SPOILER ALERT: In this post I’ll tell you why polls are looking very good for Mitt, but will also conclude by saying it only matters if we all dig in, do our part to get out the vote. So click the “ComMITTed” link!
I’ve now seen three commentaries on the latest Gallup poll, and they’re telling a consistent story: Chigago is, or should be, sweating profusely about these latest polling numbers. And the evidence is they are.
The Eye Candy: National Polls.
National polls are great and continue to give encouraging news of a Mitt 2-4% lead. The RealClearPolitics average of polls gives Mitt a solid 1% edge. The latest poll in that group, a Rasmussen poll of 1,500 likely voters from October 25 to October 27 (yesterday), gives Mitt a 3% lead. The underlying data show Mitt is winning more Republicans (90%) than Obama is Democrats (85%), but the big news on the national front is that Mitt is leading among independents by 11%. But national polls are really the eye candy of the presidential politics. Fun to look at, but in the end, not what will make the difference.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road: State Polls
What’s really important, as we all know, is what happens in the electoral college. So what about those swing states? Well, there’s good news there, too, even if there’s lots of work to be done. Rasmussen’s electoral college map, based on Rasmussen’s own polling in each state, shows Mitt leading or tied in the critical swing states of Florida (50%/48%), Virginia (50%/47%), Colorado (50%/46%), Iowa (48%/48%), New Hampshire (50%/48%), Wisconsin (49%/49%) and, perhaps most importantly, Ohio (48%/48%). Given Mitt was behind in these states a couple weeks ago, and the press’ coronation of Obama as the narrow winner of the last two debates, the trends here are in the right direction: Mitt is gaining when it counts, and Mitt has an ability to improve, while Obama, who the voters have known for four years, is more likely to drop. Other states are also narrowing: Minnesota and Pennsylvania are closer than expected, if still leaning Obama. And no one thought Wisconsin would be tied a few weeks ago. If you don’t like Rasmussen’s numbers, you can turn to RealClearPolitics’ collection of polls and resulting electoral college map. RCP reports similar numbers for each of those states. It shows Virginia, Colorado and New Hampshire in a closer race, with Obama having a slight lead in Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio, with Mitt continuing to make inroads.
So national and state polling shows it’s a very close race, Obama has a miniscule and shrinking lead in states he needs to win, and Mitt is either tied or within easy striking distance in all the same states. Very encouraging for a challenger.
The Zinger: the Latest Gallup Poll
The real story is that Gallup poll. Neil Stevens of Red State dissects Gallup’s numbers and says:
We always talk about the independent, swing vote in elections because those tend to be the persuadables. But party ID numbers matter as well, because those partisan voters tend to split better than 90/10 for their party.
It is for that reason that Gallup’s new partisan ID split, one that mimics what Rasmussen has been saying all along, predicts nothing less than doom for the Democrats, and a solid, national win for Mitt Romney this year.
…the numbers are brutal. In 2008, the Democrats had a 39-29 (D+10) advantage in hard party ID, and a 54-42 (D+12) advantage with leaners. In 2012 though, we’re in the post-TEA party era. Republicans now show a 36-35 (R+1) hard party ID advantage, and a 49-46 (R+3) lead with leaners. This gives us a range of party ID swings from 2008, from R+11 to R+15.
What does this mean? In a tight election with key swing states on the edge and voter turnout key, more of those voters self-identifying as Republicans than Democrats this year means things may be better than they look on the surface of the polls. Mr. Stevens then goes further and says what these numbers would mean if plugged into his own electoral college model. It generates an estimate of the electoral college results if more voters self-ID as Republican versus his baseline year. Here’s the picture:
Note what states fall into the Romney column: every swing state discussed above except Wisconsin and Nevada. A clear Mitt victory. Using more aggressive GOP swing numbers, the result is a more solid victory. He concludes his article by saying:
The takeaway here is that Mitt Romney has many paths to victory. He’s solidified enough states (Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, and probably Colorado) that he has his chances elsewhere (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin + Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada + New Hampshire + Maine 2).
This election is winnable for Mitt Romney as long as his people vote and get out the vote on election day.
[Emphasis again added].
And it’s true. No polls matter but the one taken at the voting booth November 6. But if you were looking for signs we could win this, you’ve got them, if we, the concerned citizens, do our job.
Another Red State author, Dan McLaughlin, in a post entitled “Why I Think Obama is Toast,” first addressed this topic a few days ago. He gave two main reasons Mitt will win. The first is Mitt’s lead among independents (according to Rasmussen, 11%):
Mitt Romney has a consistent, significant lead among independent voters, which increasingly looks like a double-digit lead. This is especially clear in national polls, but can also be seen in the key swing state polls. It’s been a hard enough number for the past few weeks now, even as the last of the debates gets baked into the polls, that there’s little chance that Obama can turn it around in the 11 days remaining in this race. In fact, Obama has been underwater with independents almost continuously since the middle of 2009.
The second reason was the same phenomenon found in the Gallup poll and that has to be making David Axelrod sweat during his rare moments of self-candor.
…to overcome losing independents by more than a few points, Obama needs to have a decisive advantage in Democratic turnout, roughly on the order of – or in some places exceeding – the advantage he enjoyed in 2008, when Democrats nationally had a 7-point advantage (39-32). Yet nearly every indicator we have of turnout suggests that, relative to Republicans, the Democrats are behind where they were in 2008. Surveys by the two largest professional pollsters, Rasmussen and Gallup, actually suggest that Republicans will have a turnout advantage, which has happened only once (in the 2002 midterms) in the history of exit polling and probably hasn’t happened in a presidential election year since the 1920s.
Those two facts alone caused me to conclude at the end of last week that Obama will lose – perhaps lose a very close race, but lose just the same. That conclusion is only underscored by the fact that, historically, there is little reason to believe that the remaining undecided voters will break for an incumbent in tough economic times. He will lose the national popular vote, and the fact that he has remained competitive to the end in the two key swing states he needs to win (Ohio and Wisconsin) will not save him.
Evidence Shows Obama Knows–And is Worried
In The Weekly Standard, Jay Cost points out evidence Obama’s camp understands these numbers and is scared. Obama’s rhetoric is no longer aimed at convincing people in the middle with rational arguments. He seems to know he’s lost that battle and won’t turn it around in time. So what do you do in that case? You appeal to your base. You go hard left. You accuse the other side of being right-wing monsters. If you’re Obama you go back to the pre-debate plan. Thus the hyperbolic attacks on the subject of “women’s issues,” Mitt’s integrity and the attempts to generate faux outrage over minor issues, such as the exaggerated reports of the demise of Big Bird. But as we saw after the debates, those arguments got Obama only so far, and they became ineffective once people saw the real Mitt. They’re Obama’s version of small ball, while Mitt’s dealing with the large issues.
And now the Obama campaign is in a real bind. With a week left and behind in the polls, the president must dislodge the voters’ impression that Romney is the better man to handle the big issues. Hence, Obama’s starkly negative tenor and tone over the last few days. More and more, his campaign resembles those run by losers in the modern era; there is a kind of annoyance and anger to his attacks, which so far are not resonating with average Americans. Perhaps before the campaign is over, he’ll repeat Bob Dole’s frustrated cry of “Where’s the outrage?”
Obama’s Move in the Wrong Direction: Abandon the Center and Bipartisanship.
In fact Obama’s rhetoric is working against him. In moving to the left, Obama has abandoned the middle and left Mitt as the only candidate standing for bipartisanship. Michael Goodwin, one former Obama voter, said in the New York Post today:
My  choice involved a simple calculation. Would John McCain or Obama be more likely to forge a consensus on big issues? America was dangerously polarized, and unable to act in ways that even 60 percent of the public could support. History shows that paralysis leads to disaster.
Where [Obama] totally fooled me was his claim to be a pragmatist, not an ideologue. He spoke of uniting the country and I believed he was capable and sincere. That he won 70 million votes and more than two-thirds of the Electoral College spoke to his appeal.
He failed as president because he is incompetent, dishonest and not interested in the actual work of governing. His statist policies helped consign millions of Americans to a lower standard of living and his odious class warfare further divided the nation. He had no intention of uniting the country — it was his Big Lie.
I don’t hate him. But I sure as hell don’t trust him.
I don’t think I need to point out the irony of what we’re seeing now from Obama compared to the hope and change candidate of 2008. Obama said it just a few weeks ago: he doesn’t think he can fix Washington. He had four years. 2010’s midterms can be said to be a signal to the president that the American people at large wanted him to abandon purely partisan efforts at reform, like the Affordable Care Act, and work together with Republicans, but he didn’t get the message. Mr. Cost says as much in concluding his article:
The president could have done more. And if he ultimately loses, the comparison with Bill Clinton will be instructive. After his rebuff in the 1994 midterms, Clinton made a course correction that likely saved his presidency. He rightly interpreted the Democrats’ drubbing that year as a sign of public frustration with the drift of the government, and a demand for greater cooperation between the two sides. A modified direction and greater cooperation is exactly what Clinton delivered through 1995 and 1996, with the bipartisan welfare reform bill serving as capstone.
President Obama, on the other hand, basically ignored the 2010 midterm verdict. The public clearly was demanding greater comity between the two sides and a focus on solving the problems of the economy and public finances, yet Obama brokered no lasting deals with his Republican foes. Instead, he battened down the hatches, figuring that he could wait out the Tea Party storm, then castigate the GOP as a bunch of right-wing crazies who had made things worse.
Mitt: A Proven Bipartisan Track Record and the Winning Recipe
As further evidence both campaigns have seen these polls and understand this message, the Wall Street Journal reported that Mitt’s speech in Florida a yesterday focused on bipartisanship:
He and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, “are going to have to do what we’ve done before, which is reach across the aisle,” Mr. Romney said. “We have to build bridges to people in the other party. We have to recognize this is not a time in America for us to pull back, and to divide and to demonize. It’s a time in America for us to come together, to look for common ground, for places where we have agreement.”
Mitt’s proven he can build consensus. I’ve said before that’s what first attracted me to Mitt as a candidate: he worked across the aisle in Massachusetts and solved big problems. He did it in government. He did it at the Olympics. He did it in business. Let’s hire a guy with this record of success to solve our nation’s biggest problems.
The combination of more Republican voters, more independents being for Mitt and Obama’s reacting the wrong way tells me the president’s tacking hard to the left will not work to stall Mitt’s momentum. Independents want to see cooperation. Mitt has promised it. He has delivered it before. And he is winning independent voters’ confidence handily (by 15% in Ohio). The only way left for Obama to stall Mitt’s progress and win is to get out the base and hope it’s enough, but the Gallup poll shows it very well may not be. Meanwhile Mitt is countering Obama’s continued character assassination with an insert into newspapers through the swing states, as Jayde reported yesterday, and more calls for bipartisanship. Mitt has the winning recipe.
Conclusion: It Looks Like We Can Do This, But It’s Not Done Yet.
So of course this is very encouraging. But let me repeat: the only poll that matters is the one taken November 6. All of the foregoing is educated guessing, and may well be proven wrong. The question is, what can we do to make sure this is the version of the future that does come about? In this tight of an election, National Review agrees it will turn on who best gets out the vote.
But for each candidate, across both the Rust Belt and Sun Belt battlegrounds, the common thread is a get-out-the-vote effort of unprecedented extent and sophistication. While the incessant polls show momentary advantages for one or the other contender, they all point to the same conclusion: The election is close enough that the result will rest largely with … the activists each side is mobilizing to turn out their voters.
James Garcia, Romney’s Colorado state manager, says that the campaign has already contacted twice as many potential voters by phone, and three times as many at the door, as John McCain’s campaign had at the comparable point in 2008. In Colorado, about 1.9 million people have requested mail-in ballots, and the campaign expects to personally contact more than 1 million of them. In Colorado and other swing states, Obama has built an even more extensive operation—far larger than even his breakthrough organization in 2008.
President Bush’s 2004 victory over Democrat John Kerry proved that in a race that divides the country this closely, these efforts can prove decisive. Late polls that year showed Bush virtually tied with Kerry. But because of Bush’s massive turnout drive, Republicans unexpectedly equaled Democrats as a share of the vote on Election Day (for the first time in a presidential race during the era of modern polling), and the incumbent squeezed by.
The latest polls show us there are enough GOP and independent voters who like Mitt. But the Democrats have focused on getting out the vote early and enjoy initial leads we need to overcome. The Obama campaign also reports a slight lead in voter contact. It now falls to US to change both of those facts, make more contacts by making calls or getting to a swing state to get out the pro-Mitt vote. We can all be, and must be, a key part of the effort to ensure a Mitt victory. What can you do?
—Vote early if you can so unforeseen events don’t stop you at the last minute (the latest political discussions this morning were all about how hurricane Sandy may affect turnout, and thus the election).
—Go to Mitt’s website and hover your mouse pointer over “In Your Community” to see how you can help.
–If you can, contribute to raise funds to advertise and get out the vote in the states that have recently presented themselves as opportunities: Minnesota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, for example. These are opportunities the campaign couldn’t have seen coming as late as a couple weeks ago, so they may not figure into the budget. Every last contribution will help as we leave nothing on the table.
—Click on ComMITTed to sign up and make calls and find out what else you can do.
If this were a football game I’d say Chicago is up one in the fourth quarter but we’re driving to the end zone. The game’s not in the bag, but we’ve got momentum and our coach has put us in a position to win. It’s now up to us. Let’s get to it.