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

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Some Thoughts On Debate #2

Here are some thoughts on what to watch for in tonight's' debate.

Despite the fact that the race is a virtual tie--yes the polls are accurate, and I'd argue they always have been--the momentum is still in Romney's direction.  If Romney gives a performance as dominant as the one he gave two weeks ago, the election may be over.  Every point in the polls is so valuable right now that a lead of 2 or 3% will be very difficult to overcome.  Undecideds are just LOOKING for an excuse to vote for Romney.  But they are still not entirely convinced.  A second, clear debate win could seal the deal for them.  

That being said, a repeat performance of the first debate will be difficult to achieve for several reasons.

First, everyone expects for Obama to come out swinging.  He's going to go on offense.  Obama may pull a Biden and simply filibuster, interrupting and talking over Romney thus, preventing him from responding to his attacks.  This tactic is rude and is not at all presidential, but it may work. Aggressiveness is often mistaken for strength and can shift focus away from the substance of what a candidate is saying.  Romney needs to keep the energy at Obama's level while at the same time avoid appearing mean or unlikable.  That's a tall order for Romney who has likability problems, but made huge strides in overcoming that negative perception in the first debate. Keeping Obama on the defensive over Benghazi for as long as possible will help as well.

Next, the debate format favors Obama.  This president does one thing well.  One thing.  He gives great speeches.  That's it. It's his only discernible talent. The town hall format allows a candidate to grab the mic and talk directly to the people in the audience.  So he can rely far more on the prepared talking points that failed him in the last debate.  He doesn't have to respond to a moderator or directly to Romney.  He can give a series of short speeches and that plays to Obama's strengths.  It is unclear how Romney will perform in this environment.

Finally, assuming a draw or a slight Romney victory,  Romney's spin team must be super-aggressive in getting the word out on why their candidate prevailed.  Obama surrogates and allies in the MSM understand that their guy is on the ropes. So even if Obama spends the entire debate drooling on himself while reciting nursery rhymes--which would be awesome--expect Team Obama to go over the top in proclaiming how great he was and how badly he beat Romney.  Even if it's not true.

If an incumbent president stumbles in the first debate, the second is usually where he regains his footing.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan knocked out Walter Mondale after having a poor first debate with one line.

George W. Bush put forth a solid performance against John Kerry in the second debate vastly improving on his lackluster performance a week earlier.

But neither of those second debates were preceded by one in which the challenger dominated the sitting president the way Mitt Romney did two weeks ago.  

If Romney get's lucky and Obama stumbles or doesn't bring his "A" game, he could gain more steam and build a nearly insurmountable lead by weeks end.  But the bar is super-low for Obama tonight.  If he improves on his performance, the bleeding will be stopped and we're back to dead heat.  If he dominates Romney, Obama could get his post-convention lead back.  If that happens, then Romney is in big trouble.

- Dan Joseph

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, May 11, 2012

Reading Presidential Polls

Obviously there's a long way to go. But there's no reason why you can't have some fun watching the trends in terms of who has the advantage between Obama and Romney.

 Real Clear Politics has a nifty little tracker that shows the results of every major poll that has been taken that week.

But which polls are the most accurate? Well, if you take the results of the 2008 election where Obama won the popular vote by 7.3% and then compare them to the last polls taken before Election Day, here's the breakdown.

 Rassmussen/Pew - Obama by 6%
 Fox News/CNN/Ipsos - Obama by 7%
 NBC/WSJ/IDB - Obama By 8%
 CBS/Marist/ABC - Obama by 9%
 Gallup/Reuters/CSPAN/Zogby/NYT - Obama by 11%

 If you want a historical perspective examining how all of the incumbent president's were faring during their days in office, this USA Today gadget is awesome.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Obama’s Greatest Failure is Leadership. Not Policies.

Ask yourself this. Can you think of a single time over the course of Barack Obama’s three year presidency, when he has shown true leadership?

Do a quick inventory of the major events that occurred on his watch. Ruminate over the fights he has waged and the way in which he has waged them. You may like the president personally. You may be ideologically simpatico with him. However, I would guess that even his most ardent apologists would have to ponder for quite a while before they could come up with an example of true, executive leadership in this president’s record.

Never has Barack Obama successfully rallied the American people behind one of his policy initiatives. To the contrary, when it came to selling his signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, there appeared to be a noticeable negative correlation between the number of speeches Obama would give in support of the bill and the percentage of the American public who supported its passage. Every time Obama talked, fewer people liked his ideas.

What made the president’s inability to rally support behind Obamacare even more staggering was that he was selling it to the American people based on blatantly false talking points, such as the idea that ACA would reduce the deficit and that anyone who liked their current health care plan would be able to keep that plan after the bill went into effect. If you’re going to lie you might as well do it convincingly enough so that it achieves your desired goals.

Despite a federal debt rapidly approaching Athenian levels due to out of control entitlement spending, not a single time has the president proposed a serious policy solution or even sounded a much needed alarm concerning the future of Social Security and Medicare.

Instead, the president has put his public focus on tax increases that would not come anywhere close to solving the problem.

He allowed his party, which had huge majorities in both houses at the time, to punt on its basic responsibility of passing a budget, simply to protect the party from electoral losses which ended up happening anyway. Gridlock is a reasonable excuse for inaction. Cowardice is not.

At the beginning it was almost understandable that a president taking over in the midst of economic uncertainty would focus on the fact that he didn’t cause the initial problem. But to continue to blame your predecessor three years later—whether warranted or not—is poor leadership no matter how you slice it. Particularly from a president who campaigned on promises to bring America together.

If Obama had divided the nation unintentionally, simply by standing on principle, that would be understandable. However, this president has pitted Americans against each other intentionally and for no other reason than to gain a political advantage over his opponents. How else can one characterize firing rhetorical bullets at straw men labeled “Republican” who would leave children with Down syndrome to “fend for themselves” and creating a fantasy narrative in which the gains for those at the top have come at the expense of the poor and in which the fortunes of the poor would rise if only those at the top were not so selfish.

There are arguably two occasions on which President Obama has flirted with something that could arguably pass as courageous presidential leadership. The first was his speech following the Gabby Giffords shooting, in which he rightfully admonished the Left for politicizing the tragedy. Of course, this only came after giving his allies on the Left a full, uninterrupted week to push the false narrative that right wing rhetoric had caused the tragedy.

The other example was authorizing the successful assassination of Osama Bin Laden--a call that was a no-brainer, regardless of the political risk that came with it, which in that case was minimal.

Perhaps it’s time to reassess what the office of the presidency is supposed to be. Is it simply another co-equal branch of government aimed at achieving narrow ideological goals or is it something more? Does the president have a responsibility to rise above the permanent campaign and take the political hits that come with making unpopular but necessary decisions? Does the chief executive have a responsibility to mend rifts, solve real problems and unite a country behind a common purpose or is the office of the presidency simply a means to achieve a place in history by doing as little harm as possible over the course of an 8-year period?

Right now we are a nation with no common purpose. As much as some would like to blame the two-party system for this fact, the truth is that the President of the United States is the only political figure in the nation with the power to move us towards that goal. Whether you agree with his ideological bent or not, there is little doubt that President Obama has failed the leadership test in almost every measure.

- Dan Joseph

Sphere: Related Content