Conservatives are taking heart today from a very interesting piece by Reid Wilson that explains some of the disparities between Republican and Democratic internal polling. Yet Wilson’s reporting also confirms something about the race that shouldn’t really give the right all that much comfort: The public polling overwhelmingly tracks with the Dem reading of the electorate, and not with the Republican reading of it.
Wilson explains that questions about how diverse the electorate will be this time around are driving the differences between the GOP and Dem internal polling. Both sides agree that the African American vote will make up roughly the same share of the electorate as in 2008. They differ when it come to Latinos and young voters. Republicans think Latino turnout will be down, thanks to the economy and Obama’s failure to secure immigration reform. They think fewer young voters will turn out and/or that fewer will vote for Obama this time. Republicans think the electorate will be older and whiter. Dems believe the electorate will continue to grow younger and more diverse.
That’s a legit argument to have, and we won’t know who’s right until Election Day. But Wilson adds this absolutely crucial point:
What concerns Republicans most is the fact that media polls seem to track more closely with Democratic internals than with the GOP’s numbers.
This perfectly captures the state of play right now, which is that the consensus of averages of all the state polling is far more in sync with the Democratic reading of the electorate than with the Republican reading of the electorate . And there are five days left.
What is all the public polling telling us? Nate Cohn has an excellent summary of the overall state of play in state polls . The polling averages show Obama holding strong in Midwestern “firewall” states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and the bluer battlegrounds Romney is making noise about picking off. If those states hold, and Romney loses Nevada or Iowa, that’s enough to cost him the presidency. And it gets worse for Romney:
With Obama’s most straightforward path to the 270 enduring with five days to go, the last thing Romney needs is a weak southern flank. But Romney spent all of yesterday in Florida, and it’s not hard to see why. CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac and other polls released yesterday pointed toward a slight Obama edge in Virginia and a tied race in Florida....
Before the final presidential debate, one could credibly argue that Obama was beneath 48 percent in Ohio, that Romney had taken a lead in each of the southeastern battlegrounds and that Colorado was a coin flip, that there was still time left for Romney to puncture Obama’s tenuous Midwestern firewall, and that Romney held a clear enough advantage in the popular vote to presume that Romney could find a way to a victory in the Electoral College. Over the last week, the case for each of these arguments has deteriorated or even evaporated. Obama’s standing in the Midwest and especially Ohio appears intact, the polls suggest that the other “paths” to an Obama victory are still open, and Romney’s time is running short.
The Republican argument is that the public polls, like Dem internal polls, are not accurately forecasting what the electorate will look like. By contrast, the Democratic argument — articulated to me recently by Obama pollster Joel Benenson — is that historical trends strongly suggest the electorate will be as young and diverse as four years ago.
We don’t yet know who is right. But one thing is now beyond dispute: For Romney to win, the overwhelming consensus of the state public polling has to be very, very wrong.
Perhaps the state polling will prove wrong, and Republicans will have gotten it right. That’s certainly a real possibility. But you’d surely rather have the polling squarely on your side than squarely against you.