Archive for October, 2012

Shades of 1984? 2004? Or Neither?

So the debate is history, and, some would have us believe, the earth has shifted. Obama is no longer the overwhelming favorite, Romney has come back from the dead. Right?
Not so fast. I have been on record since 2010 predicting that President Obama would win re-election. My reasons were not especially clever or complex. Most presidents get re-elected. The demographic changes that favor the Democratic party have only continued since the last election. The Republican field was by most accounts a pretty weak one this year.
Now to be clear, I viewed the 2008 election as the high-water mark for President Obama. There was simply no way he would experience another perfect storm again this time around. There was never a chance he could again inspire the record turnout among young voters and black voters that he had the last time.
And for most of this year, the polls reflected a narrow Obama lead, narrower than the 7-point margin he won by in 2008. Then Mitt Romney had a very bad month of September. Some gaffes, some miscues, and a good convention for the Democrats. The margin widened. The RCP poll average moved from Obama +1 to Obama +4.
Then we had a debate. And Mitt Romney exceeded expectations and here we are… pretty much where we were a month ago.
In 1984, Ronald Reagan led Walter Mondale all year. Then Mondale won the first debate. Reagan came across as tired, and people began to wonder if his age was showing. The polls tightened- a little. And then things went back to the way they were all year. Reagan won 49 states.
In 2004, John Kerry, according to all polls, won his first debate against President Bush. The polls tightened. And then things went back to the way they were for most of the period leading up to the debate. Bush won a narrow re-election.
The current narrative can only last so long. The media beast needs to be fed fresh meat. And until the debate, most of the meat was served up by Mitt Romney in the form of gaffes (the Olympics comments during his visit to London) and mega-gaffes (the 47% speech).
It is possible Mitt Romney has become a more-disciplined and less tone-deaf candidate in recent weeks. Change I can… um… Hope for. But I am a realist. Things usually go back to normal.
A week ago, Nate Silver’s model gave Mitt Romney a 13% chance of winning this thing. Now he gives Romney a 29% chance of winning. Sounds about right to me.