogosphere. The Dow Jones tanked along with the NASDAQ and the S&P 500.
The Bushies started calling. The Bushies were conducting their own research, not trusting the media (i.e. CBS and New York Times) backed exit polls. One bit of very credible speculation from a highly placed source is that the Kerry campaign was tapped into the numbers with the help of media friends and pollster allies. Based on information was I hearing, it sounded very much like the Kerry campaign actively helped leak the numbers — some inflated and some right on point with the exit pollsters. No one stopped to realize that Kerry being up 20 points in Pennsylvania was nuts. They bought the hype, drank the Kool-Aid, and by the end of the night died a slow, painful death through crushed expectations. Let’s remember that Zogby waited until 5:00pm to release his final projections. He wanted us all to watch Virgina. Remember how the exit polls had Virgina too close to call. Hmmm …….
All day the Bushies were telling me what numbers they had. “We have the exit polls,” was the response. I’d say the Bushies are telling me Bush is winning Ohio and everybody around me would snicker. We Bush fans were deluding ourselves. By the end of the night, the left was drowning itself in liquor and other poisons (anybody seen McAwful yet?). What happened? I don’t know. I do know that as of 5pm on Tuesday the Kerry campaign knew it had won, the victory speech was written, and everyone else knew Kerry was President-Elect. As usual, the Bushies turned out to be right. To his absolute and overwhelming credit, when Joe Trippi saw the numbers start coming in, he, faster than most anyone else, knew something had gone terribly wrong. I was not on set with him. According to those who were, Trippi knew that states reportedly too close to call were not as slanted to Kerry as the exit polls suggested.
Somebody had the numbers sooner than they should have been released. Somebody leaked those numbers and tried to suppress the Bush vote. I’m willing to go the next step and say those numbers were orchestrated intentionally to have the effect they had while people were still out voting.