The Republican National Committee is out with its most effective ad of the race, trying to set the terms for the final days of the campaign:

This ad has the benefit of turning a defensive position into an aggressive closing message: President Obama is too small for the big problems we have. This was the danger all along in President Obama’s failure to articulate a big agenda; he now can rightly be accused of having nothing important to say other than snarky insults.

We are nearing the point in the campaign where very little new information short of a huge event or mistake by one of the candidates will factor into voters’ decision-making. There is too much media noise and the sides have too many resources with which to defend themselves against closing-week attacks. It is too late to introduce any serious policy proposal. And reversing arguments (switch from “Mitt Romney is a right-winger” to Romney is a “flip-flopper”) is unlikely to percolate long enough to affect voters’ decision.

What does matter is pumping up the base, turning out the vote and, from Romney’s perspective, providing that final reassurance to voters who want to dump Obama but needed to see more of him. Romney’s message is now aimed largely at those middle-of-the-road voters while Obama is scrambling to engage his base.

It is not surprising then that we see an RNC memo touting its absentee ballot (AB) and early voting (EV) organization in critical swing states. Republicans argue that Democrats are simply cannibalizing their own election day voting pool. (“While many of the Democrat ballots cast come from high propensity voters who would vote regardless, the Republican turnout operation has been focused on getting low propensity voters who would otherwise not vote to cast ballots early. As such, turnout for the Romney-Ryan ticket on Election Day will remain as strong as expected.”) More interesting are the state-by-state numbers, which show Republican progress in early voting and absentee voting over 2008. Here is the Iowa portion of the memo:


•At this point in 2008, Democrats led by almost 24 points in early voting. Today they lead by 8.3 points, a 65 percent collapse in Democrat support. Almost 5,000 fewer Democrats have voted early this year than had done so at this time in 2008.

•Democrats are underperforming their share of 2008 AB/EV votes cast by 0.41 percentage points, while the GOP is over-performing their share by 1.23 points. The result is a net swing of +1.65 percentage points for Republicans.

•Republicans have made nearly 1.1 million volunteer voter contacts in Iowa since the AB/EV turnout program began in the state.

Plainly the 2012 ticket and the 2012 RNC are doing better than the 2008 ticket and RNC; the question still remain however whether it is good enough to put Romney over the top on election day.

Romney's success in one area is more apparent than ever: He’s largely conquered the gender gap. Gallup reports: “Despite the great attention paid to the importance of the women’s vote in the 2012 election, there has been a larger change in men’s than in women’s preferences compared with 2008. Barack Obama’s support is down seven percentage points among men versus three points among women. In Gallup’s latest 21-day rolling average of likely voter preferences, based on interviewing conducted Oct. 1-21, Romney leads Obama by 14 points among men, whereas Obama and John McCain were tied among men in Gallup’s final pre-election estimate in 2008. Obama currently leads Romney by eight percentage points among women, whereas he led McCain by 14 among women in 2008.”

One can surmise that this is another consequence of the president’s nasty, negative campaign. He’s made himself and his agenda less attractive, especially to women who don’t like the sniping.

If this gender balance holds up, Romney will likely win the presidency. (“At this point, Romney’s slight edge in the overall likely voter preferences reflects the fact that he leads among men by a wider margin than Obama leads among women.”) Moreover, if Romney wins not by hyping ”women’s issues” but by making the same basic appeal to women as he did with men (albeit in some softer tones) it may rewrite the political gender game. In a real sense, a Romney win with strong backing from women would be a repudiation of the Democratic game of microtargeting the electorate and pandering to each separate demographic. And finally, it might take abortion and social issues out of the “wedge” category, rendering them less powerful and thereby lowering the decibel on these policy fights.