The election is a week away. It’s time to make a few predictions and offer some analysis, if only so that everyone can make fun of me when this is all over.
Regular readers know how much disdain I have for the horserace that characterizes most of the reporting, but in the end it comes down to that. Still, there are many issues revolving around the ability to call this thing properly that are fascinating, at least to someone too far into it. My fondest hope is that at least some of them break in ways that defy conventional wisdom and shake things up.
Obama will win the election, at least in the Electoral College where it counts. Polls in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania give him far too much of an advantage there to suggest otherwise, and Romney can’t win with none of those states in play. There is always a chance that Romney will get the popular vote, but even that is not likely.
The Senate will remain Democrat and the House will remain Republican, but both majorities will narrow. The nation is very much split.
Part of what makes everything so difficult to analyze is that there are actually too many polls these days. Democrats are making a lot out of a month old analysis by FiveThirtyEight (the NY Times political blog) which shows that polls which include cell phone only households invariably have a greater lead for Obama. That appears to still be true now, but it’s hard to say just what that means. Cell phone only households are younger and their turnout is always questionable. It comes down more to the Enthusiasm Gap than anything else, and that remains very difficult to quantify.
What this does point to, however, is that the Republicans have a serious demographic problem developing for the next elections. Their base is older and won’t be around forever.
Here in Minnesota, we have two highly charged constitutional amendments on the ballot. These are impossible to predict because polls have always shown that same-sex marriage votes always turn out more conservative than polls show ahead of time. My hunch is that the same-sex ban will fail, but only because of the “drop off” of people that don’t vote one way or the other – it requires a majority of all persons voting to pass. If the Voter ID amendment fails it will be for the same reason, although it’s hard to tell.
What has been remarkable is that many rural and otherwise conservative newspapers have endorsed the No-No position, especially the St Cloud Times. This list includes the Mankato Free Press and many others. These amendments, both polling very close, are going to be a test of the clout of newspapers in many ways – if they both go down, it shows that paper endorsements still matter.
In our Congressional delegation, I think we can expect Chip Cravaack to lose in MN8. He should never have won in the first place and honestly didn’t seem to want it once he did. The most recent poll had him down by 7, which is going to be hard to overcome. Michele Bachmann should beat Jim Graves rather handily in the even more conservative MN6, a result that will confound the left. We shouldn’t fret about MN6 anymore than we do about MN2, a district we gave up on long ago. Our delegation will return to 5/8 Dem with both Senators Dem and a solid 10 electoral votes for Obama.
The state House and Senate are always much harder to predict, but this should be a good year for the DFL. I predict that the DFL will take one or both houses back, but very narrowly. I base this on information I’ve gotten through the grapevine that is not at all reliable. Make of it what you will, but there’s a reason I stuck this at the end – it’s really hard to be sure. The DFL has a better “ground team” in place and has done its homework to make victory possible.
In the end, what we should look for are not more and more polls. The Enthusiasm Gap remains the most important aspect of this election, which like any other will be decided by who shows up. Polls are terrible at detecting this, especially polls that do not sample cell-phone only households. What we should look for at the end of this is the end of polling as we know it and the strength of newspapers. The rest? It will, like any election, be interesting.