I’ll Sing You to Sleep, After the Debates
Barack Obama was a clear winner against a surprisingly noncombative—almost agreeable—Mitt Romney in this campaign’s final debate. It is doubtful, however, that the “win” itself changed many minds, certainly not the way Romney’s overwhelming victory did in the first encounter. Obama clearly looked like a powerful leader and further encouraged his troops, but Romney for the most part maintained a presidential demeanor.
Barring unforeseen events only one other known external factor could swing the election one way or the other: the jobs/unemployment report five days before election day. Even though some five million people have voted already—and more than double that number by then, if it shows a blip up it could aid Romney and vice versa.
Otherwise, by all measures this race is essentially tied in the popular vote—give or take a point—with Obama still a favorite in the Electoral College as Ohio has narrowed but not yet given any indications that Romney can win there. Obama remains narrowly ahead in enough other states to win by anything from 1 to 30 electoral votes.
Last-minute swings, as Reagan got about a week before the election to overpower Jimmy Carter could still be possible. It would be more likely to go toward the challenger, but there seem to be no signs of such in the making, other than the fact that Obama got only a tiny bump following Biden’s and his wins in the two previous debates before last night.
Polling late this week and over the weekend may signal a significant movement in either direction. Absent such information let me speculate on the case for Obama pulling it off—with caveats.
Apart from the economy, which has gone back and forth but where Romney holds the edge, Obama has the following going for him:
The all-important, make-or-break women’s’ vote or gender gap. The gap is huge—somewhere around 16 points. Which is to say that Romney wins with men at the moment by about 8 points while Obama wins women by at least that number. Since women vote in larger number than men—and I expect that gap to grow—advantage Obama. Ladies, (if I may use that term) you hold the election in your worthy hands.
Leading substantially on virtually all the intangibles or gut feelings that affect people’s behavior at the polls: likeability, ability to relate to “people like me”, being on the side of the middle class and so forth.
Making the best case for preserving Medicare—still an issue rivaling the economy as an animating impetus in this election.
The ground game or ability to get out the vote in key states, even Florida. This looms bigger and bigger and his advantage seems to be showing up in the available figures on early voting. It’s especially important in hyping turnout among Latinos in the mountain states and elsewhere, who favor the president overwhelmingly.
Nevertheless, I am seeking recipes for preparing a haute meal of crow on Nov. 7, just in case.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer