As the election FINALLY draws near (I’m sure most of you out there are breathing a sigh of relief, including the girl in this video), we’re being inundated with poll after poll, prediction after prediction, and between the electoral college and the popular vote, it’s easy to get confused. Polls are such fickle things. When done correctly, they can fairly accurately predict an outcome, but as recent examples have shown us, this is not often the case. Take for example the pre-recall polling numbers for Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin this past June. Polls had Walker sitting with a small lead of just 3 points before the election. After the ballots were cast, Walker won handily by 7 percentage points, which, incidentally, was higher than his original margin of victory (5.8 points) in 2010. But. . .I’ve waded into the weeds, when the original point of this entry was to help you OUT of them!
So, back to our presidential polling conundrum. Which end is up? Who/What do we believe?
A sampling of the popular vote polls as recorded by RealClearPolitics.com:
|CNN/Opinion Research||11/2 – 11/4||49||49||Tie|
|Rasmussen Reports||11/2 – 11/4||48||49||Romney +1|
|Gallup||11/1 – 11/4||49||50||Romney +1|
|ABC News/Wash Post||11/1 – 11/4||50||47||Obama +3|
|NBC News/Wall St. Jrnl||11/1 – 11/3||48||47||Obama +1|
A virtual dead heat.
While there have been concerns as to the weighting of these polls (i.e. certain polls oversampling Democrats), it has a lot more to do with the belief within the polling world that voter turnout in 2012 will be just as historic as in 2008. As Breitbart.com puts it:
With this in mind, what we’re seeing in many of these state polls showing Obama leading are pollsters who believe 2012 is going to look a lot more like 2008 than 2004. And it has nothing to do with pollsters putting a thumb on the scale and weighting Party ID in a way that benefits Obama. It also has nothing to do with response rates, cell phones, or people lying to pollsters.
There’s no magical thinking behind what we’re seeing in these polls. It all comes down to choices pollsters are making with respect to demographics and screening for the all-important Likely Voter.
The popular vote is reflected in the polls that you see comparing the President and Mitt Romney at the national level. What matters on election night, however, are the states. This is where “battleground” states come into play- because at the end of the day, the candidate MUST reach 270 electoral votes or more to win the nomination. There are always “givens,” such as much of the West coast solidly in the Democratic camp and many Midwest and Southern solidly in the GOP camp- but it’s those tedious swing states where the battle is won or lost because they’ve been known to go in either direction.
With a considerable number of states in play, many conservative commentators have Romney winning by a very conservative margin (i.e. 281 electoral votes), while pundits on the other side have Obama winning by a very similar margin. Bucking “conventional” wisdom, Dick Morris has held fast to his landslide prediction:
Romney will win the states McCain carried in 2008, plus: Florida, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In the popular vote, Romney will win by more than 5 points.
That puts Romney at 325 electoral votes, well beyond the 270 needed to win.
I don’t subscribe to this model, particularly because it requires Romney to win virtually every state that’s currently in play; meaning the states that could go either way. For me, it’s far to generous a bet.
That said, the atmosphere certainly is ripe for a GOP sweep. We’re looking at an election day with quite a few factors against the current President. The incumbent president cannot seem to squeak past 50% in any poll, which doesn’t bode well for someone who has had 4 years to show the country what he can do. It shows an immense lack of enthusiasm.
Early voting (which typically trends Democrat in turnout) in battleground states like Ohio shows a huge advantage in turnout towards the GOP. As Karl Rove put just a few days ago, the GOP net gain in early voting in Ohio from 4 years ago is enough to wipe out Obama’s entire 260,000 margin of victory in 2008.
The enthusiasm levels among GOP voters as opposed to the lack of enthusiasm for the incumbent would indicate that polling done up to this point (which takes into consideration similar turnout- i.e. high Democrat, lower Republican) isn’t particularly accurate. According to Breitbart.com “in 2008, 54% of likely voters identified as Democrat or lean Democrat. 42% of likely voters identified as GOP or lean GOP. In other words, the electorate, including independents who lean towards a particular party, was D+12. This year, however, the Democrat advantage has disappeared. 49% of likely voters today identify as GOP or lean GOP. Just 46% of likely voters are or lean towards the Democrats. This is a 15-point swing towards the GOP from 2008 to an outright +3 advantage for the GOP. By comparison, in 2004, when Bush won reelection, the electorate was evenly split, with each party getting support from 48% of likely voters.” And, with polling this close–considering the obviously higher levels of enthusiasm on the GOP side–it is safe to say Romney will win several (though I say not all) of the highly contested battleground states. Interestingly enough, the very same publication that has Obama winning by 281 also has GOP enthusiasm skyrocketing. Go figure.
Romney is inching closer in states that shouldn’t even be a question, such as Minnesota. Recently polling showed Romney just 2% points behind Obama- well within the margin of error. Breitbart.com shows that among LIKELY voters (that is, not just those asked to give an opinion, but rather those who actually plan on going to the polls) Romney is winning in “deep blue Minnesota.” Minnesota hasn’t gone GOP since Nixon, and frankly I think everyone thought Minnesota wasn’t going red anytime soon. (Personally, I can’t wait to see David Axelrod make good on his promise to shave his ‘stache if Romney wins Minnesota, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. Bring it on.)
In a surprising change in events, Romney has garnered the support of quite a few major papers that everyone thought wouldn’t budge outside of the Obama camp. “According to an analysis by Poynter, Romney has bagged a total of 24 swing-state newspaper endorsements, to Obama’s 15. Across the country, at least 30 newspapers also flipped from backing Obama in 2008 to backing Romney this year.”
And last but not least- the all-important, oh-so-coveted independent vote, which Romney currently leads by 7 full percentage points. This is significant, considering that independents make up 14% of all likely voters, and in an election where tenths of a percentage separate the candidates in national polls, this is huge.
Could Obama still win this election? With as many toss-up states as there are this time around, most people would would bet on it being anyone’s game. Consider, however, that the numbers may be slim- but the factors against the president are legion. He shouldn’t win this election, both in terms of his merit, and the situation’s logic- but anything can happen. I’m cautiously hedging my bet on just enough electoral college votes to put Romney over the edge.
To a phenomenal campaign and a capable candidate that took me a little longer than others to get behind- I commend you. You’ve won me over. To the volunteers who worked tirelessly for months upon months for zero pay- you are invaluable. To the election judges and poll watchers ready to monitor tomorrow’s election- may your minds be sharp and your senses keen. To those waiting at home to see the fate of our nation decided- pray. It’s not over yet.
As Vince Lombardi once put it, “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”
Let us hope for our finest hour.