DAYTON, Ohio — Amid a flurry of recent polls showing Mitt Romney badly trailing in key swing states — especially in Ohio — a campaign adviser told reporters Tuesday that the race there is much closer than public polling suggests.
Asked about a new Washington Post poll showing Romney down eight points in Ohio, political director Rich Beeson said their internal polls are telling a different story.
"The public polls are what the public polls are," Beeson said. "I kind of hope the Obama campaign is basing their campaign decisions on the public polls... I have great faith in our data."
Beeson declined to elaborate on how their polls differed from those of media outlets, but he said, "We are, by any stretch, inside the margin of error in Ohio."
He added that Obama campaign manager Jim Messina is "sort of spiking the ball at the 30-yard line" when it comes to winning Ohio.
The tough talk is no doubt an effort to project confidence on the eve of an aggressive bus tour in the Buckeye State, and calm the nerves of donors, activists, and Republican establishment types who see Romney's path to 270 electoral votes becoming increasingly narrow as victory in Ohio fades from likelihood.
But it also comes at a time when conservative complaints about polling are reaching a fever pitch. Critics complain that public polls are oversampling Democrats based on 2008 exit polls — a year when, most political observers agree, the Democratic base was unusually excited. Pollsters have countered that self-reported party identification is fluid, with swing voters often associating with the party of whichever candidate they are leaning toward when they take part in the survey.
Beeson said he wouldn't be drawn into the "parlor game" of quibbling with the model and methodology of public polls, but he said, "I think it's probably going to be different than 2008 exits."
A campaign aide told BuzzFeed that their internal Ohio polls use a sample of "D+5" — meaning, Democrats represent a portion of the respondents five percentage points higher that that of Republicans. Most public polls are closer to D+8, or D+9. This could explain why the campaign believes the Ohio race is closer than is being reported.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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