As of Monday afternoon, The New York Times’ poll guru Nate Silver gives the president a more than 86 percent chance of being re-elected. Legendary analysts Stan Greenberg and James Carville are also predicting victory for Barack Obama. Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal is predicting a win for the Democrats based on the good economic news that’s come in over the past few months and the fact that the losers usually pick apart the polls trying to explain why they’re going to win.
There are Republicans who see certain victory in the crosstabs of the polls—Michael Barone, George F. Will and Peggy Noonan. But when you’ve been wrong about every major issue in the past decade, how will one more bad prediction hurt you?
If you’re like me, you’re torn between giddy confidence that all observable data is pointing to an Obama victory and a churlish fear that the GOP can pull off some sort of subversion of the voters’ will— à la 2000.
Something could wrong on November 6 and throw the White House back to the party of 9/11, Tora Bora, Iraq, Katrina and financial crisis. Here’s how that could happen:
1. The polls are all wrong.
The president’s lead in national polls is razor thin—.4 percent. But this election will be decided in three states: Ohio, Nevada and Wisconsin. In Ohio, the president leads by 3 percent. In Nevada, he’s up by 2.8 percent, and the reliable Ralston Reports that called Harry Reid’s unlikely victory over Sharron Angle thinks the president will win by 4 percent. In Wisconsin—the home state of Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan—the president is up by 4.2 percent.
What are Republicans seeing in these polls that gives them hope? First they quibble with the sample size, which is Democrats up by between 1 and 8 percent. They expect the electorate to closely resemble 2010 when there was almost no discernible Democratic turnout advantage. They fail to recognize that Republican Party identification is way down since 2008, thus Romney is doing very well with “independents.” Independents will settle this election, they claim. John Kerry won independents in 2004, that didn’t settle the election.
But as we’ve said: If the polls are wrong, they’re probably underestimating the president’s support.
2. Some major shenanigans.
You’ve probably heard about the “emergency” software updates that Ohio’s Secretary of State had installed in the past few weeks, just as before the 2004 election. From this news it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where the machines were fixed for Bush then and they will be fixed for Romney in this election. If that’s true, there’s no hope except a Justice Department investigation that will come too late.
However, we know for sure that in 2004 thousands of voters left the lines because they were so long. This is an observable problem that seems to be happening again. And it could definitely affect this election.