First, here is my prediction:
Final popular vote prediction: Romney 50.5%, Obama 48.5%
Final Electoral College prediction: Romney 291, Obama 247
I believe there are only 8 true tossup states that will decide this election. Here is my prediction for each of them:
1. Virginia - 51% Romney, 48% Obama
2. Ohio - 50.5% Romney, 48.5% Obama
3. Colorado - 50.5% Romney, 48.5% Obama
4. Iowa - 50% Romney, 49% Obama
5. Wisconsin - 50% Romney, 49% Obama
6. New Hampshire - 50% Obama, 49% Romney
7. Pennsylvania - 50.5% Obama, 48.5% Romney
8. Nevada - 51% Obama, 47.5% Romney
The one I am least sure about is Wisconsin -- changed it at the very last minute from Democrat to Republican.
In addition, I have 2 states classified as Leans Republican:
1. Florida - 52% Romney, 47% Obama
2. North Carolina - 53% Romney, 46% Obama
And 4 states classified as Leans Democrat:
1. Minnesota - 51.5% Obama, 47% Romney
2. Michigan - 52% Obama, 47% Romney
3. New Mexico - 53% Obama, 46% Romney
4. Oregon - 53% Obama, 45% Romney
All other states I believe are safely in one camp or the other and will go for either Obama or Romney by double digits.
The next question is why I am picking Mitt Romney to win when conventional wisdom clearly seems to favor Barack Obama. The primary reason for why Obama is favored, of course, is due to very favorable polling for him at the state level. The Real Clear Politics average of polls is showing Obama ahead in all the swing states, with the exception of Florida (and North Carolina if you count that as a swing state). Also, while Mitt had a clear lead in the national poll average for most of October, Obama gained significantly in the past week in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and now leads slightly in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls as well. So why would I pick Romney to win, when a clear majority of the polls seem to indicate that he will lose, possibly badly?
The first thing to understand is that this year is not 2008 anymore. The political landscape has shifted dramatically. Perhaps the most dramatic indication of this is the massive survey of national party identification that Rasmussen does each election year. In calculating this party identification, Rasmussen surveys 15,000 likely voters nationwide, so it is a truly massive poll (more than 10 times bigger than even the largest national head-to-head election polls). In 2008, Rasmussen found a 7 point advantage for Democrats, which ended up being very close to the final margin of victory for Obama. In 2004 and 2010 they actually found small advantages for Democrats (+3 for Democrats in 2010), even though Republicans ended up performing extremely well in both elections. This October, they found a 5.8% advantage for the Republicans, which a stunning turnaround for the GOP and an extremely favorable indication for the election. And Rasmussen is not alone. Gallup did a similar survey of national party identification and also found a 1 point Republican advantage (and 3 points when you factor in voters who lean toward one party or the other). This data is especially extraordinary when you factor in that there has never been a presidential election in the modern era in which the Republicans have had a party identification advantage on Election Day. The closest they have ever come was in 2004, when the party identification was even between Republicans and Democrats.
Of course, we have many other proofs that this year will be dramatically different from 2008. The enthusiasm for the Republicans is off the charts and significantly higher than the enthusiasm for the Democrats. Polls have picked this up by showing the Republicans have a higher interest in the election and are more certain about voting. Polls have also showed that those who strongly disapprove of Obama's job performance significantly outnumber those who strongly approve of his performance. This difference in enthusiasm is also evidenced by much larger and more enthusiastic crowds for Romney compared to Obama. This all feels like 2008 in reverse. Peggy Noonan commented on the Republican passion bubbling under the surface in this election in her excellent column here. Concern about Democratic turnout is doubtless what has led Obama to campaign in Democratic strongholds like Madison, WI and Boulder, CO in the final week of the campaign.
And, there is the evidence of the demeanor of the candidates and the campaigns. Romney has seemed relaxed and confident and stayed largely positive in his campaign message, while Obama has seemed angry and his campaign ads have been overwhelmingly negative. He was even caught telling his supporters at a recent Ohio rally to vote for revenge, while Romney countered by urging supporters to vote for love of country. In the last presidential debate, the difference in demeanor between the two candidates clearly showed that Romney believed he was ahead and Obama believed he was behind. Some of the Obama campaign's tactics, such as that creepy Lena Dunham "My First Time" ad, seem to be the actions of a desperate campaign, not a confident one.
And then, of course, there is the early voting data. We can't know for sure who people are voting for, of course, but we can discern trends relating to partisan turnout. And the data in all the swing states indicates a huge improvement for the GOP compared to 2008. In Ohio, there has been a more than 260,000 vote swing away from the Democrats and toward the Republicans in early voting turnout. There has been a percentage swing toward the GOP in early voting in Florida and North Carolina that looks likely to overwhelm Obama's narrow win margin in both states from 2008. Democrats lead big in early voting in Iowa, as they always do, but the percentage advantage for the Democrats is actually slightly less than it was in 2004 when Bush carried the state. Early voting turnout is down significantly in key Democratic strongholds in Virginia this year compared with 2008. Republicans have about a 2 point lead in early voting in Colorado this year, compared with a Democratic lead four years ago. There is not early voting in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, but absentee balloting has looked very favorable to the GOP. Even in Nevada, the GOP has improved significantly since 2008, even though it looks like Obama will still carry the state. Most surprisingly, a recent poll from Gallup showed Republicans actually leading the early vote nationally by 6 points, which is incredible when you consider that most of Obama's national margin in 2008 came from early voting.
Even when you look at current national polling, Gallup and Rasmussen both show a one point lead for Romney, with Obama at 48%. Not a good place for an incumbent to be. The latest CNN poll oversampled Democrats by 11 points, but still showed the race a tie with a 22 point advantage for Romney with independents. The latest ABC/Washington Post poll had Obama up three, but its poll oversampled Democrats by 6. I think a fair reading of these national polls indicates a Romney advantage and slight momentum back in his direction (after a week of Obama gains). Remember that Romney had a steady and significant 3-6 point lead in both Gallup and Rasmussen for the week or two before the hurricane, with sizable advantages with independents. The hurricane gave Obama a clear bounce, but I don't think it fundamentally changed the race. Will independents, who have been negative about Obama for three years, suddenly reverse themselves and vote for Obama simply due his looking presidential for a couple of days in a hurricane a few days before the election? I find it hard to believe, but I guess I can't completely rule it out.
What about the state polls? Well, some of them are very questionable in my mind -- either online polls or polls done by Democratic agenda pollsters like Public Policy Polling. Zogby has been largely discredited as a pollster, and Gravis came out of nowhere this year and has no track record. Most of these state pollsters are assuming the electorate will be very similar to 2008, with large oversamplings of Democrats. Some of these state polls have shown Obama with larger leads in Ohio and Florida than his 2008 margin! Marist and Quinnipiac have been especially guilty of this -- the Marist pollster said straight up in an interview that he is assuming a 2008 electorate. I think many of these polls are a case of garbage in, garbage out. Their results are inaccurate because they are making inaccurate assumptions about the electorate.
I won't deny that this election looks to be quite close and that either Obama or Romney could easily win. But I keep coming back to the fundamentals of this election. Fundamentally, most Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. Overwhelmingly voters consider the economy to be the most important issue in this election, and every poll shows that voters favor Romney over Obama on this issue. No matter how many ads about abortion and contraception Obama runs, the election is not going to be about those issues for most voters. I think, in the end, the big issues do not favor Obama and that will cause late-deciding voters to either break for Romney or sit out the election. And I am encouraged that much smarter political gurus like Michael Barone, Karl Rove, and Jay Cost largely agree with my view of this election.
In short, I'm putting my faith in the American electorate to make the rational decision. Maybe I'm letting my political biases get in the way of objectivity. We'll all know in less than 24 hours (hopefully)....
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Why I Believe Mitt Romney Will Win Today
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