Mitt Romney will win. The tie in the polls goes to the challenger. Here’s why:
Enthusiasm. It matters enormously, and it’s disproportionately on the Republican side, in good measure because of an intense desire to defeat President Obama. True, enthusiasm doesn’t guarantee an edge in turnout, but it’s certainly a key indicator. “In these final days, turnout is driven by intensity,” says Republican pollster Ed Goeas. The nearly half the electorate that strongly disapproves of Obama’s performance in office “will need little else other than the opportunity to vote against President Obama to motivate them to go to their polling place.” Goeas conducts the bipartisan Battleground Poll along with Democrat Celinda Lake.
In 2008, self-identified Democrats led Republicans in turnout by seven percentage points. Gallup’s projection is that Republicans will have a 49-46 percent edge this year. “The political environment and the composition of the likely electorate strongly favor Governor Romney,” Goeas says. The Battleground Poll’s “vote election model” projects Romney with 51 percent.
Ground game. The Obama get-out-the-vote drive (GOTV) is not quite the powerful juggernaut it was in 2008 and the Republican effort is far better than four years ago. The Republican National Committee isn’t alone this time. Americans for Prosperity and a coalition of a dozen conservative groups—from the National Rifle Association to the Republican Jewish Coalition—have put together a massive GOTV effort focused on swing voters in key states. They’ve averaged 1.8 million phone calls per day in recent days.
Early voting numbers are further evidence of ground game parity. Democrats have a slight edge, but their numbers are down significantly from 2008. Far more Republicans have voted early this year than in 2008.
Undecideds. Undecided voters are thought to vote disproportionately for the challenger over a sitting president. In truth, there’s no empirical evidence for this widely acknowledged tendency. But to the extent it exists, it helps Romney. Goeas, for one, figures most still undecided voters simply won’t vote.
Indicators. Many point to a Romney win. He does well among “high-propensity-voting” blocs such as, in the Battleground Poll, seniors (54 percent), married voters (56 percent), weekly church attendees (59 percent), white evangelicals (79 percent), and gun owner householders (60 percent). He also leads among key demographic groups such as suburban voters (54 percent), Catholics (53 percent), and middle class voters (52 percent).
Obama has large leads among groups such as Hispanics with a lower propensity to vote. “If the president’s campaign is not able to replicate his 2008 electorate (which is looking increasingly unlikely), the president loses,” Goeas says.
Issues. The most important ones favor Romney: the economy, the deficit, and the debt. Independents, the demographic group most sensitive to these issues, went for Obama by eight percentage points in 2008. Now they’re tilting to Romney by roughly the same percentage.
Conclusion: Romney will be elected the 45th president of the United States.