Sunday, October 21, 2012

Prediction: Just the horse race now

The shape of the rest of the presidential campaign is now set. There will be no more surprises or major surges. At this point, it's just a matter of sucking up the few remaining persuadables and getting out the vote. I don't even think there will be a major gaffe. The candidates are too cautious and seasoned for that.

No-Hope Debate
Some may hope for a game-changer, perhaps at the final debate tomorrow. I doubt it. The debate is supposed to focus on foreign policy. Both candidates will project caution and credibility, so each will have a difficult time discrediting the other. Nothing in those complex, subtle issues will move the needle for the electorate. 

The Electoral Map
Since the campaign issues are now fully revealed and explored, the only variables are how the electorate is digesting the info. According to Nate Silver, Obama is favored about 2 to 1. Looking at Silver's blog and Real Clear Politics, that's believable. Both need either Ohio or a miracle, and Obama is ahead in Ohio by 2.1%. Silver puts Obama's chance of winning Ohio at 70%.

Even if Obama loses Ohio, he can still win if he holds onto Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. If Romney loses Ohio, he has to win those four states in which Obama now leads. That's quite a stretch. (To play with possible outcomes, I recommend this LA Times webpage.)

Another Lost Opportunity
I have to report that this outcome is disappointmenting to me. Neither politician has believably addressed the most important fiscal issues, which are reforming the tax system and government spending. Nor have they pushed the electorate to a clear understanding of the national challenges. The country seems as dumb and divided as before. Sigh.

Oh well, so there hasn't been the plain talk I'd like to see. That would be too dangerous a strategy for a presidential campaign.

The racecourse: High in the center and round at both ends
Image: facebook somewhere

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So, I think you may finally be getting the gist of a national electoral campaign, MP.

All along the media -- whether left or right leaning -- has wanted this horse race. Big plans and truth-telling about the country's problems make for big targets in campaigns. Bland "goals" oriented policies that focus-group well, plus attacks on your opnion, win elections in this country. Ifyour candidate is an empty vessel for 50.1%, you might be able to eke out a victory.

It looks like we will have a completely divided country for the foreseeable future. The media wants it that way because conflict drives stories and they sell stories. With the GOP so much better at manipulating the media, even if it does have a slight left bias, the motive to keep the story interesting trumps all.

Hence the myth of "likely" voters. NBC/WSJ poll has it 47%/47% among likely voters. But it's 49%/44% in favor of Obama among registered voters. A 5% difference? I don't think so. Nate Silver, no less, has clearly demarked that the difference is never more than 2% in actuality, generally tipping toward the GOP. In a close election, when people think their vote will count (if not on a state level then nationally), you have to expect the difference to be even less. Yet, they headline the interpretive "likely" numbers but paragraph 6 the registered voter numbers. "Will Obama voters actually show up?" is the story, despite the evidence in states with early voting that they do.

The Dems made the same mistake in 2004. They thought their excitement over dumping Bush and middling enthusiasm for Kerry would carry the day. They were wrong. Bush won by 2% anyway, much as I expect Obama to when the votes are counted.

As the incumbent, Obama will get the final argument with the public, as Bush did in 2004. That should make the tiniest difference.