Politics and Public Opinion, Elections

The final day: US 2012 elections live

Image: DonkeyHotey (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Image: DonkeyHotey (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

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Could America be about to experience an electoral nightmare? Over at National Review, John Fund explains that we could be in for a hell of a ride:

“Ohio could be close enough that those provisional and other ballots will matter,” says Tom Burke, the chairman of the Board of Elections in Hamilton County, which contain’s Cincinnati. In 2008, over 207,000 such ballots were cast. Ohio has often been close in presidential contests. Jimmy Carter won the state by only 11,000 votes out of 4.1 million cast in 1976, and in 2004 George W. Bush’s margin of victory was only 119,000. Lawyers for John Kerry, Bush’s opponent, have told me they planned to go to court in Ohio if the margin had been less than 50,000 votes. Kerry did not concede the state — and the presidency — until 11 a.m. on the Wednesday after the election.

A fight over ballots is guaranteed to ensue this year in Ohio if the margin of victory is within one-half of one percentage point of votes cast — or about 25,000 votes. An automatic recount kicks in at that point. Legal challenges could prevent it from beginning until early December. That’s a problem given that December 11 is the deadline by which Congress is required to honor a state’s results. If Ohio misses that deadline, it will have to find some way to deliver its results by December 17, when the Electoral College is scheduled to meet.

People on both sides of the political divide — from Ohio’s former Republican secretary of state Ken Blackwell to Lawrence Norden of the liberal Brennan Center for Justice — use the same word to describe either a recount or a fight over provisional ballots in Ohio: “nightmare.” Election officials and lawyers from both parties will scrutinize all the provisional ballots and argue over whether they should be counted. In 2008, one in five were ruled ineligible. “Ohio has a history of litigating over the rules for counting provisional ballots,” Ned Foley of the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State told National Journal.

Frankly, I’m not sure if our closely-divided country could handle the bitterness that such a protracted knife-fight would create, particularly since any misstep by either side will be amplified by social media. Let’s hope that whatever happens, one side wins Ohio convincingly enough to avoid such a situation.

 

Democrats are underperforming in the early vote compared to 2008. However, they’re doing better than they did in 2010. Here’s The Fix’s Aaron Blake, who’s been keeping track of early vote numbers as they come in:

Here’s the overarching takeaway: In basically every state where we have good data available, Democrats performed worse than they did in 2008 but better than they did in 2010. And if you extrapolate the shift to the entire statewide vote, we’ve got a very close race in store.

This makes sense. After all, both 2008 and 2010 were wave election years, in which Democrats and Republicans, respectively, made massive gains. So the 2012 early vote was almost destined to fall somewhere in the middle.

And in almost every case, the 2012 early vote is either smack-dab in the middle of the 2008 and 2010 numbers or very close.

Read the rest of Blake’s piece for detailed state-by-state information. Bottom line: Team Obama has been counting on their strong ground game and early vote numbers to carry them over the finish line. While they’re doing better than Democrats did in 2010, they’re not doing as well as they did in 2008. So there’s good news for both sides here, but I think on balance it favors Romney, if only because it shows that the GOP has improved its ground game operation over 2008.

 

My prediction: Romney/Ryan 295, Obama/Biden 243. Romney will take between 50% and 51% of the popular vote while Obama will get between 47% and 48%.

Now, conventional wisdom is that Obama’s going to win. I think that’s wrong, and here’s why (in no particular order):

1.    Recent history. For the last 3 presidential elections, the winning candidate has received a percentage of the popular vote identical to or within 1% of the candidate’s party’s share of the popular vote for the House of Representatives in the election held 2 years before. In 2010, the popular House vote was about 51% R, 45% D. Obama will improve on that number due to his excellent ground game and the fact that presidential years are almost always more Democratic than midterm elections. So drop Romney down to 50% and give Obama a 2% boost, and you get my 50%-47% number.

2.    Enthusiasm. Democratic enthusiasm is down, Republican enthusiasm is up from 2008. In 2008, the nation’s partisan ID split was D: 39, R: 32, and I: 29. In 2010, it was D: 35, R: 35, I: 29. For 2012, the partisan ID split will be somewhere in the middle. I assume it will be D: 37, R: 34, I: 29. That’s a 2-point drop for Democrats and a 2-point increase for Republicans over 2008, for a total D+3 electorate. When you factor in Romney’s lead among Independents, he comes out ahead in the popular vote. Moreover, if I’m wrong about the partisan ID split, I’d wager that I’m undercounting Republicans, not overcounting them.

3.    The issue(s). Romney leads on the most vital issue of the day. The economy is not just the election’s most important issue—it’s basically the election’s only issue, with nothing else even coming close. That’s why it’s important to note Romney’s small but consistent lead on the issue of handling the economy, as well as the fact that most pollsters show Obama underwater or below 50% approval on the economy.

4.    Swing states and race. Obama’s biggest advantage is among nonwhite voters. But several of the most vital swing states have particularly white electorates. Iowa, New Hampshire, and Ohio are all have more whites than the national average, and that hurts the president’s chances there.

5.    Independent voters. Romney leads among Independents anywhere from 5-15 points. If he wins them by 10 or more, he could be in landslide territory. Obama won them by 8 points in 2008, and he had a D+7 electorate. He still only got 53% of the vote.

6.    The economy. The economy is bad. You can argue that we’ve been making progress, but you can’t argue that the economy is good. And when the economy is bad, it’s bad for incumbents, simple as that.

I’m quite certain that holes can be poked in my reasoning and that reasonable minds can disagree over what will happen. There is certainly plenty of data pointing to an Obama victory. But political science is no true science—we’re dealing with people, not numbers or elements. Keeping that in mind, we should focus on broader themes and fundamentals of the American electorate. If your side is enthusiastic, showing up to vote, and you’re winning Independents by at least 5, you have a very good shot of winning.

 

This is what Joe Weisenthal thinks the electoral map will look like on Wednesday. Weisenthal is the deputy editor of Business Insider’s politics section, and a keen observer of politics. He has the president securing reelection in a relatively close race, 280-252.

 

The Pew Research Center thinks Obama will win 50%-47%. In Pew’s latest poll, the president leads 48%-45% over Mitt Romney among likely voters. After factoring in how undecided voters will probably vote, their final estimate of the national popular vote is Obama 50%, Romney 47%.

Pew says that Hurricane Sandy was a net political benefit for Obama, with 69% of all likely voters approving of how he is handling the storm’s impact. A plurality of Romney voters (46%) agree, as do 63% of swing voters.

Pew finds an R+8 advantage on “given a lot of thought to the election,” an R+7 advantage on “following campaign news very closely,” and an R+6 advantage on “definitely plan to vote.” That adds up to a sizeable enthusiasm gap for the GOP.

In good news for Obama, however, registered voters expect him to win, 52%-30%. Historically, the candidate whom most people expect to win usually does. Moreover, Obama regained a 13-point margin among women—up from a 6-point lead last week, and up from a 47%-47% tie after the first debate. Men favor Romney by 8 points, 50%-42%.

Romney’s lead among seniors has collapsed in half, from a 19-point advantage to just 9 this week.

In good news for Romney, Pew finds no evidence that the early vote has broken decisively for one candidate or another. They say that 48% of early voters supported Obama and 46% Romney.

 

Which side does fate support? My colleague Andrew Rugg and the rest of AEI’s Political Corner rounded up some fun but unscientific statistics in an effort to predict who will win the race.

If hemlines go up as we move into an election year, it’s good for the Democrats—they’ve won the presidency 9/15 times when that’s happened. Hemlines are going up this year. Advantage: Obama.

If it’s a good year for Bordeaux wine, the Democrat wins (9/15 predictive record). This year, the wine isn’t as good as it was in 2010 or 2011. Advantage: Romney.

If the National League wins the World Series, the Democratic candidate wins (11/16 predictive record). The San Francisco Giants won the Series this year. Advantage: Obama.

When the Dow Jones monthly average is higher in October than January, the incumbent is expected to win (9/16 predictive record). This year, the Dow’s January average close was 12,550.89, while in October it was 13,380.65. Advantage: Obama.

If the Washington Redskins win their home game closest to election day, it’s good for the incumbent (15/16 predictive record). The Redskins lost on Sunday. Advantage: Romney.

And finally, if the Weekly Reader’s (a magazine for students grades 1-12) presidential poll shows a candidate winning, they will win the election (13/14 predictive power). Unfortunately, the Weekly Reader is no more, having been folded into Scholastic since the last election. But Scholastic’s poll shows Obama winning 51%-45%. Advantage: Obama.

See the full list of unconventional indicators, plus a great deal of rigorous analysis of past presidential elections, in AEI’s latest Political Report.

 

Here is what Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and Geoffrey Skelley of U.Va’s Center for Politics think the electoral college will look like tomorrow.

Here’s part of their reasoning (emphasis added):

This has been a roller-coaster campaign, though very tight ever since Romney dramatically outshone Obama in the first debate in Denver on Oct. 3. Yet for a challenger to defeat an incumbent, the fates must be with the challenger again and again. Who could have imagined that a Frankenstorm would act as a circuit-breaker on the Republican’s campaign, blowing Romney off center stage for three critical days in the campaign’s last week, while enabling Obama to dominate as presidential comforter-in-chief, assisted by his new bipartisan best friend, Gov. Chris Christie (R)?

Adding to the president’s good fortune was a final jobs report that was basically helpful because it wasn’t disastrously bad — that is, the unemployment rate failed to jump back above the psychologically damaging level of 8%. Romney could have used that number to build a crescendo for change. Instead, the final potential obstacle to Obama’s reelection passed by as a one-day story. While Romney surged after the first debate, he never quite closed the deal in the key swing states. And now, we believe he has run out of time.

 

Polls show a close race nationally. Most polls put the president up by a point or two among likely voters nationally. The latest Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll is no different, with a topline number of Obama 49%, Romney 48%.

Twenty-seven percent of likely voters claim to have already cast their ballots. In the battleground states, that number rises to 35%.

Obama leads by 10 points over who voters trust more to handle a crisis. The president also leads by 6 points as the “stronger leader” and who is more in touch with the economic problems of everyday Americans.

Obama has also seen a surge in enthusiasm, with 69% of his supporters calling themselves “very enthusiastic” compared to 62% of Romney’s.

Romney had a 3-point lead on who can handle the economy, 49%-46%.

 

Here’s how the candidates are spending their final day on the trail, as reported by Politico’s Morning Score:

OBAMA starts with a 10:45 morning event in Madison, WISCONSIN; 4:10 in Columbus, OHIO; 9:50 in Des Moines, IOWA. Spends the night in Chicago, ILLINOIS.

ROMNEY speaks at five rallies today: 8:50 in Sanford, FLORIDA, 12:30 in Lynchburg, VIRGINIA, 3:15 at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, 6:25 in Columbus, OHIO, and finishing with an 11 p.m. rally in Manchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE. We’ll spend the night in Boston.

JOE and JILL BIDEN have two stops in VIRGINIA: Noon rally in Sterling, and an evening rally in Richmond.

PAUL RYAN has five  events: morning in Reno, NEVADA, afternoon in Johnstown, COLORADO, evening in Des Moines, IOWA, nighttime in Vienna, OHIO, and a closer in Milwaukee, WISCONSIN.

MICHELLE OBAMA has a morning event in Charlotte, NORTH CAROLINA, and evening event in Orlando, FLORIDA, and joins up with the president in Des Moines, IOWA, before spending the night in Chicago, ILLINOIS.

ANN ROMNEY will join her husband for the Manchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE rally.

BILL CLINTON holding four events in PENNSYLVANIA (Pittsburgh, Scranton, two in Philadelphia media market).

 

It’s all about Ohio. Both campaigns are depending on the Buckeye state’s 18 electoral votes to get them to 270. Team Obama has considered the state an integral part of their “Midwestern firewall,” and polling has consistently shown the president with a small but seemingly-insurmountable lead.

The latest Columbus Dispatch poll, released on Sunday, reinforces that trend. President Obama’s lead stands at 2 points, 50%-48%. Obama leads by 15 points among those who have or will cast an early ballot (about 40% of voters). Romney leads by 11 among those who plan to vote tomorrow. More than 1.6 million Ohioans have already cast an early ballot.

As for the turnout game, the poll finds Obama leading by 10 points in Democratic stronghold northeastern Ohio and by 5 points in central Ohio, which is a swing area. Romney has a massive 23-point lead in Republican southwestern Ohio, a 17 point lead in western Ohio, and a 4 point lead in northwestern Ohio.

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