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Undecided? Barack Beware!

People pay far more attention to polls at this stage in the game then they should, but there’s one piece of them that isn’t getting the attention they deserve. You’ll notice, for instance, that the poll numbers never add up to 100% at this point in the game. That’s because there’s still a significant chunk of voters who remain undecided – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re up for grabs.

In presidential elections, undecideds almost always break for the challenger, not the incumbent.

If you think about it, it makes sense. We’ve all seen Barack Obama up close and personal for the past three years, so if someone is still undecided about him, then chances are they don’t necessarily like what they see. So why aren’t they in Mitt’s column? Well, they haven’t had the same kind of prolonged exposure to the challenger that they’ve had to the guy in the White House, so they’re probably still assessing whether or not the new guy is an acceptable alternative.

I hate to agree with the execrable – and usually wrong – Dick Morris, but this time, the guy has the facts on his side. Review his analysis of every presidential race since 1964:

Six of eight presidents seeking reelection performed worse than the final Gallup poll predicted, while one finished the same (Reagan in 1984) and one gained votes (Bush in 2004). Seven of the nine insurgent candidates did better than the final Gallup survey predicted.
• In 1964, Johnson lost 3 points to Goldwater at the end.

• In 1972, Nixon lost 1 point to a third-party candidate.

• In 1976, there was a 4-point swing to Carter.

• In 1980, there was a 3-point swing to Reagan or Anderson.

• In 1984, there was no change between the final poll and the results.

• In 1992, there was a 1-point shift away from Bush. In that contest, there was also a 5-point swing away from Clinton to Perot at the end.

• In 1996, there was a 5-point swing away from Clinton and to Dole or Perot.

• Only Bush in 2004 ran better in the result than in the final poll, by 
2 points.
In other words, of the total of 
19 points that shifted between the final poll and the election results, 17 points or 89 percent went to the challenger.

He also adds that ” predictions of a close election are all based on polling of registered voters — not likely voters — and fail to account for the shift in votes against the incumbent that has been the norm of the past presidential contests.”

Registered voter polls also tend to lean more Democratic than likely voter polls. Yet, as of today, Romney is ahead among registered voters in both the Gallup – 46 to 45 – and Rasmussen – 47 – 45 – general election polls. That leaves 8 to 9 percent undecided. If past trends hold true, that’s a landslide Romney victory in the making.

The Electoral College complicates the equation, but not by much. State-by-state polling has Romney in equally tight races among registered voters – he’s a point or two ahead in Ohio and Florida, and within striking distance in Virginia. And if you assign the bulk of the undecideds to Romney, he wins the swing states easily.

The Conventional Wisdom, which used to include yours truly, was that Obama has every reason to be confident. In fact, that’s the thesis of a Mark Halperin piece out today in Time Magazine, titled, appropriately, “Why the Obama Campaign Is So Confident.” They claim Romney is a weak candidate, that he’s too right-wing(!), and that the Electoral College map still works in their favor. They hope to define Romney as an unacceptable alternative – too fringe, too boring, too “weird” (code for “Mormon”), too extreme, too unprincipled, too rich, too square, too bad.

The problem is that the epithets they hurl contradict each other.

How can you, for example, be too boring and too weird at the same time? Weird people are many things, but boring isn’t one of them. The campaign ad that complains that Romney wouldn’t have ordered the bin Laden raid is a case in point. Does anyone really believe that Romney will sit on his hands when given the opportunity to take out the most wanted man in the world? Surely Obama doesn’t believe that. The fact that he’s even trying to make that case is prime facie evidence that he’s going to throw anything and everything against the wall in this race and hope that something sticks.

The reality, though, is that this election is not going to be a referendum on Mitt Romney. He hasn’t been president for the past three and a half years. And with only six months to go before he faces the voters again, the guy who has been president still hasn’t been able to close the deal with an undecided voter bloc that constitutes nearly ten percent of the electorate. His approval rating can’t break 50%; the jobs numbers remain terrible, and he kicked off his campaign in a stadium littered with empty seats.

Such photos do not inspire confidence.

Yes, I know – my initial election prediction was that Mitt Romney would win the GOP nomination only to go down in flames against Obama in November.

Well, now chalk me up as “undecided.”

Avenge Me!
Mitt Romney and Doo-Ball

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  1. Well, my initial prediction still stands. I think it will be close do to the consistent cheerleading of the media, but in the end a lot of people will reflect on the last 3 ½ years and say “that was a mistake”.

  2. I’m in the same boat. I will be pleasantly surprised if Obama loses and Mitt wins in November, but this analysis gives me hope. I wonder if I should share this with my oxymormon liberal friends or just leave their slant on election forecasting unchallenged. Would it have any value, or is this mostly just moot self-assurance? Do optimistic or less than optimistic election forecasts attract, repel, or have no effect on voters?

  3. Not, to I don’t rain on the parade but– Big-Sally — might need to consider the fact that GOP’s assault on women’s reproductive rights will make many moderate Republican Women and Independent Women voters weary of Mitt Romney’s of the world. After all Mitt Romney is courting the super-right wing portion of the political spectrum and in doing so he cannot openly discuss things like: abortion rights, civil rights for transgendered, gays, and lesbians, meaningful healthcare programs, and environmental issues ect, and so on… Instead he has to focus on meaningless issues like how Liberal the Media is and even attempt to co-opt into his own campaign the success of bailing out the Auto Industry– (which was a more successful bail out than the Wall St. one) so he can attempt to remove the stain of being a “slash and burn” capitalist… So when it comes down to it… The real issues are not going to be just jobs. Which of course will be one of the most important– but women will be a major determining factor in this race. As long as Romney will not tell his far right supporters that he won’t stone prostitutes in the public square on Fridays for amusement– potential to alienate many moderates and independent women voters exists…
    Check out this article: http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/24-south-dakota-takes-extreme-measures-to-be-the-top-anti%E2%80%93abortion-state/

    • That’s the standard leftist narrative, but the polling doesn’t bear it out. Or is it a coincidence that the week Obama comes out in support of gay marriage, the polls show Romney beating Obama by 7 points – 50 to 43?

      Regardless, Romney is focusing on economic issues, not social ones. This election is not going to be about contraception or abortion or gay marriage – its going to be about jobs, jobs, and jobs. That’s why Romney is going to win.

      • Actually, the newest Gallup Poll has Romney down by 1% so basically Obama and Romney are in a tie… http://www.gallup.com/poll/election.aspx
        However, why I say moderate women voters are not going to be Romney’s ally is simple because I’ve spoken to a few hardcore Republican Moderates– who happen to be women and their biggest concern was not the economy at all (all were middle class and rather stable in their economic position), but the attack on women’s rights. Now, of course my sampling size is far too small to make a predictions with accuracy– but, my sneaking feeling is that Romney’s courting of the ultra-right to gain victories in the primaries will ultimately become his Achilles’ Heel in the general election where he has to win over a much larger demographic. Especially, one that might be more moderate than he thinks. Will Jobs be important of course they will.

        However, Romney’s record on Job Creation isn’t exactly a stellar one. As indicated by this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-abrams/governor-romneys-job-growth_b_1480751.html
        Now, he wants to co-opt into is program Obama’s continuation of the Auto-Bailout ? Which rings disingenuous since after all he said on Piers Morgan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTLWI3wGvJ4&feature=related — now look he comes out saying the bailout is wrong– then he wants to support them after they are bankrupt??? What is the point of letting them going bankrupt. The fact is that our buddy Mitt Romney has failed to actually create jobs on any mass scale.

        So, I ask how do you save jobs by actually reducing the work force? That is my question to Romney??? If GMC, Ford, and Chrysler all bankrupt at the same time? Where are the jobs going to be saved in this process if they are shedding them?

        The one bright star in Romney’s Mass Gov Days– he cannot even admit to doing without alienating his base right now: “Universal Healthcare”. That is ironic, don’t you think ?

        Another place where Obama could be very successful is with the Occupy supporters– that is if he attempts to do something about income inequality and the development of stable new American employment opportunities. Romney has totally alienated these voters and if they come out in strong force they will be an important demographic.
        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/12/mitt-romney-bank-of-america-protests_n_1511868.html?ref=topbar

        So you see Romney’s limited himself by adopting this ultra-right wing Republican position. You yourself even claim that Tea-Party is now a waning force within the overall Republican party and any strategy that seems to support them totally would in my opinion be a failure.

        My self– I’m an Anarcho-Synadiclist and I stand with Noam Chomsky…

        • I have anecdotes, too. Statistically, they don’t matter at all. A 1% Obama lead is really bad news for Obama, since, as I describe in this post, the undecideds always break for the challenger.

          Noam Chomsky is an idiot and a hypocrite.

          • Strawman– dude— I never said it was enough information to make accurate predictions on… I said it causes “me to feel” that perhaps Romney has misjudged the total demographic position of the moderates within his own party. If moderate Republicans become alienate to such an extent that they feel Romney is playing to the minority position within the party itself– that could spell disaster for Romney. I think everyone can say that Romney followed the lead of everyone else in the Primaries and has been playing the “I’m the only true conservative Republican in America today card”… The question becomes does that represent the entire base of the Republican Party or as this plays out over time will Romney start to alienate this moderate segment of the party that has up to now basically stood by and watched silently.

            Here are a few examples of things that if Obama is smart will capitalize on:

            Nevada Foreclosures:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ9D1uWBjh0

            Occupy Wall St. Comments:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIgh3dM_SNo

            Bank of America:
            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/12/mitt-romney-bank-of-america-protests_n_1511868.html

            Auto Bailout:
            http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/daniel-gross/mitt-romney-deserves-no-credit-auto-revival-fmr-135711405.html

            Nothing like telling some one who’s been a productive part of the economy for 20 years or more that he or she is not old enough to understand the economy.

            This is where if Obama is strong and actually does some hard work he can build a major force. Romney cannot do it. And in fact I think we will watch Romney implode as he tries to grab a hold of any idea or thing that seems to be working today. And this will lead to contradictions and flip-flopping and the end of Mr. Romney’s dream.

  4. Count me in the camp who thinks Mitt will pull it off pretty comfortably. He holds slight leads in states like Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. He’s also tied in Colorado. And as you alluded to I think the undecideds will break for him. Nevada will also likely break for Romney. Also, when was the last time Michigan and New Hampshire were in play?