Presidential prediction: The candidate who defies history and wins will be . . .

History and the numbers say Barack Obama will be re-elected tomorrow. History and the intangibles suggest Mitt Romney will unseat him. Which will prevail?

Let’s look at each.

The numbers have moved solidly in Obama’s favor. He caught Romney in the Real Clear Politics average of national opinion polls on Halloween after trailing for the better part of the previous three weeks. More importantly, he holds leads — usually narrow leads, but leads nonetheless — in enough swing states to push him past the threshold of 270 electoral votes (EVs).

There’s been much parsing of the polls this year, much of it focused on the partisan-ID breakdowns that various pollsters were using. A poll of “likely voters” inherently tells us something about who the pollster believes will actually bother to vote, and that’s as much art as it is science. Many pollsters have been forecasting an electorate similar to that of 2008, a wave election that saw Obama rack up 365 EVs and the Democrats claim a huge majority in the House and, eventually if briefly, a filibuster-proof margin in the Senate.

It strikes me as very unlikely that the electorate will tip so heavily in favor of self-identifying Democrats again. That said, the pollsters would have to be very wrong for Romney to win enough states to capture the presidency. If you look at the RCP average for the swing states, he has a lead in states with a total of 235 EVs. For him to surpass 270, the polls would have to have been wrong by more than 2.8 percentage points on average — bumping his total to 285 EVs.

One of the last states that would flip to him in that scenario would be Ohio. That’s ominous because no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio.

On the other hand, Obama arguably has an even tougher historical precedent to overcome. Only two presidents have won re-election with a smaller number of EVs. The first was Woodrow Wilson in 1916, who had captured an excessive number of states in 1912 because William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt split so many votes on the right. That won’t be the case in this year’s election. In the event, Wilson did increase his share of the popular vote, from 41.8 percent in 1912 to 49.2 percent in 1916.

The second was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who won a larger margin in both the popular vote and the Electoral College in his first re-election (1936) but tapered off in his third and fourth presidential victories (1940 and 1944) — situations that aren’t really analogous to Obama’s seeking a second term.

Barring a huge turn of events, Obama is not going to repeat his 2008 performance in terms of EVs or the popular vote (he won 52.7 percent of the latter four years ago). So his re-election would be fairly historic.

Why do presidents almost never win re-election with smaller majorities? Maybe it’s a matter of a small sample size; only 15 men have ever been elected to two or more consecutive terms as president. Or maybe voters tend to decide the incumbent either deserves re-election or doesn’t, and move either decisively in his direction or away from it.

If it’s the latter, almost every other measure of this contest favors Romney. Enthusiasm has been higher among Republicans almost uniformly. Obama breaks even in approval ratings — at best — and has lost his edge in favorability. Self-described independent voters have favored Romney — often by double-digit margins — in most polls, regardless of the top-line leader.

The states that moved into the “tossup” category during the past month are states the Democrats once considered comfortably in Obama’s column: The action toward the end of the campaign, in terms of spending and appearances by the candidates and their surrogates, has been in traditionally blue states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Early and absentee voting totals in most swing states, particularly in the specific areas of those swing states he’s counting on the most, point to a shift away from Obama compared to his totals in 2008. Seven of the 10 swing states according to RCP have elected GOP governors since 2008, and an eighth (North Carolina) is expected to do so Tuesday.

In short, the numbers are what they are — but anyone looking for reasons not to believe the poll numbers can find plenty of them.

My head tells me Obama will be re-elected. My gut tells me this hasn’t looked like the kind of campaign an incumbent wins.

My gut tells me the surge Obama has seen in national polls during the past week comes from voters he wasn’t going to lose to Romney, but could have lost to apathy, who will show up and cast ballots for him — but mostly in states he was going to win anyway. My gut tells me we might be seeing a repeat of 2000, when it looked like the Democrat would win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote, only for the scenario to flip in the final days.

My gut tells me Romney picks up North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Colorado and at least one of Michigan/Ohio/Pennsylvania — and will become the 45th president of the United States.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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487 comments Add your comment

mike

November 5th, 2012
4:24 pm

Kyle, if your “gut” tells you all of that, you may have a salmonella infection. The only way President Barack Obama could lose this election is if it is rigged by the Republicans.

[...] GUT TELLS ME ROMNEY WINS:  A rare, honest assessment of the presidential race by Kyle Wingfield of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Winfield [...]

Flounder

November 5th, 2012
4:28 pm

This Small Business Owner, and flabbergasted-at-how-anyone-could-think-Obama-deserves-re-election … sure hopes you’re right!

Count Down

November 5th, 2012
4:32 pm

Kyle

Going to be close race. Did you pick McCain or did you know it was a done deal?

Dearie

November 5th, 2012
4:33 pm

Good column ~
Just let it be over quickly. The country can’t take too much more.

SBinF

November 5th, 2012
4:34 pm

History and the numbers say Barack Obama will be re-elected tomorrow. History and the intangibles suggest Mitt Romney will unseat him. Which will prevail?
———————————————————————-

Pretty indicative of our political climate….some people subscribe to quantitative analysis and science to understand the world, while other people go with their gut feeling.

Kyle, why not just pray and ask God to tell you who will win?

The only thing that’s certain is about 50% of the population will be very, very disappointed tomorrow evening.

Kyle Wingfield

November 5th, 2012
4:37 pm

Count Down: Oh no, the writing was on the wall four years ago. I won’t be shocked by just about any outcome tomorrow. Kind of the way I feel about UGA football games this season…

Tom

November 5th, 2012
4:39 pm

Here we view modern conservatism in its essence: a tissue of fairy tales and wishful thinking.

Scott Fresno

November 5th, 2012
4:40 pm

History and the numbers say Barack Obama will be re-elected tomorrow. Magical thinking and denial suggest Mitt Romney will unseat him.

Count Down

November 5th, 2012
4:40 pm

Kyle

UGA fan myself.

I say Obama close, but will not be surprised to see Romney win. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Obama win the EC and Romney the popular vote, but not the other way around. If Romney wins EC, he will also wins the popular vote.

Kyle Wingfield

November 5th, 2012
4:40 pm

SBinF: As I wrote in the OP, likely-voter polling is an art, not a science. And the other numbers I based my gut feeling on — numbers about enthusiasm, favorability, etc. — are still, you know, numbers. It’s just a matter of which ones you tend to believe. My head tells me these other numbers ought to be more reflected in the topline poll results. My gut tells me they’ll be reflected in the actual voting totals. We shall see.

But I do agree with your last line — although I’m not sure one of those halves, the pro-Obama one, is mentally prepared for the very real possibility its guy will lose. See, for example, mike @ 4:24.

Kansas City

November 5th, 2012
4:41 pm

Honest guy. Impressive.

Count Down

November 5th, 2012
4:43 pm

Kyle

You have some right leaning bloggers who are no more prepared than mike.

Wont name them, but I am sure you know who they are.

The excuses will be coming either way.

Kyle Wingfield

November 5th, 2012
4:44 pm

Byte Me: C’mon, you know I don’t allow folks to just sub out one letter in a banned word. Kind of defeats the purpose of banning words. And that particular word isn’t my call. Re-submit that comment with a synonym, and it’ll be fine.

carlosgvv

November 5th, 2012
4:44 pm

This race is too close to call. This, in itself, is a problem. Regardless of who wins tommorrow, about one-half of the nation will have voted for the loser. This means we are a deeply divided nation.

I think Lincoln said a house divided against itself cannot stand.

ByteMe - Got ilk?

November 5th, 2012
4:45 pm

Your gut is full of s—.

Just had to say that.

You’re going to be wrong, but at least you’re more consistent than your candidate.

Kyle Wingfield

November 5th, 2012
4:45 pm

Count Down @ 4:43: True. I just think it’s a more pervasive problem on the left.

joe

November 5th, 2012
4:45 pm

Mike–the only election rigging going on is by the new black panthers, so shut it.

Romney gets 285 tomorrow.

Count Down

November 5th, 2012
4:45 pm

Kyle

You have one who predicted a Romney landslide. What will be that blogger’s demeanor if Romney loses?

ByteMe - Got ilk?

November 5th, 2012
4:45 pm

No prob, Kyle, thanks for letting me know. :)

alanstorm

November 5th, 2012
4:46 pm

Tom, you epitomize the essential emptiness and vapidity of the left. Obama went with “Hope and Change” in 2008, and “Forward” in 2012, two of the most meaningless campaign slogans ever created, but the conservatives are the are the ones who show fairy tales and wishful thinking.

Right.

SBinF

November 5th, 2012
4:46 pm

“As I wrote in the OP, likely-voter polling is an art, not a science.”

And this is certainly true, however if you take hundreds of polls over time, you begin to see a picture that is far more scientific than artful. Many people on your end of the political spectrum swore up and down that the polls were all biased. Then when they showed Romney gaining ground, the polls suddenly had validity. The problem I guess is that the Right is fine with facts and figures when they agree with the Right’s opinion. any other time they are part of some huge liberal conspiracy. In this case, the numbers don’t point to a Romney win, so we’re now left to interpret tea leaves (since you know, polls don’t mean much).

Stephenson Billings

November 5th, 2012
4:46 pm

Well the Redskins lost at home yesterday so we all know what that means….

Count Down

November 5th, 2012
4:48 pm

Kyle

I would say it is a problem that a percentage in each side does not handle what well. Who is worse? I do not know, however I can say it was difficult to count the whiners after Bush won and Obama won. Still is in my opinion. Guess it is a matter of perspective and perception as well.

Tom

November 5th, 2012
4:49 pm

Right, alanstorm: “Believe in America” Didn’t Willard rip that intensely fact-based apothegm off from one of the later Rocky movies?

ByteMe - Got ilk?

November 5th, 2012
4:49 pm

My prediction, by the way is 303 for Obama. That includes VA, CO, IA, OH, NH. Only state that is unclear to me is FL. NC goes to Romney by 2 points. OH we won’t know for at least 2 weeks, but we’ll know who the president is before midnight.

You should have a poll about when the election will get called.

Aquagirl

November 5th, 2012
4:49 pm

Your gut is full of…..

Well, I certainly hope he isn’t trying to store it in his aorta or lungs instead. That wouldn’t end well.

Stephenson Billings

November 5th, 2012
4:50 pm

I will say I’m surprised that Obama is polling so high (not 50% anywhere though). The way things have gone the last 4 years Obama should be down 55-45 or something like that. Guess there’s a lot of people who are ok with the “new normal”.

ByteMe - Got ilk?

November 5th, 2012
4:50 pm

Well the Redskins lost at home yesterday so we all know what that means….

Yeah, it means they better get an O-line or RG3 is going to be a cripple in a few years.

Sandy Survivor

November 5th, 2012
4:51 pm

I think you’r e right Kyle. Although I think it will be a bigger win. I think the President loses the Youth vote he had last time. College kids are not dopes. they have seen NOTHING from the promises 4 years ago. they are unemployed and in debt…He loses a good percentage of Catholics.. Not all, but enough to make a big difference because of his stance on contraception and Obamacare, Loses ALL Evangelicals. He is losing his stronghold among married women. He is getting pummeled by men. His base is roughly 35% of the electorate. He has lost many,many independents. Independents are breaking 59/35 for Romney. he will lose at least “some” fiscal conservative Democrats and will get NO Voters that voted for McCain. He is losing some Union workers, ie, Coal miners and pipeline workers… Add it all up, and it’s Romney by way more than the polls show.

ByteMe - Got ilk?

November 5th, 2012
4:51 pm

The way things have gone the last 4 years Obama should be down 55-45 or something like that. Guess there’s a lot of people who are ok with the “new normal”.

You haven’t considered that it’s a CHOICE between two (viable) candidates, huh? Both are flawed, but one is more flawed than the other. People get that and are making their choice.

Stephenson Billings

November 5th, 2012
4:52 pm

Exclusive: Romney up ONE POINT in Ohio and TIED in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to his campaign’s internal polling
Romney is also three points up in New Hampshire
But he is trailing in Nevada, according to campaign pollster Neil Newhouse
If the figures hold true Romney will almost certainly become the 45th President of the United States

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2228359/Romney-campaign-internal-polling-puts-Republican-nominee-point-ahead-Ohio.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

ByteMe - Got ilk?

November 5th, 2012
4:52 pm

Well, I certainly hope he isn’t trying to store it in his aorta or lungs instead. That wouldn’t end well.

Having just had a colonoscopy, I’m very clear on where s— is stored. :)

H.E. Pennypacker

November 5th, 2012
4:54 pm

“The first thing happens is, don’t believe — the public polls are wrong. That’s the first sign of a campaign that’s about to lose. The second thing, we’re going to change the nature of the electorate, and you’re not seeing it reflected in the polls. And the third thing is, the only poll that counts is Election Day. When you hear those things, you know you’re about to lose,” – Matthew Dowd, Republican political strategist.

Stephenson Billings

November 5th, 2012
4:54 pm

“Yeah, it means they better get an O-line or RG3 is going to be a cripple in a few years”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redskins_Rule

HDB

November 5th, 2012
4:56 pm

FWIW…here’s my prediction…..

WA, OR, CA, CO, NM, MN, IA, WI, IL, LI, PA, MD, DE, DC, NJ, NY, CT,MA, RI, VT, NH, ME, HI…that gives Obama 272 electoral votes!! If he gets OH, and loses CO, Obama gets 281 electoral votes……..

Obama can win without OH and FL…but if he gets EITHER, Romney is toast!!

Republicans in PA are already starting to go after primarily black precincts in an attempt to suppress the vote…….

http://www.citypaper.net/blogs/nakedcity/GOP-poll-watchers-allegedly-targeting-black-precincts-in-Pittsburgh-.html

Stephenson Billings

November 5th, 2012
4:57 pm

“The first thing happens is, don’t believe — the public polls are wrong. That’s the first sign of a campaign that’s about to lose. The second thing, we’re going to change the nature of the electorate, and you’re not seeing it reflected in the polls. And the third thing is, the only poll that counts is Election Day. When you hear those things, you know you’re about to lose,” – Matthew Dowd, Republican political strategist.”

“Obama Campaign Manager: ‘Don’t Believe the Polls? You Don’t Need To’”

http://www.nationaljournal.com/2012-presidential-campaign/obama-campaign-manager-don-t-believe-the-polls-you-don-t-need-to–20121031

Tom

November 5th, 2012
4:58 pm

Here is the McCain campaign’s internal polling just before the election 4 years ago:
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/capital-commerce/2008/11/04/the-latest-from-inside-mccain-hq

td

November 5th, 2012
4:58 pm

I also believe that Romney wins. I have barely seen any mention of it in any political reports in the papers and on the air but I think there is a hidden vote that has totally been forgotten this election season. Religious conservatives. There are 2 millions plus of them that only go to the polls to vote on social issues and they stayed home in 2008. I do not think they will sit on the sideline this year and will come out and vote for Romney. You also have all the Catholics that were in the pulpits this past weekend basically saying a vote for Obama is a vote against the church.

This will be the difference imho.

HDB

November 5th, 2012
4:59 pm

…please add MI, not LI!!

JamVet

November 5th, 2012
4:59 pm

This small business owner is flabbergasted at how anyone could honestly think that the highly unprincipled, ever shape shifting, Morphing Mitt is fit to lead.

Other than that, I don’t care.

Unlike you apparent teenagers, I’ve been around a few of these rodeos.

And nothing of real significance in my life has ever changed, no matter which of the two party’s frauds sat in the West Wing.

They are nothing more than flip sides of the same corporate owned coin.

But you boys go on believing that you’ll be in Nirvana soon if Flip wins and that evil, Marxist bogeyman goes away!

LOL!

Romney will lose.

I just want to see the depraved Joe Walsh in Illinois and Alan West in Florida join him…

ByteMe - Got ilk?

November 5th, 2012
5:00 pm

I also believe that Romney wins.

You have that long-standing bet about this on Bookman’s blog, right?

H.E. Pennypacker

November 5th, 2012
5:01 pm

I will give you credit Kyle, you made your case and put a prediction out there.

On the other hand you have the likes of Dick Morris, Karl Rove, and Joe Scarborough all loudly predicted a Romney victory last week and then at the last minute they put forth a Hurricane Sandy qualifier, (saying the storm stopped Romney’s momentum, even though polls were moving away from Romney prior to the storm), allowing them to later be able to have it both ways.

JamVet

November 5th, 2012
5:01 pm

The way things have gone the last 4 years Obama should be down 55-45 or something like that.

I tend to agree.

But then the Democrats should have steamrolled George (W)orst Bush twice.

Alas, this is the result when you trot out awful competition…

I demand to see Cheesy Grits Birth Certificate- Long Form Please

November 5th, 2012
5:01 pm

Exclusive: Romney up ONE POINT in Ohio and TIED in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to his campaign’s internal polling

According to my internal polling im beating them both and will be the next President.

LOL

Cheesy Grits loses all those states and also Colorado. Virginia is a longer shot but Obama may win there as well.

As for the southern states. Once again we go red. No chance of a deep south state voting for the black guy.

None.

The dumber the state, the redder it is.

SwamiDave

November 5th, 2012
5:03 pm

The Obama campaign is having to compete in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, & Colorado. You can usually tell how a game is going by where the game is being played. They have claimed that Romney’s play for Pennsylvania was a “Hail Mary”. It fully depends upon where on the field the race is currently being played. Romney’s campaign feels that they are close to scoring; Obama’s is convinced that he is not.

Throughout October, the outcomes of polling have been governed not by the responses, but the turnout models that the pollsters assumed. Polls favoring Romney have assumed a more equal distribution of voters (like 2000 or 2004). Polls favoring Obama have assumed a distribution like that of 2008 (or -in some cases- assuming greater percentages of Democrats than voted in even 2008).

One set of assumptions will be found correct tomorrow night. If the models assuming D+x are correct, then it will likely be a close Obama win. If the models assuming a more equal distribution are correct, then it will be a very good night for Romney.

Either way, there is vindication for some and disappointment for others on the very near horizon!

-SD

HDB

November 5th, 2012
5:03 pm

It won’t be voter fraud that turns the tide…it’s voter SUPPRESSION…championed by the GOP!!!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/05/poll-watching_n_2078563.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

Count Down

November 5th, 2012
5:03 pm

td

Please post the link that shows religious conservatives voted in less percentages in 08 than they did in previous elections.

Thanks

Lil' Barry Bailout - Vote American

November 5th, 2012
5:04 pm

Cheesy Grits: The more patriotic the state, the redder it is.
———————

Fixed.

Kyle Wingfield

November 5th, 2012
5:05 pm

What’s funny, SBinF @ 4:46, is that folks on the left started making some of the same excuses about the polls once Romney took the lead. It’s more human nature than anything partisan or ideological, imo.

Like I wrote, my head tells me the polls tell a persuasive story about a very narrow Obama win. But they don’t tell the same kind of story we’re seeing play out via the campaigns. Which is what made me start questioning whether the polls really had it right.

As I said earlier: We shall see. The best news of all is that it won’t be much longer now. (One can hope, anyway…)