01 November 2012

The US Elections: The Standard Perspective

If you have been following the US presidential race, you know that there has been breathless commentary about the statistical dead-heat that makes it impossible to predict who the winner is.

Even Sandy could not stop this non-stop discussion of countless opinion polls.

Predictably, Fox News predicts a Romney win, as does the right leaning Real Clear Politics. Gallup is also convinced of a Romney win.

The rest of the pollsters seem to favor Obama.

Nate Silver gives Obama 3 to 1 odds or anywhere from 70 to 79 percent change of winning. So does Sam Wang of Princeton Election Consortium. Ditto for Votamatic, which gives Obama 332 electoral college votes.

Interestingly, the majority of Americans seem to agree with the latter group of pollsters. According to Gallup 54 percent of Americans believe that he will get his second term and only 34 percent predict that Mitt Romney will win.

I am not a big believer in polls. They are surprisingly crude tools with very few safeguards against people making false statements.

But from a purely electoral math point of view here is my take.

Get Out to Vote Effort

This is the most critical element in terms of the final outcome.

In the Obama camp, you have many disillusioned white liberals who are reluctant to bother with casting a vote.

In the Romney camp, you have many evangelicals who do not consider him a true Christian and true conservative, especially after his flip-floppy move to the center following the primaries.

I suspect, one of the reasons the statistical dead-heat narrative is not being questioned by either side is to motivate their supporters to get out to vote. The idea is that if they feel that their candidate might lose, they would push aside their misgivings and go and vote for them.

In that sense, the Gallup poll that found that a large majority believe that Obama will get re-elected is a bit of a problem for the incumbent. If they continue with the "he is going to win this anyway" attitude he might be in trouble.

Early in the race, I suggested to friends that if I were Obama's campaign manager, I would convince him to throw the first debate to make sure that Romney is no longer the under dog. Maybe I am too cynical or it is just a coincidence but Obama did just do that. There are so many bogus points Romney made in the first debate that Obama did not bother countering that I felt I might not be the only cynical person watching all this.

In any event, the ground game will be critical in winning and I suspect the Obama team is better organized and at this point more scared and energized than the Romney team.

But there is also the issue of who will get out to vote.

Racial Profile

You probably heard by now that Obama is losing the white folks.
The latest Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll finds Romney leading Obama among white voters, 60 per cent to 37, while Obama wins 79 per cent of non-white voters. Obama's support among these minorities was about the same in 2008, but his support among whites has declined from 43 per cent four years ago. 
But he is winning the fastest growing demographic group, the Hispanic vote.
An NBC/Telemundo/Wall Street Journal poll released last week shows that Obama leads Romney by a whopping 70-25 percent among Latino voters nationwide. Another poll by Latino Decisions shows Obama ahead by 70 to 21 percent of the Latino vote.
This will have serious repercussions beyond these elections, as it signals a racially and ideologically polarized United States where the white folks feel like a minority. Historically, this set of circumstances has never been conducive to agreeable outcomes.

One astute thing the Obama campaign has done was fielding the country's first black president, Bill Clinton to make racially suggestive statements, something Obama cannot do.
Clinton is also able to address race directly in a way that is difficult for the first African-American president. In Ohio, he noted that Republican-proposed Medicaid cuts would affect children across the board — black, Hispanic, Asian, even Middle Eastern. “Most of them are white folks,” Clinton added, drawing some laughter and applause. “This is not a racial deal folks. This is an equal-opportunity hosing.” Wary of being accused of favoring the black community, the president never uses such racially charged language.
As for Obama losing the white vote, I doubt that it is a significant issue, at least electorally speaking. No Democratic president was able to get the majority of white vote since Lyndon Johnson. White people tend to be conservative and their fee fees are very easily bruised.

What will be significant from this perspective is the ability of Democratic volunteers to get a large percentage of non-whites to vote.

And conversely, the ability of Republican politicians to enforce the vote restriction (or suppression) measures they have been trying to put in the books.

Expect the frenzied pitch to resume from this weekend onward. It will be inescapable. 24/7.

Sometimes I am so glad that I live in France.

But I wrote all of this as a prelude to give you my contrarian perspective on these elections.

That's next.

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