My Final State of the Race Report: November 5, 2012
The basic problem we have with calling this election is a dearth of reliable polling data. Gallup and Rasmussen seem to be predicting that the composition of the electorate will be closer to the one we saw in 2010, while almost all of the other pollsters seem to be anticipating a Democrat advantage similar to the one we saw in 2008 — if not even better.
On its face, this idea seems ludicrous. Obama’s crowds are much smaller, the enthusiasm levels are almost McCain-like, the early voting numbers have dropped off significantly — but more importantly, you have to look at the Republican side. The biggest reason Democrats had such a huge advantage in 2008 was because Republicans didn’t turn out. This time around, the crowds are huge, the energy level is electric and the base is rabid with dislike for Obama. Could Democrats have an advantage over Republicans in turnout? Conceivably, but if so, it should be quite small.
If you want some evidence of this, look at the fact that millions are being spent in states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. None of those states were even remotely in play in 2008 and even Bush lost all 4 states both times although the margins were RELATIVELY small. Although it’s not the most likely outcome, it seems conceivable that Romney could win all four states. That’s no small matter because as a practical measure, Obama probably can’t afford to lose any of those states and win.
Additionally, keep in mind that Romney seems to be winning independent voters in most polls, even the ones that are heavily weighted towards the Democrats, by 7-20 points. Simply put, it’s hard to imagine Romney losing the election if he wins independents by that much. Obama won independents by 8 and waltzed to victory. George H.W. Bush won independents by 10 when he crushed Dukakis. If Romney wins independents by 7 points, which seems like a safe bet going by most of the polling data out there, hes going to win the election.
Long story short: The most likely outcome seems to be that Romney will win by a large enough margin that Ohio won’t matter. The second most likely outcome is that Romney wins and then the third most likely possibility seems to be Obama in a tight race. That being said, it’s difficult to say what will happen with a large amount of certainty because unlike 2008 or 2010, we just don’t have enough quality polling data to get a reliable picture of the race.
PS: If it does turn out that the polls are off as badly as many pundits seem to think, my best explanation for it would be a polling bubble.