A Shriveled Coalition Carved from a Confused Electorate

What was that? Incredibly, Americans voted for the status qou. Republicans can cheer a ratification of the 2010 midterm. Senate Democrats can celebrate two more seats. And Obama can work to make sense of being the first President reelected by a shrinking coalition, a win only made possible by waging the same scorched earth politics that he came to prominence disclaiming. At the moment, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

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Prediction for Tuesday

Like a few weeks back, I’d say that Romney nets fewer than 300 electoral votes, but enough that Ohio will prove superfluous to him becoming the 45th President of the United States.

Specifically, 289-249, with Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Virginia, and Florida going for Romney. For kicks, let’s assume Pennsylvania will be closer than Nevada, but that both, along with Iowa, go Obama’s way.

Hey, everyone’s got an opinion.

-BFT

@theBIGfairytale

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No Time Like the Present?

The left has started singing the voter suppression tune a bit earlier than I expected. As noted by myself and Robert Stacy McCain, there is an incongruity between this and claims of an electoral firewall.

Any partisan benefit from depressing opposition turnout is unlikely to outstrip the benefit from a robust turnout effort of your own party faithful. Obviously, there’s no limit to the hypothetical scenarios one can dream-up. But the best defense is a good offense, as the saying goes. So, if Obama’s margin in swing states is so precarious that it’s threatened by longer than ideal lines or the garden variety mix-ups for which the process for casting a provisional ballot was created, then it’s almost certainly threatened by the possibility of higher than expected enthusiasm among conservative faithful, or even better turnout among those undecideds who ultimately break for Romney. (Only 6 out of 10 undecideds may tell a pollster they’re leaning towards Romney, but of the four who are satisfied with the status quo, how many will actually turnout?)

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Nate Silver’s Not So Sophisticated View of the Race

Nate Silver came out to defend his electoral model, which gives Obama roughly an 80 percent chance of winning the electoral college despite volumes of polling indicating that the race is extremely tight. Silver points out that 80 percent is roughly the chance of an NFL team winning when they are up by a field goal with two minutes left. OK, sure, time and score are important, but the probabilities change when you add even one or two additional variables.

In particular, who has possession and what’s their field position? In this analogy, possession is being able to control the narrative, drive a message. This falls to Romney by default. Ever since Obama was exposed during the first debate as a man with no agenda and feeling no pressure to formulate one, his campaign has been a slow motion exercise in punting on first down.

The question of field position is tantamount to asking: how tight is the race in the one or two states most likely to be electoral vote tipping points? Like a team driving for a game winning field goal, getting to a majority in the most swinging of swing states becomes the game within the game. Starting at midfield (Ohio, Wisconsin) makes the job a lot easier than being backed-up in your own end (Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon). In short, does the mission come down to a hail-mary or stringing together a few plays of positive yardage? And, for good measure, which team has shown more evidence of being primed to execute at this stage of the game?

Taken together in an electoral context, control of the narrative and closing a tight race in places like Ohio and Wisconsin add up to that amorphous but extremely important thing humans call ‘the big ‘mo’. Mitt-mentum, as it’s come to be known. Silver’s model is blind to it, and the shortcoming is made plain by the overly simplistic nature of his ‘down by three’ analogy. No one in their right mind would make a one-time bet of $1,000 based solely on time and score in a close game with three minutes left. Not if they could turn on the TV and easily get additional information that might significantly change their calculation of the teams’ respective chances.

And on the purely technical front, how reliable is Silver’s data? This goes both to pollsters’ widely divergent assumptions about partisan turnout and to the paucity of historical data with which to compare the current polls. (Sean Davis makes the later point–among several other excellent technical insights–in a piece in the Daily Caller). For this exercise, data is not reliable simply because it’s the best data available. Silver would probably concede the historical data is thin, and that his model pays no regard to the fact that this race is following a late trajectory unlike what experience told us we could expect.

The idea that three debates between two candidates over the course of the final five weeks might make a difference? History suggested that it was pie in the sky. At this point in this race, it’s fair to say that history is a less reliable guide than most assumed. Every now and again, this time is different. So far, this election has been–Congressman as VP nominee, historically lopsided verdict in first debate producing historic movement in polls, incumbent with a fighting chance despite sky-high unemployment.

You couldn’t find one in five past elections that had any of those elements, let alone all of them. Yet one in five is Romney’s chance of winning, according to Silver (slightly higher, actually). So compared to the other unusual aspects of this race, Romney’s chances are a veritable slam dunk.

None of this is to say ‘throw the rules out the window’. Simply be realistic about the limits of historical lessons for the current environment, and understand that the rules should not be one-dimensional focus on data that itself is built on controversial assumptions about which electorate will turnout on November 6th and where. We know early voting has played differently than in 2008, contrary to what most of Silver’s most heavily weighted pollsters would have forecast. Why should we expect them to be right about November 6th?

At some point, you do have to wonder whether all the reliance on Silver is garden variety wishful thinking and confirmation bias, or something more calculated. I have thrown out a theory. With any luck, we’ll get a chance in the coming weeks to see how well it predicts Dem behavior.

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Dan Balz Calls it For Romney

Talk about burying the lede. In the Washington Post, Dan Balz writes upwards of twenty-five paragraphs on reading the tea leaves in a close race. He breaks them down to three categories: where candidates spend their time, how states have performed in the past, and how different groups of voters seem to be leaning (in that order). Only that last one is dispositive, so naturally Balz takes it on last. Let’s skip ahead to the penultimate paragraph:

As for independent voters, the Post-ABC News tracking poll completed Monday night and published Tuesday afternoon showed Romney winning independents by single digits, as he was the day before. He enjoyed double-digit margins among independents in the days before that. Independents have swung back and forth in recent presidential and congressional elections and likely will be with the winner Tuesday[emphasis added]

So unless he thinks Obama can erase a 10 point deficit among independents within 10 days of the election, Balz seems to be calling it for Romney. Am I missing something here?

Certainly comports with what we learned from Pew’s analysis of early voting (via Hot Air).

-BFT

@theBIGfairytale

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Nate Silver and the Voter Suppression Meme: Democrats’ Bridge to the Future

The question is whether Democrats are delusional or simply feigning belief in a re-run of 2008’s perfect storm (their side turning out in historic numbers and Republicans staying home) in order to lay groundwork for delegitimizing a Romney Presidency before it even begins. In other words, do they really believe Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight model is the Word of God, or is it simply a useful tool for setting unrealistic expectations–on the theory that the more surprised party faithful are on November 7th, the more a voter suppression conspiracy theory focused on ‘true the vote’ legislation will carry intuitive appeal?

No one can deny that claims of voter suppression have been a major part of Obama’s reelection campaign. It’s the most scurrilous version of an evolving messaging effort that began in Obama’s first State of the Union address, when Obama made the (highly dubious) claim that because of Citizens United corporate interests would suddenly be able to ‘buy elections’. Democrats have spent much of the past 12 months radicalizing this theme to a full-blown voter suppression narrative, with Obama for America going so far as to challenge Ohio’s (bi-partisan) early voting legislation. With Obama losing the middle of the electorate decisively and Republicans having closed the intensity gap from 2008, the question now is whether the narrative has become a broader, shared effort between the political left and the liberal media—not to influence events to produce an Obama victory, but rather to prepare the spin on Obama’s impending defeat.

Confidence in a narrow victory would certainly seem incompatible with sincere concerns about disenfranchisement. These positions are mutually exclusive, as a matter of logic. The Rasmussen and Gallup polls make clear that a marginally more Republican electorate will deliver the White House to Romney.

The Democrats’ new refrain—‘don’t let voter suppression keep you from voting early’—makes even less sense, though it clarifies that the narrative is a talking point, and nothing more. Obviously, if voter ID laws can’t keep Democrats from voting early it won’t keep them from voting on Election Day. After all, ID requirements are constant throughout voting season in any given state. But short of the media seizing on this tacit admission, Democrats will continue using the talking point to seek political advantage; first to win over voters, then, if necessary, to impose a reinterpretation of the election results.

Delgitmizing Romney’s victory is critically important to framing the trajectory of American politics in the early 21st century. Just as Democrats, at the outset of the Obama era, wanted to point to 2006 and 2008 as the beginning of the rise of a new progressive America animated by increased political participation by impressionable young adults and black and Latino minorities, Republicans would now like to seize on 2004 and 2010 as signs of a conservative movement that is equal parts durable and passionate. In essence, Republicans want the 2012 election to act as a rubber match–a kind of ratification of the Tea Party midterm. For Democrats, the bar has been quickly been lowered to obstructing any clear outcome. At best, Obama is guaranteed to become the first President in the modern era to earn reelection while his coalition is shrinking, and the national vote outcome may very well be razor thin. At worst, an Obama victory could be confined to the electoral college, in which case he would become the first President to ever be reelected while losing the popular vote.

If Obama loses, obstructing a new conservative era means delegitimizing Romney’s victory and the newly resurgent conservative movement that helped deliver it, while covering for the collapse of the minority/young voter strategy. The voter suppression myth achieves all of these objectives. It provides an excuse for lower than expected black and Latino turnout, in addition to explaining away the relevant strong turnout among a newly activist Republican base. Moreover, it allows Democrats to smear the Republican governors and state legislators elected during 2010’s Tea Party wave as the 21st century equivalent of Bull Connor, denying access to the ballot box based on voters’ race. This, in turn, would help justify obstruction of the governing process until 2014 and cast the imperative of winning the midterm elections in the starkest possible terms.

For a Democrat party that has defined itself by the personality behind a flailing presidency, the voter suppression meme is the best way to prepare for defeat and buy time until the 2014 midterm, long enough (the party hopes) to formulate some semblance of a positive vision to sell the country in the post-Obama era. Until then, bogus narratives which reinforce their sense of victimhood and the other side’s racism will have to do.

-BFT

@theBIGfairytale

Update: Once again, HotAir is on top of the latest wildly outlandish turnout assumptions from a Democrat friendly pollster. Even by PPP’s standards, predicting a 45 percent Dem electorate in the Buckeye State is pushing it. Someone needs to tell them that the suppression narrative only works if the turnout assumptions are viewed as merely optimistic, as opposed to blatantly dishonest.

Battleground Watch has a good write-up as well.

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L’etat c’est me!

Obama was in the mood to play Commander in Chief last night–and he wanted everybody to know it. One of his best lines, however, was in the negative, when he informed Romney–in case there was any confusion on this point–that Romney had not had the chance to “execute foreign policy”. He overshot when he spoke in the affirmative, for instance when he responded to Romney’s criticism of his empty-chair act during the ‘Arab Spring’.

“when Tunisians began to protest, this nation–me . . . my administration–stood with them earlier than just about any country.”

Since, by the second half of the night, Obama had taken on the air of a state legislator running to be the junior Senator from Illinois, this came across as less Louis XIV than Mugatu (Will Farrell) in the climatic runway scene in Zoolander. “I invented the piano key necktie–I invented it!”

Mugatu – I invented the piano key necktie!

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