JACK SPENCER: Re-election of Obama isn't 'inevitable'

By Jack Spencer

Guest Columnist

Apparently every aspect of the left-leaning national news media is singing the same tune. According to their songbooks, the re-election of President Barack Obama is all but inevitable.

It’s as though they believe repeating it enough to each other will make it so. And why not? If proven wrong, they’ll be able to explain it. They needn’t worry about credibility or accountability. There will be no admitting to things like bias, skewed polling or coverage bordering on propaganda. You can bet on that

If Obama wins, they’ll say, “See we told you so.” But if Mitt Romney should happen to win the election, that will be something they’ll claim turned the tide – a game changer. The so-called mainstream news media always finds the explanation it needs. It might be this week’s developments in the Middle East or something that happens in the debates.

You’ll never hear an honest exchange such as - “Well, Tom . . . it seems that our analysis was off the mark.

Instead, what we’ll hear is that Obama had it in the bag until “it” happened. The “it” will be an event, some miscalculation made by the Obama campaign, another spat of bad economic news, or any number of other things to lay the blame on.

Again, if Obama wins it won’t matter.

There will be no reason to change the story line. But if Romney wins, we’ll be able to see if the prediction in this column comes true.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat continues. It’s doubtful that a normal five-point convention bounce has ever been magnified to the degree that Obama’s bounce was magnified this year. It was compounded by polls that use projections based on heavy Democratic turnout numbers from 2008 exit polling.

Now many of the individual state polls that reflected the bounce are being rehashed for supposedly “new” stories.

Lost amid all of this “reporting” is the fact that the well publicized “Big News Media” polls were among the most inaccurate in 2008. A study out of Fordham University looked at how 23 major polling organizations fared four years ago.

Newsweek, CBS/New York Times; Reuters/C-Span/Zogby and Gallup were near the bottom of the heap.

Others that were in the bottom half included: FOX, NBC, ABC, the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. However, two nailed the final 2008 election result right on the nose. These were Rasmussen Reports and Pew Research Center.

Not surprisingly, 17 of the 21 others overestimated support for Obama. Four overestimated support for John McCain.

In Rasmussen’s latest tracking poll the race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was dead even. Pew had Obama up by eight points.

Comparing the two polls shows that most of the eight-point difference is easy to explain.

Rasmussen does weekly tracking polls. These polls have generally shown the race within a few points since the spring, with Romney leading most of the time. Rasmussen’s poll methodology used 37.6 percent Republicans, 33.3 percent Democrats and 29.2 percent independents.

The latest Pew poll used 37.1 percent Democrats, 30.6 percent Republicans, 32.3 percent independents.

There was one strange aspect of the Pew poll that might have been a single poll anomaly. It showed Obama leading Romney 44-42 among independents. That’s very different from what national surveys have shown all year. In fact, one of the statistical nuggets that has been boosting the morale of Republicans is Romney’s persistent advantage among independents.

Readers are free to pick which poll they prefer. That’s more or less what it comes down to at this stage of the election race.

In spite of all the hubbub, either Obama or Romney could still win comfortably. But if the race ends up being close, like the elections of 2000 and 2004, the following might be a realistic scenario.

It takes 270 electoral votes to win a presidential election. Start out with Obama having 237 electoral votes and Romney having 191. These include the states that seem safe for each candidate and those leaning in their favor. Michigan is currently considered a state leaning toward Obama.

Keep in mind that the “leaning” states aren’t necessarily out of play and could potentially become toss-ups. But for the sake of the scenario, we’ll put them on each candidate’s side of the scoreboard.

Next; we’ll give Romney Virginia and North Carolina, which would bring his count up to 219 electoral votes.

We’ll give Obama Wisconsin and New Hampshire, which brings his count up to 251.

Many would dispute this method, especially as regards Wisconsin and Virginia, but based on past elections, it seems reasonable. This leaves five key toss-up states; they are: Colorado, nine, Florida, 29, Iowa six, Nevada, six, and Ohio 18.

Note that in this scenario, Obama could win by just taking Florida. However, he barely won Florida in 2008 against McCain.

He could also win by taking the three smaller states: Colorado, Iowa and Nevada.

Now, here is where left-leaning election analysts play a little game. They point out that Obama won all five of these states in 2008, as if that gives him some sort of inside track. It doesn’t; and one suspects the analysts themselves know better.

Basically, the 2008 race was as good as over after the financial meltdown that September.

Even though he received only 53 percent of the popular vote, Obama won with an electoral landslide. He had 365 electoral votes. That means he took several states a Democrat wouldn’t normally be expected to win.

Every one of the five toss-up states in our scenario went to George W. Bush in 2004. All but Iowa went to Bush in 2000.

So the real questions is - have they actually turned blue or did they just cross over in one very good year for the Democrats?

Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Capitol Confidential, an online newsletter associated with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (MCPP). MCPP provides policy analysis. The political analysis represented in this column does not necessarily reflect the views of the Mackinac Center.