Monday, October 15, 2012
Voting (Not) Present
MORE POLL AGITATION. Everybody's obsessing about the "Undecideds." Arguing about polls and the reciprocal effect of current polls on public opinion and future polls. Debating about the impact of debates on Undecideds, turnout of the base, and, what else, polls. I have an entirely different election analysis to offer. The political columns and websites are filled to bursting with advice to both sides on how to win the crucial remaining debates. I think all such advice is worthless and irrelevant. In fact, I think everybody is barking up the wrong tree.
If I'm right, the election is already decided and it doesn't matter what happens in the remaining debates or what the Undecideds tell pollsters they've decided in the next three weeks.
How can I say such things? My evidence is all anecdotal, but see how persuasive it is after you've heard it.
Everything in this election comes down to the definition of "likely voter." This is where the demographic makeup of the Obama constituency will prove decisive. The president needs 95 percent of his 2008 base to vote for him again to win a majority of the popular vote. (I'll get to the electoral vote later.) None of the polls shows him reaching even 50 percent, let alone 53 percent. In other words, the most optimistic reading of the polls has him at 90 percent of his 2008 base. Historically, most Undecideds break for the challenger over the incumbent. But even if he pulls off the unprecedented and Romney wins less than half the undecided vote, Obama's still in mortal trouble. Why?
The whole debate exercise is aimed at people who watch debates and try to keep current with the issues. 70 million watched part of the first debate. Which means approximately 130 million potential voters did not watch any part of the debate. 50 million watched part of the VP debate, reported as a huge triumph (probably erroneously) by Obama supporters, which means how many didn't watch it at all? 150 million voting age adults?
I can hear the objections from the peanut gallery already. Even the ones who didn't watch it heard about it at the water cooler next day. Persuasion by osmosis. Nonsense. Does anybody watch the tongue-in-cheek man-in-the-street interviews conducted by TV and radio talk show hosts? Their interviewees don't know, typically, the name of the Vice President of the United States. They're not paying attention now. They don't talk about politics at the water cooler. They talk about their own lives, TV shows, celebrities, and sports, celebrities, and sports.
Amazingly in 2008, the Obama campaign galvanized a lot of these people into voting because he transformed a political campaign into a celebrity happening they surged to be a part of. The success of the 2008 campaign in this regard is documented strikingly by the fact that no Democrat candidate for president since 1976 (the post-Watergate election) has achieved more than 50 percent of the vote. Even Clinton fell well short of 50 percent while winning election twice.
The bulge in voters we saw in 2008 came principally from four distinct demographics: black people, young people, the affluent upper middle class, and the economically frightened. All four of these have less incentive to vote for Obama this time, regardless of how they respond to pollsters. A significant percentage of them are not going to vote at all, regardless of how fervently they say they will.
Black people have taken it on the chin in the Obama administration. They may have thought a black president would improve their lot. It hasn't. Their unemployment rate has soared to 14 percent. How would you regard the current election from their perspective? Maybe, obviously, that it doesn't matter who's in office. We're still screwed. The system doesn't work. I would run out to vote again this year WHY? If you're hanging on by a thread in a disastrous economy, you're probably not parsing the economic arguments made by either side at this point. You may still be for Obama just because, but enought to go record a positive vote for an utterly broken system? Who'd be the fool here? Can you get 90 percent of that 2008 vote?
Young people don't vote much. Last time they did. The ones who carried the flag into presidential combat in 2008 are now approximately 50 percent unemployed in their post-collegiate careers. Do they feel perhaps cheated, even if they're too ignorant to know that Obama threw their whole generation under the bus by requiring them to buy health insurance their youthful sense of invincibility assures them they don't need or want? To subsidize all those older folks they thought they could transcend with their spotless idealism? Can you get 90 percent of that vote?
The affluent upper middle class were the biggest fools of all and, worse, they know it, no matter how stubbornly they argue to the contrary in person. They, old-fashioned liberals and more than a few conservatives both, registered a feelgood vote for America's first black president. "See how race-blind and committed to the diverse society of the future I am?" When all they were was blind. They know, all of them, that Obama has been an utter failure as a president and they cannot admit even to themselves, let alone a pollster, that their uncritical support for Obama was itself a form of racism. They used a different standard for a black candidate than they'd have used for a white candidate. They overpraised him. They turned off their well educated minds in favor of a catastrophically ill-conceived emotion. Can you get 90 percent of that 2008 vote?
The economically frightened are even more frightened today. They placed a huge bet on someone new and the bet was a loser. They don't care about statistics. They care about accumulation. They have four more years of lost jobs, friends and relatives with lost jobs, lost houses, lost hopes, and continuously declining prospects for a day of renewed prosperity. Can you get 90 percent of that 2008 vote?
Laura Ingraham is asking right now on her show if I believe the polls. Yes, I believe the polls. What I disbelieve is that the Obama base is going to be moved to sally out on election day and perform a positive act on behalf of the Obama candidacy. They're going to continue protesting their undying support for Obama, and then they're going to vote Not Present. It's called abstaining. What you do, especially if you can do it in secret, when you no longer believe that your vote is going to do anything but make things worse. It's throwing up your hands and saying, whatever happens, I'm not the one at fault here. Odds are, for example, the Undecideds who don't break for Romney will mostly stay home. There will be lots of staying home this year.
Any evidence of that? Sure. Obama's crowds are so small these days, the MSM is forced to lie about how big they are. Meanwhile Romney crowds are swelling day by day in places like Ohio he's supposedly losing.
Closer to home, I've already mentioned our neighbors down at the corner. During the 2008 campaign, they were Democrat Central, a married couple who were definitely into it. As the primaries wore on, they had yard signs for both Obama and Hillary, and as local elections neared their lawn filled with signs for every freeholder, sheriff and surrogate candidate who was, naturally, a Democrat. This year, the local candidate signs appeared overnight over the weekend, but their yard contains not a single political message but an American flag. Between me and my wife, our near 500 miles a week of automotive travel in two true-blue states have counted up exactly one Obama bumper sticker.
In the increasingly economically distressed locus of our hometown, I have seen a sad, symbolic transition over the past four years. The road we drive into town ends at a stoplight opposite what used to be, years ago, a men's clothing store. It went out of business. Two successive retail establishments have occupied the space since 2008, one for women's hip hop (er, ho) fashion and one for men's hip hop (er, gangsta) fashion. A month ago, this storefront, which had been for rent for months, reopened as the Obama campaign headquarters. I have yet to see anyone going in or coming out. Meanwhile, the last of the real businesses on the main drag there, a furniture store, is conducting a sale to close out its inventory before moving to a safer location a mile out of town.
Just me? Maybe. But Lake has also checked in to say that in Super-Blue Connecticut he's seeing only aged Obama bumper stickers from 2008.
Biden whipped up the base? In their dreams. The dreams of those they really wanted to reach are already wrecked and fading into indifferent somnolence. The only whipped up ones are the same old hard lefties who live at the dumbest 10 percent pole of the Obama faithful.
If I'm right, this election is well and truly done and the electoral math of the network experts is very much like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Romney will win so many states the electoral math is moot.
Why I'm offering no debate advice. Which you should appreciate even if you don't agree with my analysis.
Of course I can't resist offering advice now that you mention it. Here's what I recommend. Romney should cite the 60 percent who approved his 47 percent remark and point out that he's talking to that 60 percent, which is the victory margin he expects. Obama should play air guitar for 90 minutes. It will be a substantial improvement on his usual uh, uh, uh, uh, uh performance. Even the flyover citizens who "cling bitterly to their guns and religion" are able to appreciate a truly stellar air guitar.
Am I Right? Of course I am. As always.