Sunday, October 21, 2012

Electoral College now favors Romney- Our analysis of the numbers

Well, it's no surprise that former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney has been on an electoral upswing since his stellar first debate performance a couple weeks ago, (and the President's equally poor one).   In fact, unless you've had your head stuck in the political sand so to speak, you probably watched that historic debate yourself and no doubt know why.   And this is so regardless of the President's somewhat "comeback" in the second debate this past week.  So with an eye towards the third and final debate scheduled for tomorrow night we thought we'd take stock of the electoral map and re-assess our predictions for election night. 

Of course, it goes without saying that things in national politics can change quickly. But barring some bombshell "October surprise" (a time hallowed tradition of Presidential politics, especially from the left)), which could successfully wrest attention of the American people away from the state of the economy and America's place in the world under the present Administration, (a scenario we kind of doubt at this point, this is how we see the 2012 Presidential election shaping up.

Though they won't say so explicitly, it appears that the Obama camp has all but given up on winning once "swing" states of Florida and North Carolina, (for its part the Romney camp is pulling staff from N. Carolina, which means both campaigns see the Carolina's as comfortably on Romney's side of the political ledger).

This essentially means that while the Obama camp was desperately hoping to tamp down the pro-Romney brush fire that started after the first debate so as to keep down the number of "swing" states in play or even pull away from Romney in the majority of them by now, that hasn't exactly worked as they planned. 

Instead, Romney has been the one who has closed the gap or pulled away, and the number of "swing" states, if anything, has broadened, complicating the President's reelection bid exponentially.

So it is that we see the lea Obama previously enjoyed shrinking and in some polls disappearing entirely— in critical states like Ohio and Virginia, as well as expected "Democratic" states like Colorado and Nevada, (which Obama carried in 2008 and needs to again in 2012 in order to have a realistic shot at winning re-election).

Indeed, the Real Clear politics electoral map clearly shows that whereas Obama had a commanding lead just a few short weeks ago in the national polls (and correspondingly the electoral college), he no longer necessarily does heading into the final 2 weeks before the election, (as we shall see!)

This realization must be the cause of the seeming gloom that has descended on the political pundits of the left and the increasingly muted responses of Obama advisers re: their political playbook; indeed, the meme of "many different paths" to victory for the President that was once commonplace has been replaced with a "hold several key states" strategy that belies internal polling that must show an increasing uphill climb for Obama. Not that it still can't be done. It's just much harder for the President now, (much to the delight of conservative organizations like ours!). So just, why, exactly, is this?

Well, for starters, as above alluded to, Romney has seen a strong resurgence in the Midwest as well as all important Florida. When added to his already strong showing in the deep South and heartland of America, it leaves Obama with much less "wiggle room" than he previously had, (and this is so even after assuming the inevitable win for Democrats in most Northeast states like New York as well as the West Coast, most prominently California, the single largest electoral prize with 55 votes towards the 270 needed to win the Presidency).

Ohio, a state without which no Republican has ever won the Presidency without, had tightened in at least one poll to within 1 point, with a slight Obama lead overall, (but read below about how Romney could make history by winning without Ohio, an opinion that is not by any means only this author's, see here).

In Midwest states like Wisconsin, Romney is within the margin of error or even leads in some polls, with the national race dead even or favoring Romney among likely voters according to most polls.

Further, more than a few polls show Obama's support eroding even in Democratic bastions such as Minnesota, Michigan, and, astounding as it is to veteran political analysts, in Pennsylvania as well, where Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by almost a million votes (and at least one poll actually shows Romney up by as much as four points!) On election night watch especially these last two states closely, because if either of them goes for Romney, (especially PA.) it bodes extremely ill for Obama's bid for reelection.

Equally if not more important, the President's poll numbers have seen a precipitous swing in the swing state of Virginia, with most polls now showing a slight edge or within the margin of error for governor Romney.

Same goes for Colorado, (which, as mentioned above, was heavily counted on by the Obama team to keep in his column in their reelection strategy).

Driving the pro-Romney trend is a disaffected youth and Catholic vote, who Obama carried by large margins in 2008, the former of which have been stung by no jobs, and the latter of which have been casualties of Obama's all but announced war on the "conscience rights" of people of faith who seem increasingly likely to have their tax dollars used to fund abortion or contraception under the President's signature domestic achievement, Obamacare, (which in a shocker to many, including this organization, the Supreme Court upheld last June with Chief Justice Roberts surprise— and politically shrewd?— fifth vote).

Indeed, as we surmised it would in posts on this blog, in addition to the ability of Romney to shatter the stereotypes of his candidacy by his strong first debate performance that the Obama campaign had been able to paint successfully through early election season negative ads, the counter-intuitive boost to conservatives' political fortunes expected from a defeat in the high court has played out even more starkly than we expected, as middle America is faced with the realization that absent defeat of Obama this freedom-grabbing, job-sapping law will likely be fully implemented in 2014, (although that's far from assured, see this article on Liberty University's petition for "rehearing" before the Supreme Court on the basis of the court's previous ruling).

So, getting to the numbers, assuming North Carolina, (double digit wins for Bush 43 both times and barely won for Obama in 2008), and Florida, (Bush 43 two times, albeit very narrowly in 2000, a dynamic we don't expect again in this year's race in this fairly conservative anti-tax state with a popular Republican Governor and many Obamacare-wary seniors) go for Romney in 2012, which seems highly likely to us— and leaving New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia as "toss ups" for now and PA as an Obama win— that gives Romney a base of 235 electoral votes to 253 for Obama.  But hold on.

If Romney can wrest just Colorado, (RCP average gives a narrow lead for Romney in this Western— read pro gun— state which went for Bush 43 twice), New Hampshire, (Bush by 1.3% in 2000 and Romney as "Gov next door" as well as owns a home there), along with Wisconsin (successful and fairly popular Republican Governor who just won recall election) away from Obama it would give Romney 258 to Obama's 243 electoral votes, a striking reversal of the President's political fortunes and a mere 12 electoral votes from the "magic" number of 270 needed to win the White House and the role of most powerful leader of the free world.

Take away Iowa, a state that went for Bush 43 in 2004 and in which Obama has lost significant support with his focus on health care and liberal social causes in a state with a large contingent of conservative evangelical voters and Nevada— which went for Bush 43 not once but twice and has been hit very hard by the recession with the nation's highest unemployment rate at 11.8 %from the Obama column and Romney will be President, (although admittedly the tie scenarios abound, more on this another time).

What's that you say? You're still not convinced? You say that since Iowa is one of the few states in the union which haven't been hit as hard from the recession you think it could be convinced to again go for Obama? Or perhaps you think Iowa with all its evangelical voters will never back Romney, a mormon, for the nation's highest office? Perhaps. 

 But all indications are, in the face of a withering onslaught of governmental controls and regulations from not just Obamacare but banking, energy policy, taxation, and federal land management, most evangelicals are fully on board with the Romney campaign, as are most Independents, including tea party elements. (Indeed, this author leans tea party "evangelical" and has no problem supporting Romney. We are, after all, electing a President, not an elder, pastor, or Pope for that matter; I think the nation has had enough of the top-down-rule-by-Executive-decree paradigm). Rather, it is our considered opinion that the more conservative Romney/Ryan ticket naturally appeals to Iowa's largely rural, and likewise conservative— if relatively small population and electoral vote— state which Bush lost by a razor thin 03% to Gore in 2000 and won by twice that in 2004.  We therefore believe Iowa will, in the final analysis, be found in the Romney column, (though the ride may not be a smooth one!)

However, even if you don't give Iowa (or, alternately, Nevada, both having 6 electoral votes) to Romney, assuming as we do above that the Romney/ Ryan ticket could at least pull out a win in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, Romney would need only 6 more electoral votes to hit the magic 270, which Romney could do by winning any one of either Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Virginia.

Let the naysayers scoff all they want, but it doesn't seem remotely probable to us that— provided the media doesn't regale us with tales of devil worship at the mormon temple in Utah or any last minute revelations of alleged affairs of Romney's or some scandalous last minute story of sexual "harassment" of women by Romney while at Bain or the Massachusett's Governor's mansion that gets mysteriously "leaked" by the media one week before the election a la Herman Cain style— that Romney could fail to win at least one of these closely fought states.

Indeed, when one considers that two out of four of these states (Ohio and Virginia), both voted fairly convincingly for Bush in both 2004 and 2008, (Virginia by almost double digits!), and Obama's national favorability numbers have been stuck in the mid forties and have never exceeded 50% at any point in this election— a level of support without which no incumbent has ever achieved reelection with, or any challenger has possessed and then went on to lose it seems fairly obvious, at least to us, that Romney's chances of beating Obama for the Presidency are looking quite good.

Moreover, if Romney should happen to carry Wisconsin and Ohio, and pick up either Virginia or Michigan in the process, he would win by a convincing mandate of 295 or 298 electoral votes to Obama's 243 or 240 respectively, (which however you slice it, surely seems like a good ol' fashioned butt whipping to us!)

For the slightly less optimistic among us, and to put it another way, even if Ohio is lost to Romney— a scenario the media constantly reminds us almost assures Obama's victory— as long as Ryan can pull Wisconsin for the ticket, which it seems to us no reason he cannot (with, we may add, his wonkish dedication to tackling the budget deficit and youthful exuberance playing Led Zeppelin on his ipod attracting a significant share of the "youth" vote), as long as Romney can pull either of these two states, (Michigan or Virginia), he would still win the Presidency with room to spare in the above scenario, (in the case of Michigan, with 10 electoral votes for a total of 280, and in the case of Virginia, seven).

With odds like this it's no wonder the website, (which allows folks to literally "put their money where their vote is" by betting on who the winner will ultimately be), shows Romney's stock rising, (as of this writing he was at a 39.1% chance of winning, still low but higher than he has been on Intrade's system).

Of course, none of these Romney victory scenarios will happen unless conservatives who dare not condemn our great country to another four years like the last four put aside any still lingering doubts and divisions and actually turn out at the polls to vote, a variable which is impossible to know beforehand.

But it is comforting to know that the so called "enthusiasm gap" seems to favor Republicans this time around.

And that's something conservatives should all be able to cheer about. 

Update 10/28:  P.S. For extra fun, and to consider Romney "blowout" scenarios, assuming the Romney/Ryan ticket can pull both Wisconsin as well as the state where Romney's dad rose to prominence as President of American Motors, (and, of course, Governor), then add back in Ohio or Pennsylvania, (a state in which, as mentioned above, at least one internal poll gives Romney a four point lead in, and conservative tea party favorite Pat Toomey won a state-wide race in two years ago), which gives you a whopping 311 or 313 electoral vote win for Mitt Romney (compared to 225 or 227 for Obama!) Add both states to Romney's column and you get 331 electoral votes for Romney! At such levels one starts to feel a little embarrassment for President Obama, (relief, perhaps, but embarrassment nonetheless!) Indeed, at least one study crunching the data indeed forecasts just such a blow out, (see here).

To put such totals into their proper perspective such a victory has rarely been achieved by a challenger to the Presidency; Just by way of comparison to an era of economic malaise many have compared to the Carter years of the late '70s, Ronald Reagan's 1980 win was by a electoral total of 489 compared to Carter's mere 49.

But given all the data we have before us, and again, and barring earth shaking and unforeseen political events, (which are always fluid), we are fairly confident that Romney will be the next President of the United States, (indeed, no challenger who has ever led in national polls by as much as Romney does presently has gone on to lose the general election).

Furthermore, we estimate a better-than-even chance, 52% in fact, that Romney will win by an electoral total of more than 300.

Whether Romney's margin of victory in the end, is, in fact, high enough to win in true "blowout" fashion, we are fairly certain that, all things considered, Romney will win the election with between 285 to 295 electoral votes, and likely at or very close to 292 electoral votes. Let's do all we can to insure that happens! jp

 11/1:  As of today, it appears Sandy's impact on the election is going to effect Romney.  (See today's post). Folks, we need to redouble our efforts and do all we can!  This election is that important to our country's future! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Romney Must Do to Win Tonight's Debate (and the election!)

 In perhaps one of the most critical campaigns in modern Presidential politics, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama go head to head in a townhall style meeting at Hofstra University where they will answer undecided voters' direct questions.

The President intends to use the 90 minute "debate" as an opportunity to aggressively attack Romney and reassure nervous supporters and members of the general electorate that he is not near so "professorial" and out of touch as he appeared in his last debate, a flat performance largely credited with reviving the up-till-then moribound campaign of challenger Mitt Romney.

 For his part, the goal of former Governor of Massachusetts and "turnaround king" of private equity firm Bain Capital and the 2000 Winter Olympics is to continue "looking" presidential on the same stage as the President while attacking his economic policies that many blame for the continuing weak U.S. economy following the 2007 housing collapse.

  Many conservatives, mollified from their previous dissatisfaction with the ex Governor's prior unsteady performance have been buoyed by a renewed sense of vigor and focus by Romney heading into the final stretch of an historic political campaign amidst a rise in the polls stemming from his stellar first debate performance, and hoping for a "one-two" punch to deliver a total knockout of Obama. While the townhall format doesn't easily lend itself to the likelihood of this outcome, it is not impossible, but for Romney to be able to accomplish such a decisive win in this debate, (and overall election), he must at least do the following. 

1) Don't allow himself to be tarred with a "favor the rich" brush.

 While many of Romney's closest advisors, including his V.P. pick Paul Ryan at the Vice Presidential debate last Thursday, seem intent on "reassuring" the public that Republicans will insure any economic burdens of new fiscal or tax policies in a Romney Administration will fall only on the "richest" among us, we would suggest a different course.

 Instead of co-opting the President's class warfare approach, (albeit in a "kinder and gentler" way), why not directly refute it with something along the lines of Reagan's famous, "there you go again" response to Jimmy Carter in the 1980's?

 By responding with, "There you go again deflecting attention from your failed policies with the same tired class warfare rhetoric which pits Americans against Americans Mr. President," or, better yet, "What's wrong with working hard and becoming rich? My goal as President will be to institute policies that allow every American to reach their economic goals and become more wealthy," or, "With all due respect Mr. President, I know you've spent most of your life in the public sector as a politician and "community organizer," but I've had extensive business experience, and I'm here to tell you, I never got a job from a poor man!" or perhaps, "The fact of the matter Mr. President is that only the "rich" have the resources to open new factories and start the businesses so desperately needed for to create middle class jobs in our economy; if you penalize the so called "rich" with higher taxes what you are really doing is closing opportunities for the middle class to get much needed jobs that will help their own financial circumstances."

 Or Romney could even point out the well proven fact, (from the IRS' own figures!) that the top 10% of income earners in our society already pay almost 70% of all income taxes, perhaps followed by a quote from the President himself acknowledging that the last thing you want to do in a weak economy is to increase taxes on those who hold the key to job creation, those private entrepreneurs and investors who have been scared into inaction by the spectre of Obamacare, which the Supreme Court has ruled is, in fact, a tax on the middle class, rather than grow government as his administration has done, (a government by the way which can only waste and eat up jobs and wealth, not create them!)

 In short, instead of trying to blunt the Dems class warfare attacks by co-opting their premise, attack them directly at the root with a broad philosophical defense of the free enterprise system contrasted with the President's failed policies of socialism and Crony Capitalism, (Solyndra anyone?)

 In this regard it wouldn't be a bad idea to preempt the inevitable repetition of a line repeated incessantly by Joe Biden in the VP debate either, that Republicans want to "favor the Rich" by keeping the "Bush tax cuts," by pointing out it is the Democrats who want to raise taxes on everybody by blocking any straight up or down votes on these critical and impending tax increases in the new year absent plans that would drastically raise rates on "the rich" at a time when we need them to invest in the economy more than ever. I think you get the idea.

2) Don't allow the moderator to "frame" the debate against you without challenge.

 On this issue, Romney could take a page from Newt Gingrich's playbook. Even some on the left get annoyed at moderators who obstruct the candidates answers or have an obvious agenda, instead of letting the candidates speak for themselves. Does it mean they sometimes won't answer the question, or answer it exactly in the way some may want? Of course, but then that's left to the voters to determine if the candidate's answers pass muster or not, not the "moderator."

 It is interesting to note in this regard that the Presidential Debate Commission has received complaints from both campaigns that moderator Candy Crowley has seemingly revealed her intention to violate the format of the debate, intended in the town hall tradidition to be candidate and citizen directed, rather than a "from above" set of talking points dictated by a moderator. After the V.P. debate, and both prior debate moderators giving the Democratic candidate more time overall, this is a critical issue. Romney can neutralize any bias right off the bat by not allowing any grandstanding or unfair treatment to go unchallenged, or at least by refusing to be silenced when a rebuttal is needed. At times this may require interruption or stubbornly holding one's ground, and while certainly having some risks, if done right can be incredibly effective. Besides the media not being incredibly popular with the American people anyway, who intrinsically don't trust/like reporters, people want a leader they can believe in, and leaders don't allow themselves to get short shrift or unfairly "framed up" on an issue without responding to unfair characterizations of them or their position. (Romney did this excellently in the first debate, but moderator Crowley's comments this time around raise real cause for concern, so he needs to be prepared in this regard). If he can simply do this one thing he will exponentially raise his chances of winning.

3) While incredibly important to many, (including this author!) Romney needs to avoid getting bogged down in social issues or the "war on women" meme so strongly pushed by the White House, but again, don't shy away from a clear, forceful defense of traditional values. If attacked for being "pro-life" and/or Obama unfairly attempts to "tie" Congressmen Todd Akin's unfortunate comments about "legitimate rape," rebut such "guilt by association" attempts and point out that scare tactics regarding "rape and incest" or "life of the mother" are a complete canard by pointing out that such "exceptions" to the GOP opposition to abortion, while valid, make up only 2% of all abortions and that studies have shown that abortions for "life of the mother" are, with today's modern medicine, hardly ever medically necessary; If Obama tries to trumpet his radical homosexualization of the military or attack you as "intolerant" point out that the Administration's antagonism for traditional marriage was clearly pandering to Hollywood's liberal democratic donors and, more saliently, starkly contradictory to the President's own "pro traditional marriage" views in 2008.  Furthermore, regardless of one's position on "gay rights" in civil unions, it is the role of tyrants, not President's, to willfully refuse to enforce legitimately passed laws like the Clinton signed Defense of Marriage Act, and that such huge societal shifts of core values should not come at the expense of a "social experiment" on our armed forces and the freedom of conscience of millions of Americans of faith.

   It might also be helpful for Romney to have at the ready to counter the broad "anti women" brush the fact that as Governor Romney employed more women in key posts in the Massachusetts Governor's mansion than Obama has employed in his four years in the White House! (Or that Obama's economic policies have inordinately fallen on women, who have lost the most economically in Obama's economy).

4) Last but not least, Romney needs to have a ready answer for the expected "it's Bush's fault" on the economy, and point out that, while he may have inheritied difficulties, they were not as a result of Republican policies of "deregulation," but rather Democratic ones represented in such things as the Community Re-Investment Act which pushed the idea of home ownership for many in the inner cities and on the economic margins who simply couldn't afford to "own their own home," which caused the housing "bubble" to collapse.

   More to the point, if Obama becomes particularly obnoxious in his partisan attacks on the GOP on this issue, Romney shouldn't hesitate to point out that as an attorney Obama himself formerly represented clients who sued to force BOA and other big banks to in fact make such risky loans which played such a prominent role in contributing to the housing decline which led to the recession.

   Likewise Democratic talking points regarding the alleged notorious 47% video, (to which Romney should point out Obama's videos bragging about his desire to "redistribute" the wealth). Is it wishful thinking that Romney could point out that Obama's failed promises of "shovel ready jobs" which added almost a trillion dollars of "stimulus" debt to our children's children, were, even in his own admission, "not so shovel ready," or that the "too big to fail" premise of Dodd Frank actually guarantee more government bailouts in the future to the detriment of America's way of life and credit rating? (downgraded for the first time in history on Obama's watch!) Perhaps.

  Time would fail to go over every other possible issue, (from a strong defense to environmental policy, to domestic energy, which Romney seems to be doing well in of late), or to delineate how Romney can effectively respond to the most inevitable attacks on Republicans in general, and his personal character in particular, that Obama has so effectively "framed" him with in negative ads and will very likely repeat tonight. Nor is addressing every issue necessary for Romney to win. Indeed, if Romney can just effectively address the above issues, it should be sufficient to reveal Obama in his desperate bid to do or say anything to retain power in an election that, if the polls are to be believed, is slipping away from him. But Romney must not be afraid to provide a philosophical defense of GOP policies sufficient to rebut the inevitable and well worn attacks he knows are coming from Obama, (at least if he is going to make a persuasive case for change from the failed policies of the last four years). In short, he must go large and not be afraid to directly rebut Obama's premises.

If he doesn't, he will give Obama an unnecessary chance to get back in the game. If he does, I don't think anything, short of the Governor's complete meltdown at the last debate or other unforeseen circumstances in the final three weeks, will be able to stop Romney's roll to victory.

One thing's for sure; it will be interesting to watch! jp