(Daily Mail) – Mitt Romney is ahead by a single percentage point in Ohio – the swing state that could well decide the election – according to internal polling data provided to MailOnline by a Republican party source.
Internal campaign polling completed on Sunday night by campaign pollster Neil Newhouse has Romney three points up in New Hampshire, two points up in Iowa and dead level in Wisconsin. Most startlingly, the figures show Romney and Obama deadlocked in Pennsylvania.
If the Romney campaign’s internal numbers are correct – and nearly all independent pollsters have come up with a picture much more favourable for Obama – then the former Massachusetts governor will almost certainly be elected 45th U.S. President.
The internal polls show Romney trailing in Nevada, reflected in a consensus among senior advisers that Obama will probably win the state. Early voting in Nevada has shown very heavy turnout in the Democratic stronghold of Clark County and union organisation in the state is strong.
Romney is to campaign in Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on election day, reflecting the tightness of the race in Ohio and the tantalising prospect of success in Pennsylvania, which has not gone Republican in a presidential campaign for 24 years. The stops were added to Romney’s schedule at the 11th hour in large part because of the internal polls.
Despite the Romney campaign’s optimism, a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on the evening before the election gave Obama a slim lead, with 50 per cent for the President compared to 47 per cent for his challenger.
Polls released by Gallup and Rasmussen, however, both gave Romney a 49 per cent of the national vote, ahead of Obama on 48 per cent.
Nearly all public polling put Obama ahead in Ohio by whisker at least. The RealClearPolitics average of polls there gives the president a 2.8 per cent advantage.
But the Romney campaign insists that pollsters have their models wrong and are overestimating Democratic turnout, oversampling Democrats and underestimating Republican enthusiasm.
The most dramatic shift in the Romney campaign’s internal polling has been in Wisconsin, which has moved from being eight points down to pulling level. Obama is campaigning in the state on the eve of election day.
Despite the Obama campaign’s insistence that Romney’s late decision to contest Pennsylvania is an act of ‘desperation’, former President Bill Clinton – Obama’s most valuable ally on the stump – is holding four eve-of-election events there.
A surprise Romney win in Pennsylvania, which has 20 of the 270 electoral college votes needed for victory, would almost certainly be a fatal blow to Obama’s re-election hopes.
If Romney took Wisconsin, that would offer him a credible path to victory without winning Ohio.
The Romney campaign believes that both Florida, Virginia and North Carolina – all of which Obama won in 2008 – are ‘done’ for the Democratic incumbent, as one senior adviser put it.
Many Republicans party officials are less bullish about Pennsylvania and Wisconsin than the Romney campaign, believing their nominee will probably fall short there, setting up a showdown in Ohio, which has 18 electoral college votes and decided the 2004 election for President George W. Bush.
Based on conversations with the Romney campaign, including a frank discussion with a senior Romney adviser, here’s how they see the Republican nominee winning.
Of course, campaign aides spin reporters because they want their optimistic scenarios to become part of a media narrative that helps drive voters. They are also part of a self-reinforcing campaign bubble in which belief in eventual victory is a prerequisite of getting through gruelling days.
But the adviser quoted here, who correctly identified to me weeks beforehand that the first debate would be a game-changing moment for Romney, has always predicted a very close race and is honest enough to identify states such as Nevada which Romney probably won’t win.
If we look at the 2008 electoral college map, when Obama beat Senator John McCain by an electoral college landslide of 365 to 173 (and seven percentage points in the popular vote), we can view the terrain on which the 2012 contest is being fought.
Looking back at the 2008 electoral college map, when Obama beat Senator John McCain by an electoral college landslide of 365 to 173 (and seven percentage points in the popular vote), we can view the terrain on which the 2012 contest is being fought.
The distribution of electoral college votes (which are based on congressional districts and U.S. Senate seats) has changed slightly in 2012. Because of the changes, Obama’s advantage has shrunk to 359 to 179 in the electoral college. The winner needs 270 votes. So for Romney to win, he needs to take 91 electoral college votes from the states that Obama won in 2008.
We can immediately give one vote in Nebraska (based on winning a congressional district) and 11 in Indiana to Romney. Obama is not campaigning for those. Next up is 15 in North Carolina. Obama won it by just 14,000 votes in 2008 and early voting patterns indicate he’s probably going to lose there.
Then we have Florida – its 29 votes are a huge prize. The latest Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll has Obama being crushed by six points there. That’s the next state Romney needs. The Romney adviser was very confident, telling me: ‘North Carolina’s baked. Florida’s baked.’
From there, it gets more difficult. Virginia, with 13 votes, is tighter than Florida but, again, early voting patterns suggest Romney will win it, though not by much. The Romney adviser said that ‘Virginia’s baked’ though he added that it was ‘much closer than Florida’.
At this point, the Obama campaign would be really sweating. But so too would Romney’s team. We’d be down to Ohio, just as President George W. Bush was in 2004. This year, it has 18 electoral college votes.
If Romney bags Ohio, he’s on 266 electoral college votes and has multiple opportunities to get the four more he needs. Colorado’s nine, New Hampshire’s four, Iowa’s six and Wisconsin’s 10 look most likely. It’s very hard to see Romney winning Florida, Virginia and Ohio and Obama keeping the White House.
Romney’s aides seem very bullish about Iowa – more so, even, than Colorado, where they say he took a hit in their internal polling with women independents after Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy. The latest Des Moines Register poll gives Obama a five-point advantage. But the Romney campaigns that the same poll put Obama up 17 in 2008 and he won the state by 10 points.
Privately, the Romney campaign has effectively conceded Nevada, which has six votes. ‘Nevada, we’ll probably fall short,’ said the Romney adviser. ‘That’s just tough.’ Romney hasn’t travelled there since October 24th, just as Obama has stayed away from North Carolina.
More remarkably, the adviser said that Minnesota, 10 votes, and Pennsylvania, 20 votes, were distinct possibiities. He even predicted a possible win in Minnesota.
Pennsylvania is intriguing. There’s a Susquehanna poll that puts the two candidates dead level. Obama has to be a heavy favourite – no Republican presidential candidate has won there since George H.W. Bush in 1988
But the Obama campaign has sent Bill Clinton to do four events in Pennsylvania on the eve of election day. After Obama himself – and perhaps even ahead of Obama – Clinton is their most valuable campaign resource. There is clearly some worry there.
So that’s the electoral college arithmetic. There is not too much difference between the way the two campaigns view it.
The more difficult case to make is how Romney’s vote is lifted so that on the spectrum of Obama states to capture (the order in terms of confidence seems to be Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Nevada and Michigan) it is a tide that rises above the Ohio threshold.
For that, several things have to happen: the battleground polls have to be wrong; undecideds have to vote for Romney; Romney’s turnout has to be very high; Obama’s vote has to be depressed.
Can so many polls be wrong? The short answer is yes. It is worth remembering that in January 2008 virtually no one in the political world believed that Hillary Clinton could win the New Hampshire primary over Obama, fresh off his Iowa victory. But win it she did.
This year, apart from Gallup and Rasmussen, pollsters have consistently over-sampled Democrats compared to Republicans. The Romney adviser said: ‘The samples that they’re using are geared towards 2008 results. So you get Democrats plus four on Pew, you’ve got Democrats plus eight on PPP.
‘It’s going to be a Republican plus one or Republicans plus two election. It’s not 2008, it’s not 2004, it’s not 2000. It’s a new election. It’s 2012 and a completely different dynamic. Every election we re-write history on turnout.
‘Gallup looked at it a week ago and decided it was going to be a more Republican electorate and they had it right.’
The closer you get to an election, the more likely undecideds are to break against the incumbent. Romney will also have voter enthusiasm on his side. Whether that’s enough, remains an open question but the Romney campaign thinks so.
Certainly, in Florida, North Carolina and Colorado, the early voting evidence is encouraging for Romney supporters. In Ohio, the picture is more mixed. The Romney adviser predicted a win in Ohio by as little at 20,000 votes. In 2004, Bush won it by 119,00 votes and in 2008 Obama won it by 262,000.
It appears that Romney was damaged by Hurricane Sandy – he was virtually absent from the television screens for four days, the discussion turned away from jobs and the economy and
Obama’s double act with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey burnished his bipartisan credentials.
But the Romney adviser said that this has been turned around. ‘Sandy didn’t flip us with independents but it narrowed. Then on Friday we got back in business with the “revenge” ad. Finally, we got back into business.
‘Then Mitt just hit it in speech after speech and it got people back, particularly independents. Again saw Obama as divisive, petty, the negative partisan guy that they’d been seeing since the November 2nd debate.’
Can the Romney campaign envisage Obama winning? The adviser responded: ‘I don’t see it. But his easiest path to that would be Ohio.
‘He takes Ohio because Democratic men, hardworking lower middle class men, we don’t get the margin we think we’re getting. He somehow ekes it out. He gets Nevada, he gets Colorado, he gets New Hampshire. That’s probably the scenario.’
The Obama campaign believes that is indeed the scenario that will deliver them the White House. On Tuesday, we will know which of the two very different versions – almost parallel universes – of this race presented by the two campaign worlds will be the one that represents reality.