Rob Horowitz: Obama and Romney Down to the Wire
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
With only a week to go, the Presidential election is too close to call. The national horse race is close to a dead heat.
President Barack Obama has a small, but statistically significant advantage in a sufficient number of battleground states and still maintains a more plausible path than Gov. Mitt Romney to winning the 270 electoral votes required. But the few remaining undecideds may break disproportionately for the challenger and that, combined with a marginal enthusiasm advantage for Romney, could drive up Republican turnout enough to put him over the top.
The irony is that, despite the marked poll overkill that has driven way too much of the media coverage without providing much context, we will most likely have to wait until the actual votes are counted to know who is going to win the election. Because small and usually not statistically significant movements in polls now drive major swings in news coverage, casual observers would think there has been big up and down movements in the state of the race. In reality, Obama was never as far ahead before the first debate as the media—particularly MSNBC and other more liberal commentators-- portrayed him. Similarly, the so-called Romney momentum that conservatives keep trumpeting and some mainstream media folks have bought hook, line and sinker, has stalled since the second debate.
The fundamentals of this race have remained relatively constant. The President’s approval rating is hovering just under 50 percent, similar to the approval rating of President Bush before the close 2004 election. Presidential approval rating correlates very strongly with vote choice. While there is some uptick in economic optimism and a significant rise in the percentage of likely voters who think the nation is "headed in the right direction" as opposed to "pretty seriously off on the wrong track", it is still less than a majority -- a troubling sign for an incumbent. The President remains well liked. Governor Romney, mainly due to his performance in the first debate, has somewhat increased his own favorability and emerged as a plausible and moderate-sounding alternative. However, Romney still has high negatives preventing him from gaining more altitude and the electorate remains starkly polarized along partisan and demographic lines.
This race is close enough that the old cliché about how it all comes down to turnout has the ring of truth. The Obama campaign has the more sophisticated ground game and has invested more money in it. They also have a proven track record, despite the Romney campaign’s protestations to the contrary, of expanding the electorate and getting people who usually do not vote to come to the polls (Ask Hillary Clinton about the Iowa Caucus). But turnout is not just a matter of mechanics; it is also about which voter groups are more motivated to vote.
So, while I would give Obama a slight edge going into this decisive last week, anyone who tells you they know who is gong to win either has rare psychic powers or is just "Whistling Dixie".
Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.