2012 will not be a reprise of 2000. Although Barack Obama is building an army / phalanx of lawyers to try and redirect the election to the courts with the hope that the justices will lean against throwing out a sitting president, it won’t happen. 2000 only happened because the election was so close, with a mere half percent difference between the candidates. In 2012 that will not be a problem. Of course that was all about electoral votes, not popular, but the two usually go hand in hand. Michael Barone does a good job of looking at the electoral landscape. I’m looking at the popular vote.
Mitt Romney will not only beat Barack Obama, he will do it by double digits. Why, when the polls are so close will the election itself be so lopsided? Here are four reasons.
1. Race: I won’t suggest that it doesn’t have anything to do with race. It does, but not in the way you might think. In 2008, 95% of blacks voted for Barack Obama while 4% voted for John McCain. At the same time, 43% of white voters cast their ballot for Obama, a higher percentage than voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. So it’s obviously not that white people won’t vote for a black man. No, race won’t matter in the election, but it does in the misdirection provided by the polls. It’s called the Wilder effect or the Bradley effect. Named after former Virginia governor Doug Wilder and the late Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, both of whom won election with a lower proportion of the white vote than had been predicted.(UPDATE: Richard pointed out Bradley actually lost in 1982)
This year that effect will be dramatic. Not because whites won’t vote for a black man, but rather because after spending the last four years watching every disagreement with the President labeled as racist, many whites will not tell pollsters they are voting against Barack Obama for fear of being labeled a racist. The result will be that the white vote against the President will likely be 5-8% higher than is reflected in the polls. Good for 3% in the general election.
2. Enthusiasm: The overwhelming majority of polls that have been run over this election cycle have greatly oversampled Democrats while simultaneously undersampling Republicans. This is particularly important in polls in electoral swing states like Virginia, Ohio and Florida. Pollsters have continuously utilized a 2008 voter turnout model to suggest what the 2012 turnout will look like. That makes no sense whatsoever. In 2008 Democrats were frothing with their hate for George Bush and were excited about the possibility of electing the first black president. They desperately wanted a change from the status quo (i.e. McCain = Bush) and were highly enthusiastic about voting for Barack Obama. You could have put 10 ft barbed wire fences around the polling stations and Democrats would have found a way to vote. Today, after four years of abject failure on virtually every level, Democrats still want to vote for Obama, but the passion is gone. They may still support him, but the willingness to climb a mountain or wrestle a bear just to vote for him is gone.
Contrast that with the Republicans. In 2008 many of them were very unhappy with the GOP’s decidedly un-conservative, milquetoast candidate. As a result, while most wanted nothing to do with Barack Obama, many simply decided to sit the election out altogether. Today, after four years of failure and a steady march towards socialism, Republicans in general and conservatives in particular are the ones frothing, this time to depose a socialist king. They feel as if the country is on the line. Many, if not most, feel that the Republic can simply not survive another four years of Barack Obama. When people’s backs are against the wall, they fight far more passionately than they might otherwise. The result will be a GOP turnout that far exceeds what most pollsters are suggesting. This will be good for 4% at the polling place.
3. Hurricane Sandy: The aftermath of hurricane Sandy will not be good for Barack Obama. Even if the press were successful in painting him as the un-Bush it wouldn’t really matter. The scenes on TV are heartbreaking and there’s no way for Obama to benefit from such a tragedy. He will still win New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland, the states most deeply affected by the storm. His popular vote however will suffer. Whatever the number of people who don’t vote in those states, be it a million or two, 65% of them would have been Obama voters. As a result, in terms of the popular vote Obama will lose proportionally far more votes as a result of hurricane Sandy than Mitt Romney will. The impact will be about 1% of the popular vote.
4. Undecided voters: Finally there is the undecided voter. Although I have no idea how someone could be undecided in this election, most polls put the undecided vote at somewhere in the ballpark of 3% - 4% of the electorate. Mitt Romney is likely going to get 75% of that vote. One might think that the undecided would play out at 50 – 50 or maybe 55 – 45 one way or another. Probably not. Dick Morris was spot on when he compared it to asking the question “Do you plan to be married to your wife next year? If you’re undecided, you’re already halfway out the door.” When undecided voters step into the voting booth they will basically be choosing between “More of the same” and “Something else”. When they are standing there I would posit there are four things that will be on their minds – the economy, Libya, Fast and Furious and Mitt Romney’s debate performance. First and foremost the economy will take up about 85% of their mindshare. That’s not good for Barack Obama in any way shape or form. To the degree that undecided voters venture beyond the economy, my guess is that Benghazi and F&F will pop into their minds. Why? Because in an ambiguous universe where a leviathan government is involved in everything but no one is responsible for anything, these two events provide a crystal clear and deadly example of the incompetence and mendacity of Barack Obama and his administration. And despite the mainstream media’s attempts to shield the administration, the story has gotten out. Lastly, undecided voters will remember their surprise when they discovered during the debates that Mitt Romney was not the Gordon Gekko caricature the Democrats had said he was. If nothing else, he seemed competent, earnest and well prepared, something Obama clearly was not. Suddenly they could see him as president. They will come down squarely in Mitt Romney’s corner and that will translate into 3% of the vote.
There are of course other significant aspects of this race such as ground game and commercials, but at the end of the day it matters who is willing to take the time to actually get to the polling place and what they do when they get there. The privacy of the voting booth is the one place where voters can make their choice without having to worry about what anyone else thinks or says, and where they can cast their vote for the kind of future they want.
On Tuesday a beleaguered nation will take to the voting booths. They may not know exactly what they future holds, but they know they’ve had enough of what we have. When the dust settles they will have given Mitt Romney a resounding mandate for change.