The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a dead heat. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal reported in the first paragraph:
Mitt Romney has strengthened his image as the candidate best able to boost the economy and has fought President Barack Obama to a near-draw on who can best serve as commander in chief, helping turn the 2012 election into a tie among likely voters.
Both candidates hold 47% support from likely voters—where Obama once led Romney by 5 points a month ago, when the election was once touted as another easy win for the incumbent President.
Now, though, the race is deadlocked. As the Wall Street Journal notes:
Mr. Romney is close to erasing the president’s once-large advantage in perceived leadership on foreign policy. Closing that gap would moot the issue for many voters and put the spotlight squarely on economic issues or other concerns. The race now has all the makings of one of the closest in U.S. history.
The Journal also noted one of the biggest reasons for his freefall:
The danger for the president: His support has fallen to 36% of likely white voters in the new poll, a level seen as perilous by political operatives on both sides. Exit polls in 2008 showed he won around 43% of the white vote, which accounts for over 70% of the overall electorate.
In fact, the latest AP poll, which is even more recent than the Journal‘s poll, shows Romney with the lead, 47%, to Obama’s 45%!
However, both the Journal and the AP predict that despite Romney’s surging growth in the popular vote, Romney’s challenge lies in winning the electoral vote. And that is the focus of today’s Insightful post.
Those of us Insightful people know that such commentary is not to be accepted merely at face value. Let’s dig a little deeper at that perception of a tough electoral win for Romney.
What do the Electoral Maps currently say?
Here are five of the most well-known electoral college maps as of this writing:
- RealClearPolitics: Obama 201, Romney 206
- CNN: Obama 237, Romney 191
- NY Times: Obama 237, Romney 206
- USA Today: Obama 196, Romney 191
- 270towin.com: Obama 201, Romney 191
Not surprisingly, the liberal outlets are projecting the biggest Obama leads here.
What do the Electoral Maps really show?
To gain context, we need to look back to the 2008 presidential election between Obama and McCain.
Now let’s analyze the states with the closest margins of victory (<10%) for Obama in 2008:
- North Carolina (15 electoral votes), 0.33%
- Indiana (11 electoral votes), 1.0%
- Florida (27 electoral votes), 2.8%
- Ohio (20 electoral votes), 4.6%
- Virginia (13 electoral votes), 6.3%
- Colorado (9 electoral votes), 9.0%
- Iowa (7 electoral votes), 9.5%
- New Hampshire (4 electoral votes), 9.6%
- North Carolina is leaning Romney (according to two electoral maps, toss-ups in the other three maps)
- Indiana is strongly leaning Romney (all five electoral maps have Indiana for Romney)
- Florida is a toss-up in all five electoral maps
- Ohio is a toss-up in all five electoral maps
- Virginia is a toss-up in all five electoral maps
- Colorado is a toss-up in all five electoral maps
- Iowa is a toss-up in all five electoral maps
- New Hampshire is a toss-up in all five electoral maps
Thus, Romney looks to have picked up two states (and 26 electoral votes) that went for Obama in 2008.
Now let’s look at the states with the closest margins of victory (<10%) for McCain in 2008:
- Missouri (10 electoral votes), 0.13%
- Montana (3 electoral votes), 2.3%
- Georgia (16 electoral votes), 5.2%
- Arizona (11 electoral votes), 8.5%
- South Dakota (3 electoral votes), 8.4%
- North Dakota (3 electoral votes), 8.6%
- South Carolina (9 electoral votes), 9.0%
In 2012, all seven of these states are going to Romney.
What we know so far, which is consistent with anecdotal evidence, is that everyone who voted Republican in 2008 is sticking Republican in 2012—but two states that voted Democratic in 2008 have now seen Obama’s failures and are changing to Republican in 2012.
That is, in recent weeks, Romney hasn’t lost any ground, but Obama has. Romney has flipped two states to his side.
The impact of the debates
Could the debates have an impact on the presidential race in these swing states? In other words, with all three presidential debates and the lone vice-presidential debate in the books, how would one summarize the entire package of 2012 debates?
For me, it’s this: Romney looked like the Commander-in-Chief; Obama looked like the challenger.
In the first debate, Obama was despondent, disconnected and rambling. Romney looked confident, assertive and authoritative. If you were dropped in from a time machine and had no idea who these two candidates were, you almost certainly would have guessed that Romney was the incumbent President and Obama was a neophyte challenger.
In the vice-presidential debate, Vice-President Joe Biden rolled his eyes, snorted and guffawed inappropriately, and used the Twitter-friendly-but-not-vice-presidential line “That is a bunch of malarkey.” In contrast, Paul Ryan came across as significantly more professional. The liberal media excused Biden’s behavior as “just Joe being Joe”. However, in a nationally televised debate, Joe is not supposed to be Joe the Buffoon—he’s supposed to be the Vice-President.
In the second debate, Obama was fiery, argumentative and confrontational. Romney counterpunched but generally was not as snide as Obama was (“Not true,” “Get the transcript”, “My pension isn’t as big as yours”, etc.). Again, if you were dropped in from a time machine and had no idea who these candidates were, you probably would have guessed that Romney was the Commander-in-Chief and Obama looked like a playground bully.
In the third debate, Obama was attacking, angry and accusatory. Romney was professional, calm and firm. Again, the contrast was very clear: Romney projected himself like a cool Commander-in-Chief while Obama projected himself as the angry, hostile and volatile challenger.
So these debates should have an impact. If you’ve read any books on public speaking with a political focus, you already know the tremendous importance of visual appearance as being much more important than the auditory (i.e., the substance of their comments). While pundits tried to spin who won and who lost each debate and the various fact-checkers and Truth Squads parsed claims, if you had muted the TV as Gingrich suggested when watching the debates, you would have clearly seen who looked authoritative and who looked like the sneering challenger.
A little-known fact about the remaining swing states
Aside from Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Virginia and New Hampshire, there are four more swing states. Why haven’t I mentioned them yet?
Because they had given Obama double-digit percentage victories back in 2008.
You see, in 2008, Obama comfortably won the following states by the following percentages over McCain:
- Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), 10.4%
- Nevada (6 electoral votes), 12.5%
- Wisconsin (10 electoral votes), 13.9%
- Michigan (16 electoral votes), 16.5%
Now, those states are all considered toss-ups (although the more liberal CNN and NY Times electoral maps have Michigan and Pennsylvania leaning Obama).
Just to emphasize: this is no small feat.
Romney has the realistic opportunity to flip 2-4 states that had previously been easy wins for Obama!
Clearly, voters are recognizing Obama’s record-breaking economic ineptitude and inability to foster the bipartisan politics he had promised. Moreover, swing voters are starting to also see that Romney is not just an “anybody but Obama” candidate but a legitimate contender who brings genuine leadership, business acumen and actual bi-partisan accomplishment as a governor.
Heck, even in Obama’s home town of Chicago, a mutual fund investor even said that he voted for Obama in 2008 but if he saw Obama today, he not only wouldn’t vote for him, he would actually punch him in the face!
Wow. Talk about Obama’s incompetence stirring up the emotions of independent voters in 2012!
The bottom line
Anybody can offer an opinion. But the above facts show very objectively that Romney has a very real chance of unseating Obama. Romney will need to focus on the biggest swing states, which are, in order:
- Florida (27 electoral votes)
- Ohio (20 electoral votes)
- Virginia (13 electoral votes)
- Wisconsin (10 electoral votes)
- Iowa (7 electoral votes)
- Nevada (6 electoral votes)
And given the number of electoral votes at stake, Romney also should fight hard for the following two states, regardless of what CNN and the NY Times say:
- Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes)
- Michigan (16 electoral votes)
Here’s more incredible bad news for Obama: Romney has erased his once-untouchable 16-point lead among female voters!
Yes, Romney is on the cusp of winning the election—something that was previously thought to be impossible as recently as just a month ago. Romney supporters should be highly encouraged!
Not only that but they should also determine how they can help do their part to aggressively do grass-roots campaigning in those key swing states. For example, some Democrats in the Chicago area are planning to bus down to Iowa to campaign for Obama; hopefully, an army of Republicans will be willing to do the same for Romney.
If grassroots campaign traveling is not possible, how about blogging, tweeting or other activities that can generate positive buzz for Romney in these last two weeks? Think of ways in which you can help.
Victory is too close to sit back and let it slip through our fingers. Go out and do something for Romney!