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Morning Jay: 90 Percent of the Electorate Is Probably Locked In

6:00 AM, Apr 25, 2012 • By JAY COST
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So I would say that 90 percent of the vote is pretty well set. And this is the biggest reason that I am skeptical of these predictive models -- they usually fail to account for the fact that there were simply more gettable voters for Ike in 1956, LBJ in 1964, Nixon in 1972, or even Reagan in 1984. They assume that a president today can still win 60 percent of the two-party vote -- even though this was a regular occurrence before 1988 but has never happened since. And it has not happened since because the two parties have finally, after years of struggle and back-and-forth, locked down roughly 45 percent apiece.

This is a lesson not just for the wonky backwaters of predictive modeling, but a good lesson for moving forward through this presidential cycle. If the only real swath of persuable voters amounts to maybe 10 percent of the electorate, then we need to be careful in how we look at the horse race. After all, we are talking about a group of people that have virtually no partisan or ideological attachments, pay very little attention to politics, and often create the crazy swings we see in the horse race polls during the course of the cycle. They are at the least fickle and at the worst maddening, as they regularly tell pollsters they have settled opinions when in fact they do not!

That’s why I’m keeping an eye on the fundamentals – rather than the horse race polls – until relatively late in the cycle. My instinct is that this swath of 10 percent or thereabouts is going to “break” late, but they already have pretty well-formed opinions about Barack Obama, especially regarding how he's handling the biggest issues of the day.

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