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Polls and the next president
Posted By Vox Day On 10/21/2012 @ 2:55 pm In Commentary | No Comments
Interest in the presidential election is heating up. Independents and undecided voters are gradually coming around to their decisions. Democrats are shrieking about the threat to Roe vs. Wade and warning that Mitt Romney intends to put women and gays into concentration camps, where they will be forced to wear sacred chastity belts. Republicans are shouting that this time it really and truly is the most important election ever and warning that Barack Obama wants to turn America into a communist Islamic republic and launch an attack on Israel.
None of these dire warnings are true. This presidential election is no more important than the one four years ago, or the one four years before that. The differences between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are mostly superficial, and their policy positions on 90 out of 100 issues are substantially the same.
So settle down. If the world is going to end, it isn’t going to do so on the basis of either man being elected to the White House. If the economy is going to crash, it will do so regardless of who wins the election. If the nation is going to decline and fall, it will do so no matter who is nominally in charge of the country.
Now, I was incorrect about my outlandish prediction that Obama would retire rather than face the possibility of only his second-ever electoral defeat. But I was correct to notice his lack of interest in winning a second term. Throughout what has passed for his campaign, Obama’s detachment has been so readily apparent that even the mainstream media have finally noticed it. He clearly wants nothing more than to move gracefully on to the next stage of his career, which will consist of traveling around the world being paid to hear how wonderful he is, only this time without the pressure of actually having to do anything.
The enthusiasm gap that matters does not concern Democratic voter turnout versus Republican voter turnout, but rather Obama’s marked lack of enthusiasm for a second term in comparison with Mitt Romney’s desperate need to seek his father’s approval.
For months, people have been saying that Obama is a certain winner. Nate Silver, the petty god of the poll-watchers, is on record as calculating that Obama has more than an 80 percent chance of winning the election. However, those odds have dropped to 65 percent, and Silver is now publicly waffling even on that two-thirds probability. This is because the national polls are now showing Romney ahead, in one case, as much as seven points ahead of Obama.
The response of Silver and others who are still insisting that Obama is a sure thing is their quadrennial rediscovery of the Electoral College. They claim that the national polls no longer matter; what is more relevant is the state polls, specifically, the state polls in the so-called “swing states” where the outcome is still potentially in doubt. Everyone knows Obama will win California and Massachusetts, just as Romney is going to win Utah and Texas.
What these unlikely champions of the states tend to forget, however, is that the national polls have a pretty good track record of predicting the actual winner, even if they seldom get the actual winning percentage right. This is because the polls, both state and national, are much less precise than the pollsters like to pretend, they are really only useful indicators of the public’s general mood concerning the two candidates. The fact that two people happen to both live in Pennsylvania does not mean that they are any more likely to think alike, or vote alike, than one person in Hollywood and another in Manhattan.
Now, is it possible that I’m wrong and we will witness an Obama landslide of Reaganesque proportions? Certainly. And in that case, I will readily acknowledge the superiority of the 538-style methodology to my pattern recognition-based approach. But given how much movement has been seen in the national polls in the last two weeks alone, and how the odds reported by the statistical models keep changing, I think it is remarkably unwise to assign any serious significance to the expressed opinions of a few thousand people residing in several of the swing states.
It all comes down to four simple facts, in my opinion. Mitt Romney wants to be president, and no one truly knows what sort of president he will be. Barack Obama doesn’t want to be president anymore, and everyone now knows he will never be the sort of president they hoped he would become. That is why Mitt Romney will win on Election Day.
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