Prediction time (Update)
If you haven’t read Karl Rove’s analysis of the election, you ought too. Yeah, I know, Rove is partisan and all of that, but, like Michael Barone (who, by the way, has predicted a Romney win), he knows election demographics.
Rove makes a point that seems to be missed by a lot of people or, perhaps, ignored instead:
He maintains a small but persistent polling edge. As of yesterday afternoon, there had been 31 national surveys in the previous seven days. Mr. Romney led in 19, President Obama in seven, and five were tied. Mr. Romney averaged 48.4%; Mr. Obama, 47.2%. The GOP challenger was at or above 50% in 10 polls, Mr. Obama in none.
The number that may matter the most is Mr. Obama’s 47.2% share. As the incumbent, he’s likely to find that number going into Election Day is a percentage point or so below what he gets.
Why is that significant?
For example, in 2004 President George W. Bush had 49% in the final Gallup likely-voter track; he received 50.7% on Election Day. In 1996, President Clinton was at 48% in the last Gallup; he got 49.2% at the polls. And in 1992, President George H.W. Bush was at 37% in the closing Gallup; he collected 37.5% in the balloting.
If you can’t get above 47%, and your challenger is running above that number, chances are you aren’t going to win.
Then there are the polling demographics. Remember when I said that if a poll has D+ anything, it is likely wrong? I stand by that:
One potentially dispositive question is what mix of Republicans and Democrats will show up this election. On Friday last week, Gallup hinted at the partisan makeup of the 2012 electorate with a small chart buried at the end of its daily tracking report. Based on all its October polling, Gallup suggested that this year’s turnout might be 36% Republican to 35% Democratic, compared with 39% Democratic and 29% Republican in 2008, and 39% Republican and 37% Democratic in 2004. If accurate, this would be real trouble for Mr. Obama, since Mr. Romney has consistently led among independents in most October surveys.
So, assuming Gallup is right, and it is R+1 as we’ve been saying is likely here, what does that mean for the polling that’s going on?
Take a look at this handy little chart from RCP:
The chart makes the point about how important it is for the polling company to get the mix correct and the probability that many of them haven’t. If they’re not properly skewed, you aren’t going to get valid results. We know there are still polls being run out there with D+5 and up to D+8. Those were legitimate in 2008.
This ain’t 2008 (and you have to ignore 2010 to believe it is) by a long shot.
Then there’s this:
Gallup delivered some additional bad news to Mr. Obama on early voting. Through Sunday, 15% of those surveyed said they had already cast a ballot either in person or absentee. They broke for Mr. Romney, 52% to 46%. The 63% who said they planned to vote on Election Day similarly supported Mr. Romney, 51% to 45%.
So, what is happening is the Democrats are getting their most motivated voters to the polls early and they’re still running behind the GOP. If, in fact, that’s the case, then who will the Dems be trying to turn out on Tuesday and how successful will they be? It all comes down to enthusiasm, doesn’t it? And as measured, that too resides on the side of the GOP (well, except for the NYT poll, unsurprisingly):
Finally, while looking that that chart, remember that independents have been breaking large toward Romney. More than for any GOP candidate in recent history. Add all the other demographics that have shifted significant support from Obama in the last election to Romney in this one, not to mention the atmospherics that simply aren’t there for the incumbent and it is difficult to believe that Obama will win.
So, all that said, I’ll predict a Romney win with slightly over 50% and around 279 electoral votes. I’ll also predict that Nate Silver will be donating $1,000 to charity and David Axlerod’s mustache will be absent Wednesday of next week.
UPDATE: A reminder for all the doubters out there who want to dismiss Rove – In 2008 Karl Rove predicted an Obama win with 338 EVs (actual: 365)