State of the race - and some predictions
With Election Day now less than a week away, just where do things stand on the most important election in our lifetimes?
In short, I think “good” is the right answer. Of course anytime you make that sort of statement, you’re almost always looking around for some wood to knock on, but given that, let’s take a look at where things stand and then make some predictions for posterity.
Obama’s strategy has been neutralized:
Like any other type of campaign, political campaigns begin with a strategy which answers the question “how are you going to win”. In Obama’s case, given that he couldn’t campaign on a record of success, the answer was to convince the country that Romney was the boogeyman. Obama’s campaign spent over a quarter of a billion dollars this summer throwing everything but the kitchen-sink at Romney in an attempt to convince voters of what a bad guy he was.
The potential problem with any strategy is that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are opponents, and if they do their job they will try to undermine your strategy. It only took Romney ninety minutes in front of seventy million people to render Obama’s strategy worthless, (meaning the biggest beneficiaries of Obama’s strategy were TV station owners).
You could sense Obama knew this as he spent the better part of the last two debates being snippy and condescending. Not what you expect from a candidate who’s confident. In fact, the debate performances, taken with the attempts to spin straw issues like Big Bird, binders and bayonets into campaign gold tells us a lot about what kind of internal polls his campaign is seeing lately.
His campaign is acting and sounding more desperate – and desperation is no way to “turn on” undecided voters.
The Republican ground game is far better than 2008:
While it is true that Democrats have invested a lot in absentee and early voting programs, just like they did in 2008, it’s also true that they don’t have the overwhelming advantage over Republicans that they did then. Further, when it comes to the effectiveness of those programs, “who” votes is important. For example, are you spending money to turn out people who were going to vote anyway, or are they voters that probably otherwise wouldn’t vote?
Recent numbers show that a little more than forty percent of “early” and “absentee” voting Democrats are “frequent voters”, whereas less than thirty percent of Republican voters fit into that category. In other words, Republicans have a greater share of their potential votes still to come.
Most disturbing for Democrats should be Gallup’s findings about early voting. Their survey shows that approximately 15% of Americans claimed to have already voted, (with 33% planning to do so), and that Romney leads this group 52% to 46%. This flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that it would be Obama who had the better ground game and early voting operation. The survey goes on to report that, of those who still plan to vote early, the candidates are tied at 49% each, while those who plan to vote on Election Day favor Romney, again by six points.
In Ohio, actual early ballot counts tell the tale. As of this past weekend 220,000 fewer Democrats have voted as compared to 2008, while 30,000 more Republicans have voted vs. in 2008, adding up to a 250,000 vote swing at this point. Stack that up against the fact that Obama won Ohio last time by about 260,000 votes. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Republicans have turned a 2% deficit on absentee totals in 2008 to a 16% advantage so far.
Ever since the October 3rd debate in Denver, Romney has either led or been tied in the daily tracking polls from Gallup and Rasmussen. Over the past few weeks, no states have moved further in Obama’s direction, toss-up states such as Florida, Virginia and North Carolina have moved to “lean Romney” status, and some blue “lean Obama” states, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania have become “toss-ups”.
But so-called horse race numbers are one thing. It’s in the internal numbers where it gets interesting.
Undecideds are breaking for Romney by an average of about ten points in most polls, whereas Obama won this group by two points in 2008 – a twelve point swing. The numbers among men and women are just as dramatic. In 2008, Obama won women by fourteen points and tied McCain among men, for a total gender gap of +14. And now? Gallup’s polls are showing Romney carrying men by fourteen points and Obama carrying women by eight, giving Romney a +6 gender gap, for a potential twenty point swing over the 2008 election.
Then there are the projected turnout numbers. In 2008, Democrats comprised 39% of voters, and Republicans 31%, for a +8 Democrat advantage. Most of the news network polls we have seen have used that (or a similar) number to comprise the samples for their polls, meaning that they are projecting turnout to be about the same as it was at the height of “hope and change” fever. But that sort of fantasy is just a warm blanket for Democrats to crawl under when they go to sleep at night.
The recent partisan ID surveys done by both Gallup and Rasmussen show a VERY different picture. Gallup’s month long survey of over nine-thousand voters projects Republicans to have anywhere from a one to four point advantage in turnout, while Rasmussen’s survey projects a six point advantage for the GOP. Even if you say they are crazy and call it “even”, Obama is sunk, given that partisan turnout was even during the 2010 mid-term Republican “wave” election.
Add all of this to a growing GOP edge in enthusiasm. Pew’s most recent poll shows Republicans becoming more “likely to vote” (76%) since September, with Democrats staying about the same (62%). The latest Battleground Poll shows Romney leading among those who are “extremely likely” to vote by nine points (54% to 44%).
The electoral map is expanding in Romney’s direction:
It’s also worthwhile to note that the entire campaign is being fought out on states that Obama won in 2008, and some are states that have been either completely or safely in the Democrat column in recent presidential elections.
As Romney has begun to perform better nationally, more “swing states” have begun to swing within his grasp. Ohio is a perfect example. The most recent Rasmussen poll has him up in the Buckeye State by two points. Keep in mind that Republicans have out-performed their national poll numbers in Ohio in five out of the last six presidential elections by an average of three percent.
Just this week, the Romney campaign started airing TV ads in Pennsylvania, a state that was supposed to be safe Obama country. The fact that Obama’s campaign followed suit should tell you what kind of internal poll numbers they’re seeing there. Add that to the fact that Joe Biden and Bill Clinton are making whistle stops in both Pennsylvania and Minnesota, and it’s clear that the ground is shifting in Romney’s direction.
If, as these polls suggest, (with the usual asterisk about “ifs”), Romney wins independents by anything close to double-digits, the old “gender gap” is gone, and Republican turnout is close to or greater than Democrat turnout, then it’s all over but the crying.
At worst, I think we’re at a place where Romney squeaks it out and we end up waiting for Ohio to produce full results from provisional voters two weeks after Election Day. But my gut tells me that undecideds break really big for Romney and we see him completely sweep the swing states and possibly turn a few surprises (such as Pennsylvania).
But what’s a prediction without specifics? So here it goes: Romney wins all of the McCain states + Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa and Colorado for a total of 295 electoral votes.
As for Congress, Senate Republicans get a net pickup of four seats, (surprise of the night: Scott Brown hangs on to win in Massachusetts). In the House, Republicans maintain the majority and hold the losses to net -7, (thanks to Mittmentum and some creative gerrymandering in 2011).
All in all, a good day for Republicans.
That’s it. See you at the polls!