Saturday, September 29, 2012

Race for the White House

38 Days Until Election Day

This upcoming week, the election enters a new phase, and thus what has happened the past week and for the first few days of next week are largely not going to be considered that important. Wednesday evening's debate though in Colorado certainly will be considered a significant event of the campaign though and presently, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are most focusing on debate prep and are not as visible on the campaign trail.

The first debate of the season will attract many viewers and a lot of attention. The fact that it will cover domestic issues, considered the major focus of the campaign is also a big deal, but that is not to say that external events or things that may occur in the subsequent debates could not mean that they will have a large influence on the race. Next week at this time, we can look at what happened in this first debate, how the media interpreted it, how the campaigns spun or reacted to the events, and how it may have shaped the horse race aspect of the contest. While foreign policy is not expected to be a part of next week's debate, the news that keeps coming out about how the Obama Administration acted, leading up to and after the terrorist attack of the U.S. Embassy in Libya should be a tremendously important thing. Hopefully, it will get more attention moving forward, because it appears that the Administration was grossly negligent in protecting American lives at the Embassy before the attack, despite having received warnings, and scandalously shameful in covering up the fact that it was a terrorist attack, in the immediate aftermath, likely for simple election related reasons.

In the meantime, polls at the present time continue to show Obama leading Romney nationally and in most swing states, although it is worth noting that the deficits that Romney is facing in the polls is not as large as many Republican nominees were facing at this point in past cycles, especially over the last twenty years. Even in the races where Republicans wound up losing, there were incidents, especially in 1996, of a GOP challenger performing far better on Election Day than almost all polls predicted.

Rasmussen Reports continues to be a bit out on their own, as their three day tracking poll of likely voters continues to show a basically tied race, both nationally, and in a sample of just swing states. Last week at this time, Gallup's seven day tracking poll, of registered voters had shown a bit of a rebound for Romney, despite the media narrative that he had fallen behind, but now this week,that poll, without really much explanation behind it, shows Obama ahead again by six points. However, since Obama's approval rating has been slipping a bit in that poll among adults in the past couple days, it is very possible that Romney will gain ground in that poll, in the next few days leading up to the debate.

Democrats are clearly heartened by the current polls they are seeing reported on the news, and I certainly cannot blame them for that. However, as mentioned before, there may be serious questions as to the partisan makeup of these polls, as most seem to anticipate a Democrat turnout at or above the historic levels the party reaches in 2008. If Democrats are being oversampled, even just by a little, that is seriously skewing how the horse-race is perceived.

A partisan Republican like me of course continues to believe that psychological warfare is being waged against us by the left and their allies in the media for a variety of reasons. Being a political junkie, I am trying to remain resolute and focused on the big picture, despite the emotional roller coaster that comes with checking polls on a daily basis. I have always known the general election would be quite tough and would ultimately wind up very close. I still believe that, even as I of course hope that things start to look a bit better in the public narrative soon. Some Republicans of course will look at the polls and begin to panic, pointing fingers at the candidate and his campaign, while others may be discouraged enough to not want to work as hard for the ticket and party at the grassroots level as they should. Republican activists clearly have a vested interest in letting people know the whole story and how important it is to keep fighting for what remains a very winnable election. In this day and age, the internet is full of information, including many blogs and sites in which the internals of all the polls are dissected in great detail, with various explanations as to why the polls are inaccurately skewed towards Democrats. Much of what is said in forms like that make a lot of sense, and also much of it goes too far and paints an overly rosy picture for Republicans than what reality is.

Moving forward over the next couple weeks, it will be worth waiting to see how the opening of debate season affects the polls. A good benchmark to look at things as we begin the final stretch will be at the 25 day mark. Simply, if the polls for some reason get worse for Romney and better for Obama between now and then, due to the debates or anything else, then at that point, reality may set in that things were not to be.

I do not expect that to be the case though. It is possible that the next couple of weeks will not move much and the race will look at it does now, with Obama holding a single digit lead, slightly outside the margin of error in most polls. In that case, there will still be time for a comeback and a hope for Republicans that the polls are slightly off (and if so, I can continue to get into theories as to why that could be the case at a later day.)

Most likely though, I expect some very slight movement towards Mitt Romney over the next couple of weeks, and for the race to look like a margin of error tie situation nationally and in many states. That will be indication that Romney is surging at the right time. Right now, many conservatives are frustrated by what they see as a lack of ads being run by the Romney campaign, despite all the reports about how much money they have raised. There is indication that a late push on the airwaves may be saved for the end, thinking that will be the most effective way to get attention. Much money is also reportedly being invested in a massive Get Out The Vote effort on behalf of the RNC and the Romney/Ryan campaign and thus, evidence of all that money being put to use will not be seen until the votes start getting counted anyway.

Needless to say, I hope Mitt Romney has a great debate and we begin this new phase of the campaign on an upswing. Whatever happens, it is unlikely that anything will occur at the University of Denver that will turn out to be the be all and end all for either candidate. There will still be much campaigning left to do.

Both campaigns are playing the expectations game to large levels right now before Wednesday as backers of both candidates will hope they can spin a story about how their guy exceeded expectations and how the other person fell dramatically short. The networks will also use "snap polls" in which people who watched the debate will be asked who won. I think it is quite evident that Obama will be seen as the immediate "winner" because people believe he talks so well, and is so much "cooler" than Obama. That does not mean that Romney still cannot gain ground in the public consciousness on the issues. It is just not going to happen all at once. Appealing to the truly undecided voters is a process that is going to last until many of them literally step into a voting booth.

While I know I will agree with almost everything Mitt Romney will say on stage in this first debate, I also expect to have an immediate reaction of "damn, I wish he would have said that and done that better." With little exception, that is always how I tend to react to my candidate's performances in general election debates.