- - Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Breathless pollsters trumpet that President Obama and Mitt Romney are knotted in a horse race with half a nose separating the two!

Surveys of swing-state daily tracking polls show Mr. Obama up by 2 points — less than the margin of error.

CNN, hyperventilating in hopes of getting enough play out of its poll to pay for it, announced that Mr. Obama is up by 6 points! But, it turns out, that just like in their newsroom, Democrats were way over-represented in the poll.

Some will tell you this is a replay of 2004 when a likable president who was viewed as incompetent by many held on because he was up against a rich, wooden flip-flopper who had a hard time connecting to voters.

Others will tell you it’s the 1980 matchup where an increasingly unpopular president was tossed out on his ear amid a terrible economy. Polling showed the race tight as a tick until days before the election, when the incumbent got beaten in a landslide by a guy nobody said could win.

Truth is, polls today are worth precisely what you probably paid to read them. Everybody has their thumb on the scale.

Mr. Obama’s campaign pushes polls showing the president down — just to scare supporters into donating more money. The Romney camp pushes polls showing their man up to get voters to view him as presidential.

Pollsters can jimmy with the numbers, the questions and how they filter the sample to get virtually whatever results they want. Isn’t it curious how close they find the race? And with it being so close, people remain on pins and needles? And with people this interested such a close race, more pollsters need to be paid to conduct more polling?

And the media, they got their fat thumbs and all 10 greasy toes on the scale throwing it every which way but true. They, too, benefit from breathless dispatches showing the race all neck and neck. They just might stay employed through November.

Political predictions are a fool’s errand, which is why I am so highly qualified to write a political column. I love hearing smart, honest pollsters pore over their numbers in minute detail as much as the next guy. But I swear off the stuff for the last couple of months before a presidential election.

So, ignoring the polls, here is what is fairly obvious of at the moment.

Not everyone who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 will vote for him this time. And I cannot find a single soul who voted for John McCain last time who plans to vote for Mr. Obama this time. In addition, a lot of people who voted for Mr. Obama last time and still support him won’t show up because of lack of interest or because they simply cannot afford the gas to get to the polls.

Mr. Romney is not the greatest candidate on Earth, but he is a rock star compared to Mr. McCain. In addition, the little pockets of anti-Obama sentiment four years ago has blossomed into a full-blown cottage industry from coast to coast this year, inspiring lots of highly motivated voters.

The reason this is not like 2004 is because that election was about national security and President Bush annihilated John Kerry in that department. This year’s election is all about the economy and Mr. Obama has fairly bungled it.

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