Saturday, November 3, 2012

Who Will Show Up on Election Day?

Who will show up to vote? By this, I mean what will the breakdown be between Republicans, Democrats, and Independents? This is the only question that matters right now, because other things are known with a high degree of certainty. We know, for instance, that virtually all partisans will vote for their guy and that independents will split towards Romney by a minimum of +5 but more likely close to +10. All polling confirms this.

So, you tell me who's going to show up on election day, and I'll tell you who's going to win.

HUGE reputational bets on both sides are being made right now on this question. You have mavens like Nate Silver and Sam Wang on the left and Dick Morris and Michael Barone on the right, both agreeing about everything but who will show up.

Take Ohio. A Marist poll released today gives Obama a whopping six-point lead. Time for Mitt to pack it in, right? Not so fast. In 2008, a huge wave election for Dems, the turnout in Ohio was D+5. In 2004, it was R+5. What would you say a reasonable assumption might be for this year? Remember, every poll confirms that Republicans are way more fired up to vote than Democrats. So, what then? D+2 might seem reasonable, maybe even a draw.

Marist's poll has a sample of D+9, almost twice the turnout Dems got in '08. While it is true we just don't know yet, this seems ridiculous on its face. The argument on the other side is that long term demographic changes (i.e. the "browning" of America) are creating an inexorable trend where 2008 was merely a way-station.

This is a difficult argument to buy, given we all know there were vast numbers of people - youth and minorities in particular - that never voted before '08 and won't this time, particularly since they checked the transcendent, history-making box last time.

Nonetheless, polls have definitely tightened in the last couple of days as Obama seems to be enjoying a Sandy-bounce. This is far from a done deal for either side.

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