Elections 2012: An Election Day Surprise? Romney and Ryan


The Romney Campaign has had a bad couple of weeks. There has been dips in the polls – especially in crucial swing states – and missteps, misstatements and severe criticism from Republicans.

Even former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Romney’s campaign chairman, is resigning to take a better job, one that starts November 1.

Add it all up and Conventional Wisdom says Romney is almost done.

Except. There are still six weeks of campaigning to go.

Some Republicans suggest this race is like the 1980 election. The polls missed the shift in the electorate that cycle. Many surveys pegged the race as fairly close, but on Election Day Reagan won handily by a margin of 51 to 41 percent (John B. Anderson, an independent received most of the other remaining votes). In the Electoral College the race was even more of a landslide: Reagan carried every state except Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

It’s no accident that Romney and Republicans are trying to cast Obama as another Jimmy Carter.

One reason why many Republicans distrust polls is the problem of “over sampling.”

On a chart on the blog battlegroundwatch.com shows how much boost that over sampling gives President Obama’s numbers. “I went to great lengths to debunk the over-sampling of Democrats in polling used across polling outfits,” the blog’s author says. “As a brief reminder, they use the prior election as their base model (7 percentage points more Democrats than Republicans) for consistency sake but not for accuracy sake. Only Rasmussen Reports aggressively surveys the public to get a sense of current party affiliation and weights his polls accordingly.”

(I should note two things here: There are scientific reasons for over sampling. And if you look at the history of presidential elections there are far more examples of polls being within a point or two than a surprise election result. The Gallup poll for example was only off 3.8 percent in that Reagan landslide ... the exception to the rule.)

Talk show host Michael Medved argues in his book, The Odds Against Obama, that Romney will win because Obama has less support than he did four years ago “... every president who wins a second term always wins more support in his second bid for election than he did in his first successful campaign.”

Medved argues that the president gives a “de fact acknowledgement of likely defeat” when he says the race will be “even closer” than 2008.”

Conservatives are quick to blame the media for both the polls and the reporting about where the race now stands.

“Now the Gallup tracking poll shows that Obama’s seven point lead has gone up in the smoke from burning U.S. embassies,” writes Dan Spencer on RedState. “For the last two days Obama only leads Romney by a single point. That is why the biased media wing of the Democrats’ party is desperately trying its darnedest to convince you the election is over.”

But conservatives will turn out and vote because they want Obama gone. Many view this as a paramount election, one that will decide whether the United States even has a future.

There’s another way Romney can win.

Nate Silver writes The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog. He uses a number of polling and statistical tools to predict the race on a daily basis. Today, for example, he says that Obama has a 75.2 percent chance of winning.

But Silver also says there is a statistical chance that Romney could win the Electoral College even without winning the popular vote.

“If you total up the electoral votes from the states where Mr. Obama is currently running better than he is in Ohio, as according to our forecasts, they equal 263 electoral votes — not quite enough for him to win,” Silver wrote Monday. But if the race were close, less than a percentage point, Romney would have a 45 percent chance of winning the electoral college.

However Silver says, “Once a candidate’s advantage in the popular vote becomes larger than about a percentage point, however, the odds are strongly against a split between the Electoral College and the popular vote.”

But yesterday, Silver pointed out in another blog post, was a wild day. So much so that he tweeted: The. Polls. Have. Stopped. Making. Any. Sense.

The scenario that makes no sense is an Electoral College tie – 269 votes for each – and even that is possible in a close election. The election then would be decided by the House as a “contingent election.” The Senate would elect the vice president. Romney would most certainly win in a House election (each state gets one vote, Republicans are likely to control 26 delegations or more).

What would a come back look like? It would probably look a lot like the advice offered yesterday by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. He told Politico that Romney “ought to be running in Ohio and Florida like he’s running for governor and running in Virginia like he’s running for sheriff.”

Next week Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan will board a bus for a three-day trip across Ohio.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: marktrahant@thecedarsgroup.org.