You’ve Read the Rest, Now Read the Best: Greg’s Election Predictions
My prediction at this time - Wednesday, October 31 - is a solid win for Romney, with a popular vote margin of 4-5 points, and an EV count of 296-242. You can see my map here (note that I’m predicting Romney will take 1 vote out of Maine’s 2nd congressional district).
Here’s how I’ve arrived at this prediction:
Romney is riding a surge, sparked by his electric performance in the first debate, and maintained by a growing disappointment over Barack Obama’s presidency. It should be obvious that Obama has been a huge disappointment to a large number of people who supported him in 2008, what with a moribund economy, a staggering $6 trillion addition to the national debt, and an unemployment picture that shows - at least under his leadership - no signs of significant improvement any time soon.
Those things are the constant, dull drumbeats that hammer at people every day, and have been hammering at them for years now. But like any good cacophony, it’s incessantly punctuated by sharp, loud cracks that go straight up your spine and into your brain. A complete immolation of Obama’s Middle East policy, as illustrated by the Mubarak debacle in Egypt, the flare-up in Syria, and the horrible failure in Benghazi, have made his already execrable performance in matters such as Fast & Furious, and his illegal foreign campaign contributions, seem almost quaint by comparison.
The beginning of the end, though, was his demolition by Mitt Romney in the October 3rd debate, when two key things happened:
First, the American people who had thus far not been paying attention to the race, many of whom had had their opinions of Romney formed mainly by the bruising GOP primary season followed by the Obama campaign’s relentless efforts to cast him as the heartless spawn of Thurston Howell, III and Cruella DeVille, had a chance to see him not just unfiltered and un-demonized, but also juxtaposed next to the man he’s proposing we replace with him. What most Americans saw was not just someone who wasn’t the evil caricature Barack Obama had tried to make them believe he was, but they saw someone who frankly looked like a president - and even more frankly, looked more like he belonged in that role than Obama did. Romney was engaged, where Obama was detached. Romney was quick on his feet, where Obama was lethargic. Romney sounded like he wanted the job, where Obama sounded like he was sick of it.
Second, the day after the debate marked a major shift in the odd cult of personality Obama has always enjoyed, and the freedom of those in the middle - especially the white middle-class - to say out loud what so many of them have thinking to themselves: That Obama was not a success, and that it was okay to say so. It was a classic emperor-has-no-clothes moment.
At a very high level, these things help explain and sustain the Romney surge, and the trends in which it is manifested.
With women, Romney has closed the “gender gap” to a tie. He has narrowed the youth-vote gap as well, and while not a tie, there is no denying that both youth enthusiasm for, and allegiance to, Barack Obama resembles nothing like it was in 2008. The rejection by seniors the Obama campaign was counting on never materialized, and has doomed Obama’s chances in Florida.
As you move down through the layers of increasingly arcane election trends, you see several other indications that Romney is heading for a solid victory:
- No candidate has ever been under 50% approval this late in the election and gone on to win. Obama has been mired at about 47% for weeks, while Romney has moved into positive territory.
- Romney has a decisive lead - double digits in some places - among independent voters in swing states. In an even race where Republican and Democrat turnout is tied, this is the imbalance that swings elections one way or another. Romney enjoys the lead in all the right places.
- Most major polls have used turnout samples of D+6 thru D+9, when there is every reason to believe that the actual turnout nationally will be somewhere between D+2 and R+1. The implication here is that polls showing the race tied, with a turnout sample of D+8, reflect what will be in fact a Romney win by somewhere around 6 points. The pollsters who are doing this are looking to 2008 turnout models. Critics point to the 2010 election when the turnout was R+1.3. Pollsters respond that 2010 was a mid-term election, not a presidential election. Critics counter that in 2008, no one who supported Obama had any reason to think he couldn’t do the job, whereas today many of them are deeply disappointed and ready for a change. Whether Republicans enjoy affiliation gains this year over what they enjoyed in 2008 of course remains to be seen; my prediction is that national turnout will actually be somewhere around D+2, so add between 2 and 4 points to whatever lead Romney enjoys now, and that will be the final margin by which he wins. As I mentioned above, I’m predicting a Romney margin of victory between 4 and 5 points nationally, but I won’t be entirely surprised if it’s 6 or 7.
- In modern times, almost without exception, the candidate who wins the national vote by 0.5% or more, has won Ohio. If this hold true in November, then Romney has no worries about winning Ohio. Obama, on the other hand, cannot win without it.
- If Romney wins Ohio, he is almost certain to win Iowa as well, plus Colorado, and stands an excellent chance at winning Wisconsin (I predict he will, especially given today’s slip by Denver mayor Michael Hancock while he was campaigning for Obama in Wisconsin). At that point, the rout is on. Remember that, as I wrote this on 10/31, Romney is with the margin of error in Pennsylvania, there are polls showing him within 2 points in Michigan(!), and he has just begun buying media time in Minnesota. Do I think he will win Minnesota? No - not even Reagan won Minnesota, even in his 1984 landslide. But the fact that his campaign believes they can spare the cash and resources to move into that state, means they are confident enough about wins in “battleground” states such as Ohio and Iowa, that they can afford to put Obama on the defensive in Minnesota and perhaps force him to divert some of his much-needed cash to defend a state he once thought was a gimme.
- The Romney trend is for the most part slow and steady, which indicates a kind of inertia that doesn’t exist in more volatile races. When candidates swap leads every week, it’s because moving the needle one way or the other with antics and rhetoric is easy. Barack Obama is swimming upstream against a current that’s getting steadily stronger. It’s clear that he’s having great difficulty even slowing the margin’s spread; to reverse it and overcome it wlll be practically impossible with just one week left.
This brings me to something I was hoping I’d be able to say to all the conservatives who were wringing their hands back during the primary season, over the damage that was supposedly being done to all of the GOP candidates by their viciousness toward each other in the form of verbal attacks and charges of scandal or impropriety.
The first thing to say is that voters - for better or worse - have short memories. Few, if any, people now deciding whether to vote for Romney or Obama are thinking, “Gosh - I don’t know if I can vote for Romney after Gingrich/Perry/Bachmann/Santorum said that thing about thing back in February…”
The second is: The ordeal by fire that is the primary season has forged a candidate who is October-surprise-proof. Not once have I worried for a moment that the Obama campaign will reveal some devastating scandal about Mitt Romney’s past, because you can rest assured that if Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum had had anything they could use to bring down Romney, they would have used it. So here’s to bruising GOP primary seasons: They’re like boot camp for candidates, from which their intact emergence is an indication of their toughness down the road.
I don’t want to end this by leaving open the question of what I think of Mitt Romney as a candidate. He is not who I would have picked had I had the power to pick. Then again, none of the other GOP candidates turned out to be significantly better, and any composite candidate I could assemble would have no hope of getting more than about 25% of the vote.
Elections, sadly, are usually about choosing the least horrible cretin to rule over you, so in that sense I’m not overjoyed that the best alternative the GOP has been able to field against Barack Obama - truly the most miserable president this country has ever produced - is Mitt Romney. But I have no doubt that Romney is a decent guy, and a quite capable (and proven) executive. I have been more impressed than I thought I would be - from his choice of VP to his composure on the campaign trail; from his articulateness and ability to think on his feet to his shrewdness in campaign and media strategy. It is exactly the opposite experience I had with John McCain in 2008, when my estimation of him - already low - somehow managed to sink like a stone as election day neared.
So there we go: Romney by about 5 points in the popular vote, and a 296-242 win in the electoral college. Plus the bonus of liberal heads exploding all over cable and network TV. I bought my bottle of champagne today and will pop it in the fridge first thing Tuesday morning.
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