So all year I’ve been talking about what looks to me like a systemic Barack Obama advantage in the electoral college. In the interest of good old fashioned hanging it all out there, I’m going to offer my analysis of what will happen on election day, one week from now.
Let me say first that I wouldn’t do this if I thought my views were even remotely important enough to matter. I wouldn’t dream of predicting the outcome of local races, for example. But I take comfort in this discussion about national politics in my own big-picture irrelevance.
Let me say also that this analysis does not reflect my own opinion about who should win. NCPR does not endorse candidates, nor does the In Box, nor do I. This is my read of the facts on the ground, not my personal wish list.
Those footnotes out of the way, here’s my prediction: On election day, the ground game advantage that Barack Obama’s campaign has been bragging about will turn out to be real.
I’ve looked closely at the reporting and the facts surrounding their argument and I find it to be credible and significant. Obama’s campaign built a revolutionary level of voter data in 2008 and those contacts have been enhanced and developed over the four years since.
Republican efforts at voter suppression will have served, ironically, to mobilize black and Hispanic communities that might otherwise have remained fairly complacent in this dreary, uninspiring election year.
Romney’s team, meanwhile, has done a credible, aggressive job of playing catch-up, but his campaign was plagued until very recently by dissatisfaction among party faithful, by a more balkanized political machine (relying more on state party organizations), and by the pressure of the calendar.
During the primaries and for many weeks after, Team Romney simply lacked the resources, the discipline and the focus to match the kind of ground work that Obama’s campaign has done.
If I’m correct in this assessment, liberal and younger voters in urban areas, along with African American and Hispanic voters, will turn out in numbers that will be slightly ahead of the “likely voter” models that most pollsters are using. Team Obama will also capitalize on small but significantly superior early voting efforts in battleground states.
This effort will give Obama a razor-thin margin in the popular vote, and will give him a significant victory in the electoral college. To hit this mark, Obama will win the states that are now essentially tied, including Colorado, Florida and Virginia.
Obama’s margin will be extremely narrow in a surprising number of places — Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin — but he will eke out wins.
Romney’s campaign will have accomplished essentially what John Kerry managed in 2004: He will have pushed close to parity with a sitting president in many, many battleground states, without closing the deal — through argument or ground-game organization — in enough places to win.
One caveat: I’ll stick with my prediction, and take lumps or praise on election day accordingly, but I want to toss out one significant possibility. It remains plausible that the polls just have it wrong.
Currently, Obama leads or is tied with Romney in every battleground state except Florida and North Carolina. (In Florida, the difference is well within the margin of error.)
But it may be that across much of the nation, weary, frustrated and nervous white voters will simply turn away from Obama when they reach the privacy of the booth.
I’m not suggesting that this rejection of the incumbent would be based solely on his race, though I think for many Americans race remains a significant and poorly understood factor in political decisions.
What I mean is that soft Democrats, many independents and late undecideds who are uncomfortable telling pollsters that they won’t vote for Obama may, at the moment of truth, just be more at ease in this stressful time with Mitt Romney — a guy who looks the part of a traditional president.
If this happens, we could certainly see a complete reversal of what I’ve predicted here. We could see a lot of states in the Great Lakes Region, the Rust Belt, and the border South (Florida, Virginia) tipping to the Republican.
Again, that’s not a hedge, just another plausible scenario. Come election day, score my prognostication skills against this mark: Obama wins the popular vote 49%-48% and he captures the electoral college by a 332-206 margin.