Election Day for the next US President is finally here. According to the latest polls President Obama, with his lead in the crucial swing states, is favourite to win a close contest. Republicans believe that the pollsters have misjudged this race, however, and are convinced that Mitt Romney will win as his voters turn out in their droves while Democrats, disillusioned with Obama's failed "Hope and Change" record, stay at home.
So who's right?
One perennial variable can be removed from this equation. The traditional political wisdom is that poor weather affects the Democratic vote to a greater extent than Republican turnout. This year, poor weather has not been forecast in the swing states, except for some rain in northern Florida and some showers in Wisconsin.
The central Republican argument is the methodology of most of the polls that show Obama in front are based on the false premise that Democrats will turn out in the numbers they did in 2008. If the numbers in the states that release early voting statistics are an accurate indication, then this Republican contention is being borne out. In Florida and Iowa, for example, registered Democrats have yet to return more early-mail ballots or vote in person than their Republican counterparts. The differences from four years ago are not astronomical, but these are numbers that will give the Obama campaign heartburn.
On Friday, Michael Barone used his experience of the political landscape and the drop in early voting totals for Obama to predict Romney winning Obama 315-223 in the Electoral College:
The anti-Romney auto bailout ads have Obama running well enough among blue-collar voters for him to lead most polls. But many polls anticipate a more Democratic electorate than in 2008. Early voting tells another story, and so does the registration decline in Cleveland's Cuyahoga County. In 2004, intensity among rural, small -town and evangelical voters, undetected by political reporters who don't mix in such circles, produced a narrow Bush victory. I see that happening again. Romney.
The GOP also see some reason for optimism in the argument that Republicans, angered by what they perceive as a liberal media bias for Obama supplemented by skewed polls, are more likely to go to the polling stations.participate in the process.
Then there is this arguemnt: dispirited Democrats may not turn out to vote as in 2008 because of the complicated and time-consuming nature of casting a ballot in many states. In Florida, for example, contests include members of the County School Boards and judges whose terms expire in January 2013. Voters face 12 Constitutional Amendments, taking up 36 pages on the State Election Office website. Here is the "summary" of the first proposed change to Florida's Constitution:
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to prohibit laws or rules from compelling any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage; permit a person or an employer to purchase lawful health care services directly from a health care provider; permit a health care provider to accept direct payment from a person or an employer for lawful health care services; exempt persons, employers, and health care providers from penalties and taxes for paying directly or accepting direct payment for lawful health care services; and prohibit laws or rules from abolishing the private market for health care coverage of any lawful health care service. Specifies that the amendment does not affect which health care services a health care provider is required to perform or provide; affect which health care services are permitted by law; prohibit care provided pursuant to general law relating to workers’ compensation; affect laws or rules in effect as of March 1, 2010; affect the terms or conditions of any health care system to the extent that those terms and conditions do not have the effect of punishing a person or an employer for paying directly for lawful health care services or a health care provider for accepting direct payment from a person or an employer for lawful health care services; or affect any general law passed by two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature, passed after the effective date of the amendment, provided such law states with specificity the public necessity justifying the exceptions from the provisions of the amendment. The amendment expressly provides that it may not be construed to prohibit negotiated provisions in insurance contracts, network agreements, or other provider agreements contractually limiting copayments, coinsurance, deductibles, or other patient charges.
Ohio's ballot is not quite as extensive as Florida's, but the second of the two issues on which Ohioans will vote, concerning a new method for redistricting, takes up three pages.
On Sunday, the Miami Herald in Florida offered an example of the possible complication, "A voting debacle in Doral Causes Chaos and Confusion", with some voters waiting seven hours: “The last early-voting polls officially closed at 7 p.m. Saturday, but they remained open until the last voter in line checked in with a poll worker --- about 1 a.m. Sunday.”
The bottom line is that the bookies and most political pundits have President Obama as their favourite to win this election. Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker, has already paid out on an Obama victory.
However, until that result is confirmed Republicans are still holding out hope that the polls are wrong and that their voters, more committed to their candidate than Obama's supporters, will turn out in enough numbers to make a fool of not just Paddy Power but many of the "liberal" media as well.