For the first time in polling history, GOP has a partisan advantage on election day
This article by Johnny Pods lays out some of the reasons why Romney may upset the pundit apple cart today. Chief among them - Gallup and Rasmussen have given the GOP a lead in the partisan identification number for the first time in polling history - going back to 1936:
In the two best years for Republicans on this measure, 2004 and 2010, all they could come up with was an evenly divided electorate (37-37 in 2004, down to 35-35 in 2010, according to exit polls).
Yet here we have Rasmussen saying Republicans outnumber Democrats by 6 points and Gallup saying the GOP outnumbers its rival by 1 point.
By some calculations, using 2008 as a benchmark, if the electorate is even or as much as 2 percentage points more Democratic, Mitt Romney will win the popular vote. The closer he gets to a Republican advantage, the more likely it is he wins the Electoral College as well.
Why haven't we heard more about these party-ID numbers? Pollsters are themselves skeptical of their value in their key role - taking a snapshot of the electorate at a given moment in time.
These numbers are raw data, and so different from polls, which are often "weighted" to reflect demographics. Pollsters take their raw numbers and play around with them to reflect the number of whites, blacks, Latinos, women and the like in the larger population.
They also develop theories, based on past experience and other data, of what the overall electorate is going to look like - then apply those theories to the data as well.
They do not, as a general rule, use party ID as one of these factors, because it is deemed too fluid. Your race and gender don't change, but you can choose to change your political affiliation at will.
One day someone may call himself an independent, the next day a Republican. A weak Republican may decide to call himself a Democrat. In a right-leaning state like North Carolina, for various reasons, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 20 points.
But presumably, on the eve of an election, when you ask people if they're Democrats or Republicans or independents, any real movement is going to be between one of the parties and the independent category. There aren't going to be many people who call themselves Democrats on Oct. 30 and Republicans on Nov. 6.
This goes to the heart of the polling controversy: What will the 2012 electorate look like?
We've reported many times that most pollsters believe the 2012 electorate will look a lot like the 2008 electorate; D+5-7 with strong minority and youth turnout. Many GOP observers think that's nonsense and Gallup and Rasmussen would seem to confirm that.
But it isn't the raw numbers that we should be watching tonight, but rather the percentage of the 2012 electorate over or below 2008 of white, minority, and youth voters that will tell the tale. The actual number of voters may decline, but if white voters still make up 76% of the vote as they did in 2008, Obama probably wins. If that percentage of white voters climbs near 80%, with a corresponding drop in minority votes, Obama is in trouble.
This is the Obama camps nightmare scenario:
But the president's team was not worry-free. One campaign official and one adviser to the inner Obama circle had similar responses when asked what their single greatest anxiety was, if there was one. In each case, it involved the decline in white support for Obama since his victory over Sen. John McCain four years earlier, especially among men.
Obama and McCain were roughly even among whites going into the election. Romney now has a substantial lead-in the vicinity of 14 or so points.
What do you most fear, I asked. Said one: "A huge white turnout. Kind of like what Bush hit us (John Kerry) with in '04."
The Obama constituency is primary black, Hispanic, single females and well-educated urban whites. Polling suggests black and Hispanic are overwhelmingly Democratic in the same percentages as four years ago; roughly 90 percent for blacks and more than 70 percent for Hispanics.
But if even his overwhelmingly pro-Obama hometown is an indicator, turnout among those groups won't be quite the same as four years earlier. Local election officials said Monday that turnout will simply not be as heavy as 2008 when some 74 percent of registered voters showed up at the polls.
If there is optimism to be had, it is in these numbers; a partisan advantage and probable lower turnout numbers for minorities could hand Romney a victory.