What's the matter with Ohio?
I don't remember an election when the polls are less clear.
Usually there is a relatively steady drift one direction, with a blip or two. Obama versus McCain would be such an example. After the initial Palin bounce, it was pretty much over with McCain feeling the pressure to win every debate decisively whereas Obama just focused on nailing down his lead. (Hindsight is ALWAYS easier than foresight but most people saw that one correctly though Dick Morris had predicted, a ways before the election, an 11 point McCain win.)
In Bush-Gore and Bush-Kerry there were ups and downs, but generally always moving around an back to 50-50 once most likely voters were factored in. Polls, for a variety of reasons, usually understate the Republican vote by 2-4 points. However, for Presidential elections and in unusual circumstances, it is usually closer to accurate. For example, President Obama turns out the minority and youth voters more than most do, who historically are not as highly represented among the "most likely."
The biggest mistake this year that pollsters are likely making is to over-count Democrats since many of them fled Obama and went to declaring themselves "independent." Republicans came home because of frustration so fewer of them were independents. This means if you fix the percentage of Rep-Dem-Ind you will over-sample Dems right now. However, skilled pollsters have a variety of methods to overcome that but what you are seeing is some "cheaper" (less costly) polls getting more extreme numbers right now.
The most difficult question is this: why are national polls averaging an Obama lead of only a little over 3% (even with some distorted ones - I think it is likely 2%) but the key swing states are, by almost all accounts, going to Obama by 6-12%? Ohio is a must win for Romney or any Republican. So what is the problem with Ohio, Florida, Colorado and the other swing states.
Having spent a little over a week in Florida earlier this summer, and now this past week in Colorado, I can see why. They are actually running Presidential campaigns in those states as opposed to talking about campaigns.
In Colorado, TV ads are on every 15 minutes (basically every break), and Obama is all over radio. (Republicans historically struggle with radio - not using it enough and when they do, have rather "snore worthy" ads.) When I go to YouTube or various sites using my son Nathan's wi fi, I get constant ads (mostly Obama).
But it gets worse. I hate Obama's ads. Let me be more specific: I do not think I have seen or heard a single accurate or honest Obama ad. But what makes me sick to my stomach is that I can see why they are working.
For example, Obama has blown open a cavernous hole among young people (20 plus % lead). His ad, totally spinning for political gain, the tremendously complicated student loan debate and ignoring the fact that student loan debt is the next housing bubble - tells young people that Romney said to get the money from your parents (guess what, we're not all rich like Mitt is the sub-message) and that Romney would dramatically raise your student loan debt if your parents couldn' afford it.
He has also opened up a chasm in the female vote, far larger than normal. Some may be the Lily Ledbetter dishonesty (it is not about equal pay for equal work, that already was the law). Todd Akin may or may not survive in Missouri in his Senate race, but regardless, he saddled - with national exposure at a critical time - the Republican party with an image of total insensitivity to rape. Every single major Republican denounced his comments but the Democrats came back & said - they are just politically afraid. Now, with some Republicans running back to him, they are and will be at an increasing rate, saying - see, we told you that they really did agree with him. This did immeasurable damage among women because Akin was terribly, terribly wrong.
But the biggest problem is always this: when a Republican candidates stands up to deliver boring business points, that are downers to boot (cut back, save, we're in economic trouble - you know, those things that are true) and fails to discuss other things, the candidate's male vote rising and his female vote declines. In these swing states, Obama talks about Romney cutting back health care specifics (not ObamaCare but things like helping your kids, female health screenings, families who can't get covered at affordable costs because of specific illnesses), education and hope for the future.
Obama also blasts Romney as: 1) rich 2) look at his tax returns, he's rich 3) look at what he did at Bain Capital (he thinks rich) 4) wants to help his rich Wall Street and banker friends get richer by giving them tax breaks.
He has effectively rendered, in areas where this ad barrage is running, Romney's responses useless.
Next week's debate will require Romney to move beyond just economic issues, humanize himself and not bumble. Romney has no margin of error or these states that determine the election, like Ohio, may soon become unwinnable.
However, this is not 2008. Obama has a record. And it is a horrible one. It is still winnable for Romney.