observations and opinion
This week American politics sits in the eye of the storm, suddenly becalmed. In a few days the storm wall will hit, blasting through the swing states. By next Tuesday night, we will see what that storm has wrought.
If, as some think, the real weather system (“Frankenstorm”) is going to temporarily suspend the public’s attention in politics (and freeze them in their current intentions), then the Obama campaign has to feel comforted.
Polls conducted since last Thursday in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin all show improved results for the President. He is ahead (by a hair) in all of those states. One poll even shows Obama tied with Romney in North Carolina, a state thought to be a lost cause for the Democrats. The President can lose several of those states, and still be quite secure in the Electoral College vote. It is an uncomfortable position for the Romney campaign, especially if public attention is suddenly postponed due to weather.
Yet Obama can still lose the election, if a sizeable majority of the undecided vote swings towards Romney in most of the swing states. That is not impossible, and it is what the entire Romney machine has been driving towards – making their man credible enough, that the uneasy independents and moderate Democrats either stay home, or pull the lever for Mitt. This is the week those voters make up their minds. The Obamans are quietly confident, if stressed – a lot of air has gone out of their balloon in the last four weeks and they’re just scraping the treetops now. Across the way, the Romnoids are boasting loudly about a landslide, which is what you say when you know you’re still behind, and want to fool people into jumping on the bandwagon.
The Frankenstorm is already interfering with the advance polls and presumably could affect Election Day. At the very least, it will diminish media coverage of the race precisely at the moment when the campaigns are charging towards the finish line. Lower turnout along the eastern seaboard doesn’t stand to affect many races (Virginia, maybe) but could bite into the total margin enjoyed by the President in the solidly blue northeast. There now appears a real possibility that Governor Romney could win a plurality of the popular vote, but fall short in the Electoral College.
The storm is also messing with the campaign: Romney/Ryan can continue to march around Ohio in search of undecideds, but the President for both practical and political reasons has to stay indoors and oversee the federal government’s response to what threatens to be the worst U.S. weather disaster since the Dustbowl. Suddenly we have a President hostage in the White House, at least until the weather clears so that Air Force One can fly back to the mid-west.
So in the end, it is the weather: Obama is slightly ahead in enough places, that if people tune-out from politics until the weekend, the Storm-Fighter-in-Chief should win by a nose. Romney has to whip up new energy in a weirdly quiet space. He is going to spend about 100 million dollars trying this week.