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Carolyn Hax

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Posted at 11:57 AM ET, 10/22/2012

Obama-Romney voters and the coming recount


The 1960 Democratic presidential ticket. Did LBJ help steal the election for JFK? (Not shown: Future A-blogger in utero.) (Credit: Bill BergerHondo Anvil Herald - LBJ Library)

I know I often say in this space that I'm at BWI again so please forgive me when I write “I’m at BWI again” again.

I worry they will start making me pay income tax here.

Or force me to serve on a jury at the little-known, dreaded BWI Criminal Court.

But hey, huge news: I’ve found the secret BWI A-gate security checkpoint. It’s one short escalator ride down to the lower level when you’re flying Southwest (I fly Southwest out of BWI even though it’s a huge pain because it saves my company money and I’m a little too much of a “pleaser”). No one goes to the secret security checkpoint. This morning there was no line whatsoeover. And it’s actually not secret. There are prominent signs all but begging you to go downstairs to the no-line checkpoint.

The fact that people would rather queu up and wait to get through the upstairs TSA checkpoint rather than go downstairs may simply reflect the modern American aversion to walking any distance whatsoever. I’ve seen teenagers who will run 7 miles recreationally declare that they can’t be dropped off 100 yards from school because they need a ride all the way to the front door. Americans will probe a mall parking lot for 10 minutes trying to find the one space that’s opened up near the entrance rather than grab one of the numerous spaces that require a 30-second hike.

Another possibility is that people are basically sheep. We go where other people go. We kind of like being in line because it tells us we’re in the popular place. People line up at the crowded TSA checkpoint for the same reason that they line up outside Georgetown Cupcake. Some sociology professor should do an experiment in which a bunch of students line up in an airport for nothing at all – there’s nothing at the front of the line – and see how many people queu up to be part of the crowd.

And yet another possibility is that people don’t go down to the secret security checkpoint because they’re frightened. They don’t know what might happen down there. It could be some kind of trick. They could get overly scrutinized, maybe, like with cavity checks and the whole 9 yards.

The security checkpoint might not even be run by the TSA, but rather by Google. Or Facebook. Scary.

Anyhoo...

Check out Roz Helderman’s story today about an auto town in Ohio that’s paradoxically drifting toward Romney despite his opposition to the auto bailout. What Roz has found are some potential Obama-Romney voters. These are Obama supporters from 2008 who may vote for Romney this time. (You recall that in my recent Wisconsin story I interviewed a bunch of Bush-Obama voters — people who voted for Bush in 2004 but Obama in 2008.) Never mind for a moment the reasons for people deciding to go one way or another in this election. The point is, there’s a small but dis­cern­ible percentage of unsatisfied 2008 Obama supporters who may vote for Romney (or go third party, or stay home). Anecdotally it seems these are mostly men, which tracks the gender gap reported by Nate Silver today. What I haven’t yet met is a McCain voter from 2008 who is now going to vote for Obama. I’m not saying there aren’t McCain-Obama voters out there — I just haven’t met them. And obviously McCain didn’t get many swing votes in 2008, so you wouldn’t expect to find many McCain-Obama voters. In any case, Obama seems overwhelmingly likely to get fewer votes this time. This election shows every sign of being as close as 2000. I’ve been looking forward to a staycation when this is over but I wouldn’t be shocked if we got into a recount situation.

Obviously it’s rare to have an election that close, because the Electoral College usually exaggerates the popular vote margin rather than overturning it. But there are many plausible scenarios in which just one state, or two, make all the difference. Ohio in 2004 gave the election to Bush over Kerry, but the margin of about 120,000 votes was sufficiently large that Kerry decided to concede even as many Democrats wanted to challenge the results.

Go back to 1960 if you want to see how close an election can get. Kennedy beat Nixon by 100,000 votes nationally, and there are Republicans who will tell you that many of those votes were dead people in Chicago. The GOP suspected that Joe Kennedy stole Illinois and LBJ stole Texas to give Kennedy the election. What’s amazing is how many states had razor-thin margins. Check it out via Wikipedia: six states were decided by margins of less than 1 percent, and 20 states were within 5 percent.

There’s a chance that, with a strong final debate or some other last-minute revelation or stumble by the opponent, Obama or Romney could open a significant lead. Seems unlikely. This election may be too close to call even on Election Night.

Or on Nov. 7.

Or on Nov. 8.

Political reporters may want to write down their post-election plans in pencil.

By  |  11:57 AM ET, 10/22/2012

 
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