The tidal wave of anti-debt, anti-big-government voters that swamped Democrats in the 2010 congressional elections is readying itself again, poised to sweep Mitt Romney into the Oval Office, some political observers say.
“Romney has surged in all the target states,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The undecided vote is not really undecided. They overwhelmingly disapprove of the job the president has done and will largely vote against the incumbent. It’s a hidden vote that will vote against the president.”
His prediction flies in the face of most polling, which shows a tight national race between Mr. Romney and President Obama, and state polls that show Mr. Obama leading in most battlegrounds. The only poll that shows Mr. Romney clearly winning is the respected Gallup national tracking poll of likely voters, which gives the Republican nominee a 5 percentage-point advantage.
Gallup also correctly predicted the 2010 wave that powered the GOP to capture more than five dozen seats in the House — based in large part on a swell of intensity for Republicans.
Just ahead of Election Day that year, Gallup predicted: “The 2010 elections could be historic from the standpoint of producing unusually large Republican gains in Congress. But the elections are already historic for a midterm election in the levels of enthusiasm Americans, and particularly, Republicans, have for voting this year.”
Mr. McLaughlin, the GOP pollster, said he sees that same enthusiasm for Republicans boiling beneath pollsters’ sights this year — and so do some leaders of the tea party, which harnessed voters’ resentment against spending and government expansion.
“Not only is the coming wave taking place at the federal level, but the untold story is taking place at the state and local level, which will have massive political implications for decades to come,” said National Tea Party Patriots co-founder and former national coordinator Mark Meckler, who is predicting a Romney win by 6 percentage points. “That wave is already in motion and cannot be reversed.”
Toby Marie Walker, a tea party coordinator in Waco, Texas, said she sees the same momentum, which she said will deliver more Senate seats to the GOP than pollsters suggest, and will give Mr. Romney 54 percent of the national vote.
“I’m doing lot of phone calls talking to independents in other states,” said Ms. Walker. “I’ve seen a shift in the past 30 days, going from an even split to 60 [percent] to 70 percent saying they have no confidence in Obama. That’s not what I’m hearing from pollsters and pundits but from real people.”
Not all anti-debt rebels are drinking that tea, though.
“For my own part, anti-big-government voters do not seem overly enthused by a Romney campaign that is anti-big government only insofar as it is contrasted with the excesses of the present administration,” he said.
Republican pollster Whit Ayres said he sees little evidence of a congressional wave this time because his polling shows an even split between Democrats and Republicans on the generic ballot, which asks voters whether they will be backing a Republican or a Democrat for Congress this year.
“Nevertheless, in the presidential race, independents who had voted by an 8-point margin for Obama are now voting against Obama by double digits,” Mr. Ayres said. “We saw this trend coming literally 18 months ahead of the 2012 election.”
Nate Silver, who wrote the FiveThirtyEight blog at The New York Times, said the election is moving in Mr. Obama’s direction. He said there is a 77 percent chance Mr. Obama wins, and his current forecast gives Mr. Obama nearly 300 electoral votes, up 10 from a week ago.
Mr. Silver’s data-driven approach to election predictions has won rave reviews from politicos. He said if Gallup is right and Mr. Romney’s lead is that big, then the Republican is a “virtual lock” to win Tuesday. But if the state polls, which generally give Mr. Obama leads in the key states, are correct, then the president will survive.
In his Wednesday post, Mr. Silver said: “Just about every method for evaluating the election based on state polls seems to hint at a very slight lead in the popular vote, as well as an Electoral College victory, for President Obama.”
Mr. McLaughlin, however, said the backlash against Mr. Obama from Hurricane Sandy is overriding all that.
“Those without power who are cutting down trees in the Northeast and are very upset post-hurricane — if they lack power through Election Day, they will not be kind to the incumbent president or his party,” he said.
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Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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