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A Word About Polls and What They Mean

Statistics are a wonderful thing because they can be interpreted a variety of ways and spun for political advantage. For example, the unemployment rate is pretty straightforward and always has been. Yet, in 2008 the Democratic Party and Barack Obama have “analyzed” the fact that a rate above 8% is improvement. They also have analyzed straightforward economic data to the conclusion that the stimulus, which added a trillion dollars to the national debt, was a success not because of the number of jobs it created, but because of the number of jobs it saved. Thus, in Obamaland, a job saved is a job created. And so it is with polls.

Every day and night, news stories have talked about how Mitt Romney is falling behind in the polls, about how he failed to receive any considerable post-convention bounce, how Obama received a bigger bounce, etc. Websites and print media also report these stories with their unique take on the reasons for this alleged phenomena: Clint Eastwood detracted from Romney, Clinton boosted Obama, Romney misspoke about Libya, the Romney campaign is in disarray, etc. These “national” polls are interesting only if we elected a President by strict popular vote, which we do not. However, equally important is the fact that Obama’s favorability ratings, although up over last year, are still below 50%- taken alone, not a good sign for reelection, while greater than 60% of the Americans, according to these same polls, still believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Yet, the Democratic spin masters ignore these figures and insist that everything is getting better if we just trust Obama for another four years and that Mitt Romney’s chances of winning are dwindling by the day.

And most of the analysis of Romney’s impending demise can best be summarized in an article by Robert Reich on Huffington Post recently titled, “Why Romney and Ryan are Going Down.” According to the resident Democratic/liberal/socialist Lilliputian-in-chief, the “demise” of the Romney-Ryan was inevitable because they failed to cobble together the electoral coalition needed to win this election. He specifically asserts that the Romney campaign is alienating women, blacks, Hispanics, and gays and concentrating strictly on the white, male vote.

The Democrats start with the incorrect supposition that a broad-based coalition of ethnic minorities are required to win a presidential election. That makes some sense if blacks and Hispanics (gays are a negligible voting block) are evenly distributed throughout the states. These ethnic minority voting coalitions make a difference in (1) states where there is a high population of them and/or (2) a state where the popular vote between candidates is close. Looking at this from the opposite angle, take the example of Texas in 2008. Then, McCain won the state by about 1 million votes despite Obama taking 67% of the Hispanic vote. Even if Obama had won 80% of the Hispanic vote, McCain would have won Texas. Another area where these coalitions work is when there is a three-way race. For example, an ethnic coalition was certainly responsible for the election of Harold Washington in Chicago in 1983 as the remaining vote was split between Byrne and Daley- two stronger white candidates.

The Democrats make the erroneous supposition that identity politics is the difference maker in national elections. Everyone knows that this race realistically comes down to a handful of states- North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Florida, Iowa and Ohio. We can safely assume that Romney will take Indiana, a state that Obama barely won in 2008. North Carolina is increasingly slipping away from Obama, a fact overlooked by the these same pundits incidentally. The race is closer than most polls indicate in Florida and I would give this state to Romney at this point. Some view Virginia as more problematic. Obama should win the more liberal areas surrounding DC and other urban areas. But, he is showing weakness in the more distant “exurbs” of DC which proved the difference in 2008. Many conservative Democrats in Virginia will likely not vote for Obama this year. From everything I have heard, although they are likely to vote for Tim Kaine in the Senate race, will not be voting for Obama. Hence, I would give Virginia to Romney at this point.

The key is Ohio to throw this race into the “it comes down to one state” status. In 2008, Obama won this state by less than 300,000 votes. But looking at the Ohio map from 2008, Obama drew his strength from the urban areas of Cleveland, Toledo, Akron and Cincinnati and the college town of Columbus. If Romney can improve upon McCain’s performance in the remainder of the state along with a slight weakening of the urban base, Romney has more than a chance at Ohio’s 18 electoral votes. That leaves Colorado, Nevada and Iowa.

At this point, assuming the races are close in Colorado, Nevada and Iowa, then the identity politics may play a role. Personally, in Nevada I believe the SEIU political machine will steal the state for Obama while Colorado will likewise go for Obama, but for the sake of argument, let us just say Reich’s theory is true and that Hispanics are the difference in Nevada and Colorado. That leaves Iowa, a state that is almost 94% white. If Reich’s identity politics/”rainbow coalition” hypothesis is true, then that would favor Mitt Romney. In fact, from everything I have read and heard in the news and from people in Iowa, the aura of Barack has worn off in Iowa. Those white midwestern Democrats who voted for him in 2008 are less apt to do so this year, just as in the Virginia “exurbs.” Again, in 2008, he won Iowa by about 140,000 votes in a state that is 94% white. That is not a steep hill for Romney to climb.

Additionally, Reich like most of these other pundits, are also making another erroneous assumption and supposition. They are equating 2012 with 2008 when “hope” and “change” ruled the airwaves as the we awaited the cessation of the rise of the oceans and other neat things. The mood of the country is considerably different this time out and what these pundits fail to ever mention is the enthusiasm gap. In practically every swing state, more of those who lean towards Romney are strong supporters or highly likely voters for him. Support for Obama is more tempered. Those who have made up their mind for Romney are set in their view while those for Obama still have doubts to varying degrees.

The conclusion to be taken from this is that Reich’s explanation, like most of his economic theorizing, is based on false assumptions. It is akin to the liberal belief that reproductive rights alone define the female vote. That is why when they bring up the alleged gap between men and women in this year’s election, they (liberals and the media) are quick to point out it is attributable to views on abortion and they point to Todd Akin as an example as if Akin is Romney. Romney can win this election without that ethnic coalition Reich and others claim is necessary for electoral success. I am the first to admit that the electoral map is tipped in the favor of the president, but it is not as daunting as it appears. And it can be done without an appeal to the black or Hispanic community.

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