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Gallup puts Romney way ahead despite other polls showing it’s neck and neck

Article courtesy of the

The latest NBC/WSJ Poll released Sunday shows the presidential race dead even at 47% each. Other polls show the same but the Gallup Poll shows Romney with a huge lead. Is Gallup an outlier? No candidate has lost when Gallup showed them in the lead at this stage of the race. But, there is a first time for everything.

If you average all the recent national polls, the race is a tie according to Real Clear Politics. If you remove Gallup since it is a potential outlier, Obama has a slim lead. The New York Times 538 Blog still gives Obama a 67% chance of winning the Electoral College. The Romney campaign and his surrogates think that it is time for Mitt to order the car elevator for the White House.

So who will win?

There are several factors to consider. First of all, the polls that show the race a tie or tilting to Obama, with the exception of Gallup, are polls of likely voters. When registered voters are considered, Obama has a lead. What that means is that if every registered voter showed up on election day, Obama would be re-elected. But, on average, less than two thirds of registered voters in this country vote. So it depends on whose voters stay home.

If the race comes down to turnout, there are two schools of thought. One is that Romney has the advantage because most of his supporters are voting against Obama and not for him. That is less the case with Obama supporters. Generally, people who are against something are more likely to vote.

There is a possible spoiler; Obama has a far better and more extensive ground game. Already in early voting, more than two thirds of the ballots cast or requested have come from Democrats in swing states. That does not mean game-over because Republicans tend to vote on election day. So unless there is a terrible blizzard in Republican counties Nov. 6th, the early voting advantage may be neutralized.

Another factor to consider about national polls is that the popular vote does not elect a President. We saw that in 2000 when Gore won the popular vote but the Supreme Court selected Bush as President. National polls only become relevant if one candidate leads by 5% or more. In that case, a rising tide raises all boats.

The battle for the Electoral College comes down to a hand full of “swing states.” The latest polls in swing states still show Obama winning albeit by an ever smaller margin. Unless the last debate or some other factor intervenes, the swing states will decide whether there is a car elevator at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Just as in 2000, the vote is swing states is likely to be decided by a few to a few hundred votes in just a few counties. Mike Schneider and Thomas Beaumont of Associated Press have boiled the race down to 106 counties out of the more than 50,000 counties in the United States. Those counties went for Bush in 2004, Obama in 2008. Whoever wins these, they say, will win the election.

Those counties are in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, and Nevada. Current swing state polls are somewhat mixed in these states, but averaging the polls, Obama is leading in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, and Nevada. Virginia goes back and forth. Obama once held a 9 point lead in Ohio, but it is down to 2 points. For that matter, Obama once led in all these states, but the race is getting closer.

Remembering Florida in 2000, the scary thing is how many of these states will need to go through a recount to decide who gets that state’s electoral votes? Another X factor is that Maine and Nebraska apportion votes by Congressional District. In 2008, Obama lost Nebraska but got one electoral vote from Omaha. This year, Romney could steal a vote from Maine. This could put the electoral count into a tie. That means the Republican House of Representatives would pick Romney as President.

Nate Silver of the Thirty Eight blog thinks that on this Sunday, things still favor Obama. If he is right, Obama will win. If he is wrong, the White House garden will be replaced by a new car elevator.

Do we elect the President or does the Electoral College?


Did you know that voters in the United States don’t vote for the president? People actually vote for a group of electors when they go to the polls on Election Day. These electors have pledged to support a party’s nominee for president. In many states the ballot lists only the names of the nominees and not the names of the electors, so many people believe they are voting for the president.

In 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention decided on this system of indirect election of the president. Long debates took place about how to make sure the best candidate would be chosen as president. Some delegates supported a direct election by citizens. Others favored having Congress choose the president. Still others thought that state legislatures should make the choice.

The delegates finally agreed on a compromise. Electors chosen by each state would elect the president. Ordinary citizens in each state would have a say this way, but the final decision would be made by people who were better informed about the candidates and the issues.

The Electoral College, this system of presidential electors, is still in effect today, although some adjustments have been made over the years. The electors voted for two candidates at first. The one with the highest number of votes became president. The one with the second-highest number became vice president. In 1796, political foes were chosen for the two posts — Federalist John Adams for president and Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson for vice president.

There was a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr in the next election. The House of Representatives had to decide who would be president. The fact that the system needed to be adjusted was clear. The 12th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1804. Candidates are now nominated to run only for president or only for vice president. Electors vote for president and vice president separately.

How the states elect electors has changed, too. Some states held direct popular elections for the electors in the beginning. The state legislatures made the choice in other states. All the states gradually adopted direct popular elections for electors.

There were no political parties when the Constitution was written. They soon developed, and the party organizations in each state began proposing a slate, or list, of electors who were pledged to vote for their party’s nominee. Voters no longer choose individual electors. Voters choose between party slates.

Political parties want winner-take-all elections for electors. This means that the slate that receives the most popular votes wins all the state’s electoral votes. All the states except Maine use this winner-take-all system today.