Keep Your Emotions to Yourself (Romney will win)

| April 30 2012
Christopher Cook

Recently, Karl Rove came out with an electoral map showing Mitt Romney getting creamed by Barack Obama. I am not going to link to it. I am not going to tell you the number he provided for the size of the predicted Obama electoral win.

Polling will never stop; that is understood. In spite of the fact that the predictive value of springtime polls for the presidential election is low, no one is going to stop polling, and that’s fine. But for a respected analyst like Karl Rove to wargame an electoral map this far out was ill-advised.

Maybe he didn’t realize the effect it would have. Already, it is producing panicked analyses (to which I also refuse to link) being forwarded by dispirited Republicans and conservatives. For many of them , Romney was not their first choice, so now they have added ammunition to make them less happy and less enthusiastic about the situation. All of this is highly counterproductive.

Here’s my own broad-strokes electoral analysis.

1. Barack Obama will see a fall in his percentage support in every cohort (with the possible exception of black voters). Independents, blue-collar whites, affluent voters, women, college-educated people, high-school dropouts, Jews, Hispanics, and on and on. The bloom is off Obama’s rose. There is no hope and change. The economy has been stagnant, and Obama now has a record (or lack thereof) to defend. It is almost certain that he will be supported in smaller percentages from each group than in 2008, when he was fresh and new and promising to turn back the rising oceans. How much of a percentage drop remains to be seen, and it may be very small among some cohorts, but it isn’t going to go up in any of them.

2. Obama will see a fall in the turnout from almost every cohort, with the possible exception of the most hardcore base leftist vote, which is a comparatively small fraction of the population. It is highly unlikely that after three years of ObaMalaise™, Obama’s supporters in each cohort are going to turn out in GREATER numbers than in 2008. Again, the amounts will vary, but the turnout of his supporters is likely to go down, not up.

This race is going to come down to the enthusiasm gap. The percentages will be what they will be, but the side with the greatest enthusiasm is going to take the race, simply by putting more of its voters on the ground than the other side.  Broadly speaking, Republican enthusiasm for getting out to vote has been much higher over the last couple of years than the Democrats’. If that gap is carried into the election, Romney will not only beat Obama, he will do so by a wide margin.

On the other hand, if everyone on our side becomes mopey and pessimistic, that gap will close and we may very well lose.

The polls are going to be all over the map for a while, but the situation generally is not favorable to Obama. He is a weak incumbent. His approval ratings are below where an incumbent’s need to be for easy reelection. He is presiding over high gas prices, high unemployment, and an economy that 8 in 10 Americans believe is still in recession. His signature electoral achievement is opposed by a majority of Americans and may even be thrown out by the Supreme Court. He is polarizing and unpleasant, in spite of Jimmy Fallon’s rehabilitation efforts.

In these circumstances, if Mitt Romney offers a truly optimistic message—highlighting Obama’s failures at every turn, but doing so in an upbeat way that promises a better future—independents will swing Romney’s way and he will win. In fact, I think it is safe to say that as long as he doesn’t make any major errors, and as long as the economy doesn’t start as sudden dramatic upswing, Romney is a pretty strong bet to be the 45th president of the United States.

 

Now, refer again to Nate Silver’s piece on the predictive value (or lack thereof) of springtime polls, and then ask yourself—how does pessimism at this juncture help anything? Candidates’ positions in April polls has predicted the winner only half the time, going back through 1972. Romney is coming off of a bruising primary, and the base has yet to start coalescing around him. The race has yet to start to crystalize, and yet Rove is putting out the Electoral Map of Doom and people are engaged in gloomy ululations across the internet as a result.

Stop it. Everyone just stop it.

The Democrats will talk a good game and do their best to gin up the base, but generically speaking, Republicans are more enthusiastic about this upcoming election that Democrats. If we give up that enthusiasm advantage, we’re finished.

Keeping our enthusiasm levels high is the responsibility of each one of us, from the Karl Roves to the Chris Cooks to every voter and activist out there. We need to be positive. If we didn’t support Romney in the primary, we need to get over it and back him now, and do so enthusiastically. If we’re not feeling it, we have to fake it. We have to work to convince others. We have to work to infuse them with enthusiasm too. I am not suggesting that we avoid facts or become a bunch of Stepford Wives. But we need to stop making any kind of gloomy pronouncements about an election that truly is ours to lose. Anything else is counterproductive. Spreading pessimism and despair is irresponsible.

One might argue that it’s even worse than irresponsible. Let’s say Mitt Romney turns out to be mediocre as president, and doesn’t do enough to turn the corner on our debt or other important issues. Even for JUST the Supreme Court appointments alone, his election is arguably the most important in several generations. If President Obama, in a second term, has an opportunity to replace even one of the originalists on the court, or the swing vote (Justice Kennedy), the 225-year-old American experiment in limited government is in serious jeopardy. Given years of legal precedents, plus American’s 100-year slide into statism, a modern Court with a leftist-activist majority would do untold harm. The next president will probably get multiple appointments. The next president NEEDS to be Romney for that reason even if for no other.

We need to be upbeat, and we need to make that feeling contagious. A lot is depending on it. And if you’re not quite ready to feel it, then do as Melissa Manchester said and learn how to hide your feelings.

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  2. [...] though it is a long way out and springtime polls are of marginal ultimate predictive value, they do tell us something. Right now, the polls are all close, which is good news for Republicans. [...]