Monday, November 05, 2012

Election Prediction: Obama Hangs on 281-257. Romney Wins Popular Vote.

It's not going to happen this year.  At least I don't think so.

 I know that some conservatives are extremely bullish about Mitt Romney's prospects in Tuesday's election. many have gone as far as to predict a Romney landslide that includes carrying Pennsylvania and Michigan.  But, I just don't see it.

 I see it as very likely that Mitt Romney loses on November 6th. But I think there is a very good chance that he wins the popular vote, which would make the election a no confidence vote in President Obama while at the same time keeping him in office for another 4 years.

 I hope I'm wrong, of course.  If Romney pulls this off I'll be so happy that I wo n't even mind eating crow on Wednesday. But the current polling in the swing states suggests an Obama victory.

If , the polls are to be believed, that is.

Among my co-workers there is a conventional wisdom that the polls are overestimating the Democratic turnout on Election Day while not taking conservative enthusiasm into account.  This may be true.  I hope it is.  The polls that have the election essentially tied: CNN,  ABC/Washington Post, NBC Rasmussen and CBS/NYT are each using a sample estimates a 4 or 5-point Democratic turnout advantage on Election Day. (A poll released by CNN this afternoon uses a Dem +11 sample) 

Why they are doing so is unclear.  We really have no way of telling whether these polling firms skew their polls using specific turnout models or whether their polling is simply finding a consistent party identification advantage for Democrats.

Either way, each polling firm has a vested interest in getting the final prediction as close to the actual vote as possible.  There's no reason for them to inflate the sample group intentionally in order to favor one party or another.

Some who are confident of  a Romney win point to his lead among self-described "Independents,"  a lead that he has held consistently in every poll. Some have been saying that even if there is a four point turnout advantage for Democrats, there's no way that Romney could win Independents by more than 8-points and not win the popular vote. 

But I view the independent number as being slightly misleading.  First of all, the terms "Independent" and "moderate" are not necessarily interchangeable.  In fact, my guess is that an unusually large percentage of these Independent voters are very conservative. 

Starting in 2008, there was a visible swing of self-identified Republicans abandoning the GOP label and moving to the Independent column.  This group of conservatives had no love for President Obama, to be sure.  But they also pinned a significant amount of blame for the nation's troubles on what they saw as profligate spending by Republicans during the years of George W. Bush.  This group of self-described "Independent" voters is now better known as the Tea Party. 

Because of this I'm guessing that the sample size of "Republicans" in these polls is lower than the number of conservatives who would never even consider casting a ballot for Barack Obama.  This lowers the expected "Republican" turnout, but raises Romney's numbers among "Independents." 

Another sign that the polls may be off and that Mitt Romney may be in for a big night is that he seems to be running more strongly than expected among early voters.

The Obama campaign put a great deal of effort into getting as many of their supporters as possible to the polls prior to election day. At this point, though, it would appear that Obama's early vote totals are down compared to 2008 while Romney's are well above John McCain's--This despite a far greater emphasis on early voting from Team Obama than in their previous electoral win.

Despite these outliers, I still view a victory for Mitt Romney as unlikely.  Republicans would have to absolutely swamp the Democrats in voter turnout in the swing states for Romney to win.  As it stands now,  it might be close.  But it won't be enough.

The truth is that Romney could have very well won this election, particularly after his dominant debate performance on October, 3.  Unfortunately, Obama got extremely lucky in the "October Surprise" category.  

The mainstream media absolutely refused to cover the myriad of contradictory statements and changing storylines coming from the Administration on Benghazi.  It may be the most blatant example of media bias by omission in our nation's history.  Had media outlets--other than Fox News--covered the story as the grave failure of leadership that it actually was, Obama would be packing his bags tomorrow night.

Then Sandy hit. 

It wasn't as if Obama or his administration actually did anything substantive in response to Sandy.  But Obama showed up for the photo-op.  This gave Obama an idiot-proof opportunity to do something that he hadn't done in a long time: Appear presidential. 

The storm response was probably enough to push Obama's surly debate persona out of people's minds.  This likely sealed the deal for him in the swing states that were leaning towards him anyway, but where Romney was still polling within the margin of error. 

So my prediction is that Romney gets very close in the popular vote and may win it.  Percentage wise I'm guessing:

Romney 49%
Obama 48.5%

But the Electoral Map looks like this:

Incumbency is a powerful force in presidential elections.  Only twice in the 200 years since the two party system has been the norm, has an incumbent party been kicked out of the White House after only four years.  The first time was when Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison in 1888. (We all remember that crazy race.)  The next time it happened was, of course, in 1980, when Reagan beat Carter.

But defeating an incumbent president is extremely rare. Conservatives should keep that in mind and realize that Romney is trying to accomplish something that almost never happens in American politics. 

As much as I hate to say it, my guess is that this election is going to look a lot like 2004 in which the incumbent hangs on in a divided electorate. 

Of course, I could be wrong.  For the country's sake, let's hope that I am. 

- Dan

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