Gallup described itself as both “confounded and dumbfounded” by the data in its latest national tracking poll, which shows CNN talk show host Candy Crowley now leading both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the race for the White House.
The well-known polling outfit initially sought to distance itself from what is describing as “a statistical crisis of its own making,” calling the poll “deeply inconsistent” and “an outlier” and discounting Ms. Crowley’s surge as “a typical post-debate-moderator bump” that would quickly subside.
But with Super PACs across the ideological spectrum eagerly coalescing behind Ms. Crowley’s candidacy in the wake of the new poll, the race has suddenly shifted in favor of her and the Gallup numbers, showing Ms. Crowley with a slight fundraising lead now over Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. And with state polls continuing to indicate a narrow advantage for the television newswoman in tipping-point states like Ohio, Gallup pollsters are suddenly scrambling to come up with an explanation for how they have reinvented a race that now seems to be Ms. Crowley’s to lose.
In a hastily drafted statement, Gallup said it had hoped to discover that its latest numbers would turn out to be as off target as some of its previous polls, but the rush to believe in the polling outfit’s numbers, it said, was complicating the task of refuting them.
“There is no easy fix for this,” the Gallup statement read. “We were expecting the large swing might have something to do with our likely voter model, but sadly we could find nothing amiss about our methodology, sample size, or arithmetic.”
Gallup called it “the last straw” on the effort at discrediting itself when former president Bill Clinton announced he would join Ms. Crowley at a rally next week on the set of the ABC television program “The View” and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan vowed to run a sub-three-hour marathon in her honor.
In scrambling to offer an explanation for the sudden change in the outfit’s poll numbers, Gallup suggested analysts were perhaps underestimating the impact on voters of Ms. Crowley’s instant fact-checking at the second presidential debate - saying that Mr. Obama, contrary to Mr. Romney’s claim, did say the words “act of terror” a day after the attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and that Mr. Romney was right to say that the administration initially characterized the attack as a spontaneous reaction to an online video.
“Big Bird couldn’t have handled it better – and you know how Big Bird polls with us and the public,” the Gallup statement noted.
The polling firm also pointed out that Ms. Crowley, who was frequently interrupted and often called on to restore calm between the two combative men, ended up looking more presidential than either of the mainstream candidates.
Page 2 of 2 - Appearing on CNN Wednesday morning, Ms. Crowley expressed mild surprise at her sudden elevation to frontrunner in the race for the White House.
She said she did not feel she had been running for higher office or even warranted support for such an undertaking so late in the election process. But many viewers who watched her moderating the second debate on Oct. 16 seemed to think otherwise. Following the combative debate, Ms. Crowley was praised by many journalists and criticized by some conservatives, instantly turning her into a viable candidate.
As of Thursday, Ms. Crowley was comfortably in campaign mode, with the Gallup poll showing her ahead of her two rivals by six points among likely voters. Her office released an itinerary that had Ms. Crowley meeting for a photo-op with a pizza shop owner, touring the facilities of a maker of binders, and firing Donald Trump.
The campaigns for the other two candidates, meanwhile, were busy disputing the Gallup poll findings.
The Obama campaign’s chief pollster wondered if Gallup had developed “Romnesia” in its assessment of who was actually running for the presidency. And the Romney campaign characterized the polling outfit as “running on fumes” and claimed its own polling - the details for which would be fleshed out after Election Day - showed Mr. Romney to be 20 points up on Ms. Crowley.
“I can guarantee you this,” said a Romney campaign spokesman, “the American people can rest assured that our math is at least as good as Gallup’s.”
Philip Maddocks writes political satire and humor for GateHouse Media and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.