One of the more interesting facets of the election coming up on Tuesday is the fact that both sides seem completely convinced that their guy is winning. It’s natural for liberals to feel that way, especially if they trust the New York Times and Nate Silver’s supposedly-predictive model. Conservatives look deeper and see major cracks in the foundations of the liberals’ sources of confidence, especially with regards to the internals of polls and their partisan breakdowns. Each side can cite polls that support their own point of view. Essentially, it boils down to whether polls that predict a 2008 (or better for Democrats) turnout model are correct, or whether turnout models more like 2004 or 2010 (or better for Republicans) occur. The Democrats will win with the former, and the Republicans will win with the latter.
In the following paragraphs, I will explain in great detail why the latter is clearly the case.
The “Look And Feel” Of The Race
In late September, I had a blog post that broke down what has happened since Obama took over, and why a 2008 turnout model is not realistic. Of course, one month is a long time in politics – we’ve had four debates since then which had a pretty major impact on the race, among other things – so it is worth looking at the lay of the land as it stands right now.
- Enthusiasm clearly favors Romney. The crowd sizes for Romney rallies in recent days have been staggering: 30,000 in West Chester, OH on Friday night, and another 30,000 in Bucks County, PA this afternoon. Paul Ryan drew 6,500 people to a rally at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport this afternoon. Other recent rallies have been seeing similarly large levels of support across the country. Obama, meanwhile drew a crowd of 4,000 in Cleveland yesterday, when he was drawing 80,000 there in 2008. (For reference, Obama’s Ohio crowds yesterday are smaller than McCain’s were at a similar point in 2008.) Enthusiasm is a good indicator of which side will get better turnout. This indicator is definitely leaning Romney’s way.
- Confidence. This measure is very subjective, of course, but watching both Romney and Obama speak, Romney looks like he’s very confident, and Obama does not. Obama’s advisors aren’t helping him in this regard, either: Moe Lane provided a pretty good analysis of David Axelrod’s obvious worry about the state of play at this point regarding stats about the current voting patterns in Ohio, which we’ll hit shortly.
- Endorsements of newspapers and others. Of the top 100 newspapers by circulation in the country, 12 of them have flipped their endorsements to Romney, while only one flipped to Obama. Obama still leads in endorsements, of course, but given the liberal leanings of most of the major newspapers, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Still, this is definitely an indicator that it isn’t 2008 anymore. Even more telling are personal endorsements for Romney from surprising sources, such as lifelong Democrat Lee Iacocca, Hillary Clinton advisor David Frum and Intel CEO Paul Ottelini, who was on Obama’s Jobs Council.
- The current battlefield. Another indicator of which way the race leans is to look at where the battle is currently being fought. Clinton and Romney were both in Pennsylvania today, a state which everyone would have generally assumed would be blue. Clinton has also traveled to Minnesota along with Paul Ryan, a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican Presidential nominee in my lifetime. (I was born in 1975, while the last Republican to win Minnesota was Nixon in 1972.) Other battleground states right now include Wisconsin and Michigan, both of which have been safely blue for some time. We would expect battles in traditional “swing states” like Colorado, Florida and Ohio, but fighting on blue turf is another sign that this isn’t 2008.
So Romney appears to be doing better according to the “eyeball test”, but is there any math to back this up? Absolutely.
- Early voting trends in Ohio and elsewhere. Ali Akbar provides this excellent analysis of the early voting numbers and what they mean for the outlook in Ohio. Jim Geraghty adds news from Virginia and Wisconsin on top of this. These results are highly unlikely to be isolated to these states, but even if they were, that would be bad enough for Obama. The important number is not who is leading in early voting, because Democrats always win early voting, and Republicans generally do better on Election Day (even most Democrat analysts will admit this). The issue is how much Obama is winning by, and that seems to foretell bad things for Obama. In the Axelrod clip linked earlier, it was noted to him that the swing in early voting is basically enough to wipe out Obama’s margin of victory in 2008 in Ohio, which means he’d have to do better there on Election Day itself than he did in 2008 in order to win it, which seems unlikely.
- Partisan identification, crossovers and independents. The two most overlooked polls in this election are the partisan identification surveys done by Gallup and Rasmussen. They pretty well break down every fairy tale that pollsters like Marist and Public Policy Polling try to tell Democrats about the state of the electorate. While left-leaning polls suggest D+7 or higher turnouts, the actual partisan breakdown of the electorate is more likely along the lines of R+1 or R+2, according to the latest such polls from Gallup and Rasmussen. In past elections, these indicators have been quite accurate. It is also notable that even in the Marist and PPP polls, Romney has a healthy lead among independents, both nationwide and in swing states. So let’s do some basic math: Assume that the Gallup and Rasmussen polls are only slightly off and that the electorate is more or less balanced for Republicans and Democrats, i.e. D+0/R+0. Let us also assume that there is no major crossover advantage (i.e. Democrats voting for the Republican or vice-versa), an assumption which is more favorable to Democrats than usual, as Republicans generally do slightly better in this metric (and will probably do better this year by all indications). That would make votes by Democrats and votes by Republicans essentially even, which means that the independent vote would decide the election. Even the left-wing pollsters appear to agree that this favors Romney; they merely cover it up with a Democrat-heavy sample. The Left might note that this is fair nationwide, but what about state-to-state variations? Well, bad news there, too, especially in Ohio. Regardless of who wins in any given year, Ohio tends to be about one or two points more Republican than the national average. Unless that changes this year, Romney is winning Ohio, and Obama cannot win the election without it.
Omens and Trivialities
If the Obama campaign is looking for any signs from above, they aren’t getting any help in that regard, either.
- The “Redskins Rule”. Since the inception of the Washington Redskins, the outcome of the Presidential election for the incumbent party has matched the outcome for the Redskins in their last home game prior to the election in all but one case. In short, a Redskins win means the incumbent party wins, and vice-versa. That game took place today. Final score: Carolina 21, Washington 13. (The exception was 2004, when the Packers defeated the Redskins, but Bush won re-election.)
- The “Flip Rule”. I don’t know if there is an official name for this rule, but it is nevertheless true: No incumbent has ever won a second term without winning a state that he did not win in his first election. For example, Bush “flipped” New Mexico and Iowa to his column in 2004, despite losing them in 2000. Likewise, in 1984, Reagan won five of the six states that he lost in 1980. What’s the outlook for Obama by this metric? Frankly, he’s not even competitive in any state McCain won. Granted, Obama hasn’t made much of an effort to win any of these states, and he would win if he could hold most of what he won in 2008, but the statistic holds nonetheless.
- Paul Krugman states that anyone reporting that Romney has a shot (including his own paper) is “lazy” and “stupid”. Given that Krugman is right about something approximately three times per year, I will personally take this as a good sign. Even more laughably, Jim Cramer of CNBC predicted that Obama would win 440 electoral votes. No word on which McCain states he thinks Obama will win, of course; I suspect he pulled that number from his Lower Intestinal Database. (Scott Adams of “Dilbert” fame – another unusual Romney endorser, by the way – once noted that the word “analysis” comes from the root word “anal”, and the Greek suffix “-ysis”, which means “to pull numbers from”. That sums up Cramer’s analysis pretty well.)
- Obama’s campaign looks like the last days of George H.W. Bush. A great piece by Andrew Ferguson in the Weekly Standard gives an inside look at what the last days of the Bush 41 campaign looked like, and how they eerily resemble Obama’s last couple of weeks.
- Obama’s first term looks a hell of a lot like Jimmy Carter’s. Economic misery abounded throughout both terms in office, and liberals were mystified as to why their ideas weren’t working. The first debate served as a turning point in both campaigns. (Here is a link to the 1980 Reagan/Carter debate. Carter looked like a deer in the headlights during the whole thing.) In each election, Carter and Obama were dealing with an international crisis in which the U.S. looked weak to the world. And, sadly but somehow appropriately, the finishing touch was put on the comparison this last week as we watch people in New York and New Jersey waiting in line for gasoline. Funny thing: the polls were supposedly “too close to call” in that one, too.
Summing It Up In Two Sentences
While all of the evidence above might be overwhelming, the “why it will be more like 2010 than 2008” argument can be summed up in two sentences:
The reasons that people voted for Barack Obama in 2008 – the sense of history, the hope that he would change Washington and end the partisan divide, the notion that he could accomplish great things with his powers of persuasion – have faded.
The reasons that people voted against Obama’s agenda and his party in 2010 – the unpopularity of Obamacare, the rising deficits and mounting debt, the bad economy, the ignorance of the Constitution – have not faded at all, and may even be stronger now.
For those two reasons alone, I predict a victory for Romney on Tuesday night by a margin that will be anywhere from “comfortable” to “resounding”. As a bonus prediction, the party will unofficially start when Pennsylvania is called for Romney.
Cross-posted from Q's Clues