US Election – the last word

Electoral College:   Obama: 294 Romney 220 Tied: 24

Senate: Democrats 51 Republicans 45 Toss-ups 4

House   Democrats 178 Republicans 224 Toss-ups 33

Based upon the latest polls these are the latest figures for the election result in the USA. That said there are many other things to consider before I consider my own prediction.

Firstly in any close election in the US party politics may easily enter into the voting process. Elections are overseen by the individual states,  and with the Secretary of State generally in charge. Virginia, Florida, and Ohio have highly partisan Republican Secretaries of State who have already shown their willingness to use their power for partisan advantage. For example, in Ohio, Jon Husted banned early voting by civilians the weekend before the election until the courts slapped him down. If chaos reigns on election day, it is the Secretaries of State who will have the power to decide, for example, which precincts to close down due to a shortage of personnel; whether to increase voting hours; where to allocate scarce paper (and provisional) ballots if there is no power for voting machines, etc. The possibilities for abuse of power are legion and there is no way for the courts to correct matters after the fact.

Secondly, polling data is also suspect. This year we may discover whether US polling has any future. Response rates are at an all-time low. Only ninety in a hundred electors are willing to talk to a pollster. It used to be one in three. There has been a rise in automated polling ( a system used by Rasmussen, PPP, SurveyUSA, Purple Strategies, and others). There is correspondingly also a widespread growth of mobile phone only households. Robobpollsters are forbidden from calling such subscribers. Thus there are numbers of imponderables inside the polling data which we could make for a polling disaster this year on the scale of 1992 in the UK. Moreover, trends towards mobile phone users mean that by 2016 half of all households will be only using mobile phones.

Polls using live interviewers aren’t cheap. They cost on average $60,000 to $100,000. This explains the growth of small colleges going into in the polling business as they have the key ingredient, cheap labor (also known as students), in abundance. However, the small colleges that have suddenly jumped into the polling business this year may or may not have the expertise correctly to normalize their samples for age, income, gender or race. So tomorrow night is not just a testing time for us soothsayers it is also the moment of truth for our professional Cassandras.

One potential future for polling is the Internet, but getting a random sample is hard. It’s harder to determine if the person responding is actually an eligible voter in Ohio –  as the person claims to be. It will be interesting to see how well the pollsters did this year. We will know soon enough…

If Romney wins Democrats will likely to blame Obama himself and in particular for his half-hearted efforts in the first debate. Until that point the President he had solid leads everywhere and people were starting to talk about a landslide. That changed instantly the minute the debate was over. Obama lost badly and both sides knew it. Unless there are a lot of machinations in the voting process Democrats will mope and hope Hillary rides to the rescue in 2016.

If Obama wins, the Republican Party will engage in a full-blown civil war pitting the Tea Party against the GOP establishment. The establishment ( which includes figures such as Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove) will blame the Tea Party for forcing Romney to take positions somewhere to the right of Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX). If Senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin go down in flames and the Democrats hold the Senate by a tiny margin, the Tea Party will also be accused of blowing winnable Senate races.

So after a year this will be my last word on the election that is almost over and will almost certainly change nothing. My honest expectation was that candidate Obama would surely out-shine his opponent Governor Romney.

But this campaign is almost a metaphor for his presidency – strangely inarticulate. He has allowed his opponents to define him and that is surely what went wrong with the politics of the last four years. That said Obama remains a better president than he has been given credit for and that in my mind will count for something.

But will it count for enough – or at least enough to give him the prize without recounts? I must put my mouth where my money fears to tread – it will be Obama and by a comfortable margin in the Electoral College. Romney will end up with Indiana & with North Carolina. Romney on polling should also pick up Florida. But the rest will fall to Obama and perhaps – in my view-  not by quite the narrow margin the polls are showing. If i’m wrong on that latter point then I think we had better get used to saying saying – President Romney.





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