Final Poll Results Due Tuesday

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

This is the column where I’m supposed to tell you what’s going to happen Tuesday night. Except I can’t, and I’m not sure who can.  We’ll know soon enough anyway.  At least we can hope so.  While there are predictions for landslides for both Presidential candidates, there exists the possibility that one or more close swing states will push the verdict on this election into counting provisional ballots and possibly, recounts.

Polling still suggests that President Obama has a slight lead in both the popular vote as well as most swing states. As of early Monday morning, the Real Clear Politics average of polls has President Obama narrowly winning the popular vote by three tenths of one percent, while having a landslide in the Electoral College.  With a late move shifting Virginia from Romney’s camp to that of the President, they give President Obama a 303 to 235 decisive victory.

All hope is not lost for Republicans, however.  Their same poll averages still lists 146 electoral votes as toss-ups. Many of the polls showing the President with a commanding lead also assume that Democrats will vote with the same intensity or higher than they did in the landslide election of 2008.  Crosstabs within these polls however generally show Romney winning Independents handily and Republicans showing much more enthusiasm for Romney (or for voting against the President) than they did in voting for John McCain four years ago.

The result is an electoral playing field that is wider than usual.  Romney’s team has decided to make a late play for the usual Democratic bastion of Pennsylvania.  Some polls indicate support for the President is soft there among Democrats, while Republicans have made up ground in Congressional races within the state recently.  The Romney campaign has spent millions in a late ad buy and gave crucial time during the last 72 hours of the campaign for a personal visit.

The late action in Pennsylvania by Romney could suggest that other states are sewn up, but most likely acknowledges that other swing states are already saturated with ad buys.  It could also mean that Romney sees that the President’s firewall in Ohio is holding and he needs a plan B to get 270 electoral votes.

The fact that the Romney is in Florida the day before the vote suggests that the states that appear to be breaking for Romney are not being taken for granted.  The fact that former President Bill Clinton will be making 4 stops in Pennsylvania on Monday suggests the President’s campaign isn’t sure it has Pennsylvania locked up, either.

For the first time in a while, the Presidential race will come down to who shows up with the most intensity at the polls.  Neither side is projecting overwhelming confidence in victory.

The result of the national election will also tell us about the accuracy of polling in the modern, wireless era.  Fewer and fewer of us maintain land line telephones any more, and even more of us have programmed ourselves to send any unknown caller into voicemail.  It would seem that pollsters are having to glean information from a smaller and smaller segment of the population – one that is becoming more and more self-selecting.

While the polls and their accuracy are something that the inside baseball crowd can argue in perpetuity, there is a real issue with their accuracy with respect to policy and the average citizen.  Many news outlets have become accustomed to reporting both issues of the day and early candidate viability based on public opinion polls.  What we see reported is often determined by issues polling, along with implied editorializing of the news based on how many of those polled agree or disagree with or approve of the issue or situation.

We’ll know who our President is soon enough, but we’ll also learn a lot about those who poll us.  If they’re right, it will likely be business as usual.  If they are not, we’ll need to take a long look at how polls are used in areas beyond campaign predictive models.  As of now, however, the only poll that matters will be the one counted on Tuesday.


  1. I Miss the 90s says:

    Good post, Charlie.

    I think it is pretty clear that Obama will win, the GOP will retain the House, and the Democrats will retain the Senate…albeit both will have slimmer majorities.

    Will it be business as usual? I think we need to wait and see.

    It is easy to envision the next two years looking like that past two: gridlock. That being said, the GOP’s main goal will change from unseating Obama to showing that they are capable of governing so they will appear as a viable option in 2014 (because there is a decent chance they can lose the majority) and 2016. What will this mean? Compromise, and if the GOP wants a House majority after 2014 they will have to show that they are flexible and care more about America than who is in the White House.

    Is it possible? That will be up to GOP primary voters. I mentioned a couple of days ago that I met Gov. Christie (R-NJ) and plan on voting for him if he runs for President…but he has to make it through the primaries and Gov. Christie is not the kind of etch-a-sketch candidate that Mitt Romney is and John McCain was. As popular as Christie is, it is not above the far-right to smear him just like they did to Giuliani and Huntsman (arguably the most qualified candidates in their primaries).

    I really hope the polarization we see right now will abate after this election…and the election provides a nice breaking point for that era. If, by the will of the Gods of Chance, Mitt wins I doubt things will change….and only because he would be eligible for reelection in 2016. When a president can’t run for reelection, two things happen: 1) he can not be held accountable by The People, and 2) the focus shifts from symbolic politics to policy.

    If the GOP played ball with the Obama admin. all talk of unemployment and recession would have probably ended a while ago. Deep down, you all know this. The Congressional GOP has worked to intentionally keep unemployment high for the purposes of hurting Obama’s reelection efforts. If Boehner threw the Tea Party under the bus and McConnell acted like a responsible Senator the economy would be in much better shape. Progressives tend not to act like that (we believe in compromise and flexibility), but a Romney victory may very well end up with a like scenario in which the congressional democrats work to sabotage the economy to unseat a Pres. Romney in 2016.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      The GOP loses House seats in 2014 during a second Obama term would be extraordinary.

      A lot of Clinton’s second term was tied up in Lewinsky, and Bush II’s 2nd term saw no major new policy making any headway.

      Maybe a second Obama term will be different.

  2. Three Jack says:

    It all boils down to voting for an incompetent liberal or a competent liberal (or as I plan to do, the only fiscal conservative running).

    Fiscal conservatives are in a no-win predicament. Vote for Romney and we are stuck with the competent liberal for 8 years. And by being competent, he will likely accomplish (damage) far more than the incompetent one currently serving as president. Or we can vote for Obama knowing he will be under scrutiny for Benghazi and likely not able to accomplish much in 4 more years. This has to be a factor in why the race is a tossup, really no difference between what both major parties are offering.

    Seems to me fiscal conservatives will be better off with a do nothing Obama than an unknown like Romney who changes his mind on important issues way too often to be trusted. Then we would have a wide open field for 2016 and hopefully a better cast of candidates than the GOP offered this year.

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