Some Assumptions About November
There are several assumptions about the upcoming election that appear to me to be accurate, and, taken together, would seem to dictate a Romney victory. Yet the polls do not agree. See what you think:
Assumption 1: Nobody who voted for John McCain in 2008 is going to vote for Barack Obama in 2102. This is to me akin to saying that the Earth revolves around the sun. I suppose there may be an outlier or two out there somewhere, but statistically speaking, this one is unassailable.
Assumption 2: The Democratic turnout will be lighter than in 2008. They’re trying hard; they’re spending a fortune on television, and the president is wearing out Air Force One, but enthusiasm is lacking.
Assumption 3: Minority support will be weaker. You’ll get some argument here. Clearly, for reasons that often seem counterintuitive to me, the Democrats command the majority of minority voters, and that minority is itself rapidly becoming the majority. Nevertheless, because of the turnout issue if nothing else, there will not be as much support as in 2008. There is also at least anecdotal evidence that Republicans are making very slow and painful progress with this community.
Assumption 4: Romney won the first debate. Nobody observing with even a hint of objectivity will dispute that. The question is: To what effect? It would seem that Romney’s performance has invigorated Republicans and the president’s has demoralized Democrats. But: It was only the first debate. Will that result be maintained, or can Mr. Obama turn things around?
Assumption 5: The country is in a precarious condition. Until recently, nobody seemed to notice. Maybe it was the debate, maybe the never-ending incompetence of Congress, maybe the desperation of the Fed.
Whatever the reason, commentators, and presumably at least some voters, have noticed the impending fiscal cliff and our dire financial state, and are beginning to think we need to do things differently. That sense ought to translate into some Romney votes, however reluctantly.
Still, the polls indicate at least a very close race, and they usually lean toward the incumbent. Maybe the critics are right and the pollsters are asking Democrats loaded questions to produce the results they want, or, maybe the polls are accurate, or as accurate as any small sample can be.
This election has been such a tedious and boring and irrelevant process that everybody may well stay home. If it were possible to vote for “none of the above,” offices might stand empty throughout the land. Still, somebody is going to win.
It seems to me that if you filter the lists of likely voters through a screen of widespread malaise, the challengers to the status quo ought to have an edge, even if it arises from default rather than enthusiasm. That may not be the ideal way to run an election or a country, but that is where we are.
It seems unlikely that we will be overwhelmed with information and plans in the next couple of weeks. We will suffer more of what we’ve been watching, probably with increased enthusiasm on the Republican side.
To the extent that my assumptions have validity, Mr. Romney and his downstream counterparts ought to have a better chance than is generally acknowledged to pull this thing out.
Whoever wins is going to be faced with a nearly impossibly difficult situation. Crisis is an overused word, but it is not too strong here. You would think that, after nearly four years of unsatisfactory results, voters would be ready for something different; that “hope and change” still has meaning — it just requires a new cast of characters.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by email at email@example.com.
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