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November 5, 2012 / Political Fluency

The Election Prediction

“Forget technique. Forget strategy. This is just a street fight. It’s a question of who wants it most.”

–          Rocky IV

Election Day 2012 is the reason I love politics. I still get Christmas Eve on the first Tuesday of every November no matter what year it is. Once every 4 years that Tuesday is tomorrow – which is like Christmas if it was combined with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and a rent-out-the-entire-arcade Birthday Party.

Not only could I barely sleep over the past few nights, but I know I will also be up until at least 3am tomorrow watching returns after bar hopping to various election night watch parties. And the best part about 2012? I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. This hasn’t happened to me since 2000, but I am going to make a prediction anyway. It’s not just the not knowing what’s going to happen, but how it happens is equally important because it affects political behavior going forward.

I.

This election really needed to happen in the summer of 2011 as we had that debacle of a debate over the debt ceiling. The Republicans had just made historic gains in the House in November 2010 and that was after turning two Democrat governorships in Virginia and New Jersey to Republicans in 2009 and then won a shocking upset as Republicans took Democrat icon Ted Kennedy’s seat in a special election after his death. Meanwhile President Obama was elected with the highest popular vote total since 1988 and had approval ratings 3 times that of Congress. This left both sides feeling like they had the mandate from voters.

When it was time to finally discover the direction the voters wanted to take the country, we had an October Surprise literally from God as a hurricane dominated the news for a full week and flattened Romney’s momentum inclusive of the Republican Convention keynote speaker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, praising Obama’s efforts to assist in the recovery.

To be clear, I very much want Romney to win, but I am going to be content with the result of Obama winning. With the latter the next two years will unfortunately be almost exactly like the last 2 years where nothing gets done and the more conservative off-cycle electorates will barnstorm the state and federal governments with another wave of Republican victories. Greece will exit the Eurozone – something that has never happened before on this scale. Even if that occurs without setting off a worldwide downturn, we still have to wait and see how Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland will fare.  If any one of those other four countries have to exit the Eurozone as well, let alone two or more, then we have another worldwide economic crisis on our hands. And the American people are going to blame the President whether he said we’re going “Forward” and “we’ve come to far” or the President who said, “I know how the economy works and I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.”  

II.

Every legitimate explanation for each man to win and each of the supporting possibilities sound very reasonable.

Brit Hume echoed these sentiments saying that he was on two different conference calls with each campaign just nodding his head as each side laid out their path to victory and supporting facts stating how it was going to happen.

The bottom line is that, until Hurricane Sandy, Romney was going to win the election if the national polls were correct (which they were in 2008). And Obama was going to win if the state polls were correct. The divergence between the two sets of polling was significant and only one set is going to end up correct.

Either way, it’s going to be very close.

While I can’t handicap the Super Bowl as well as I can handicap politics, I felt there were only three possibilities: 1) Giants Wins Close, 2) Pats Wins Close, or 3) Giants Wins Big. I never thought the Pats were going to run the score up on the Giants. Had there not been a holding call on a Brandon Jacobs’ run for a first down as the Giants were already up 12 – 0 and had a very good shot of going up 15 – 0 or even 19 – 0 on that drive, we may have seen a blowout.  

Likewise there were only three ways this election is going to turnout: 1) Romney Wins Close, 2) Obama Wins Close, or 3) Romney Wins Big. Obama clearly lost support and enthusiasm from his election in 2008 so there was very little possibility of him winning in a landslide. Incumbents are hard to defeat so it was very likely to be close either way. And that incumbent has presided over the highest unemployment rate in 80 years making a huge defeat for him in the realm of possibility.

Let me kick myself first: “How could I possibly think Obama could win when he’s been losing independents for 3 years?”

And

“How could I possibly think Romney was going to win when he almost always trailed Obama in Ohio?”

Reasons for a Romney Victory

For all of the chatter that Romney was just like the 2004 Democrat nominee John Kerry – a stiff, rich Massachusetts politician – they never mentioned how John Kerry would’ve won had the election been held 6 months later let alone a year or two later. This is the chance for the swing voters to vote for John Kerry like they wish they did.

And this is also the chance for all of those “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” moderates and independents to vote for a businessman like Lee Iacocca or Ross Perot to become President.

The fundamentals are completely on Romney’s side: the unemployment rate, the stagnant growth of the economy, the unpopularity of anyone in Washington, 55% believe the country is on the wrong track, and he has the support of Independents – the voters who decide elections.

Romney won the Redskins Rule when the team lost at home yesterday which correlates with an incumbent party loss of the White House.

Reasons for an Obama Victory

Obama won the Halloween mask poll that’s predicted the past 4 elections since they started keeping track in 1996. While 1996 and 2008 were blowouts, 2000 and 2004 were close.

President Obama used the Bush 2004 strategy on steroids – make the opponent unacceptable to an evenly divided electorate. It worked then, when everyone was scared that the next terrorist attack could happen at any time, and it worked now, when everyone is scared that the next downturn could happen in the next quarter.

Obama had help from an unlikely source: Romney did next to nothing the entire month of September. One of the most intuitive political observers is Peggy Noonan who wrote today in a column predicting a Romney win:

All the vibrations are right. A person who is helping [Romney] who is not a longtime Romneyite told me, yesterday: “I joined because I was anti Obama—I’m a patriot, I’ll join up But now I am pro-Romney.” Why? “I’ve spent time with him and I care about him and admire him. He’s a genuinely good man.” Looking at the crowds on TV, hearing them chant “Three more days” and “Two more days”—it feels like a lot of Republicans have gone from anti-Obama to pro-Romney.

That should’ve been September 4th, not November 4th.  I know he was doing a rope-a-dope strategy, but Romney waited way too long to start punching back. He wasted all of September. Had the first debate followed up an existing framework and argument the GOP was making against Obama in the weeks prior, then there might have been an even bigger bounce from the first debate than the historic bounce he actually did get.

Romney went into Pennsylvania. Is this to expand the map because most of the Bush 2004 states are locked up or is this a Hail Mary pass because he needs something big to happen? Today Romney was in Florida, which should’ve been locked up 10 days ago. Pennsylvania is a bold play instead of a map expanding move. He’s not going to win Ohio, Obama is and another 4 years of the Presidency with it.

Obama 281 to Romney 257

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