TribLIVE

| Opinion/The Review


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Separating spin from reality

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

Daily Photo Galleries

By Scott Rasmussen
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
 

According to political-class pundits, the race for the White House was turned upside down by a single debate. The reality, however, is that a very close race shifted ever so slightly from narrowly favoring President Obama to narrowly favoring Mitt Romney.

Either way, it remains too close to call.

The difference is that voters base their decisions on the substantive issues in the world around them. The political class is distracted by superficial imagery, an obsession with the game of politics and the sound of their own voices.

While it might be boring to those in the political class, Election 2012 has been stable all year. Oh, sure, there have been occasional mini-surges where one candidate gained a little ground temporarily. But it's been close all along.

That's because elections primarily are about fundamentals. In January, the most important fundamental was that the president's job-approval rating had been stuck around 47 percent or 48 percent for two full years. That's good enough to be competitive but not good enough to ensure victory. An Electoral College analysis in January showed that four states were likely to be decisive — Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina.

Fast forward to the final month of the campaign, and nothing has really changed. The president's job approval has barely moved because nothing in the real world has caused people to think differently of his performance. Voters are not better off than they were four years ago — but they're not worse off, either.

As a result, the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows that the two candidates have been within 3 points of each other in 89 of the past 100 days. Considering the 3-point margin of error, that's a tossup almost every day. All four of the key states are just as close as the national numbers, and they're still just as important as we expected they'd be back in January.

In other words, nothing has really changed for 10 months, but that isn't unusual.

In 2004, on the night after John Kerry wrapped up the Democrat nomination, he trailed George W. Bush by 3 points. Ten months later, he lost to President Bush by 2.5 points.

In 2008, after wrapping up the Democrat nomination, Barack Obama led John McCain by 5 points. On Election Day, Obama won by 7 points. Fundamentals matter more than campaign consultants.

This background helps put the recent debate performance in context. Before the debate, the president was narrowly ahead. After his poor showing, he was narrowly behind. But for all the noise, only about 2 percent of voters changed their opinion from grudging support of Obama to grudging support of Romney. For the other 98 percent, nothing changed beyond the fact that they might feel a bit better or worse about their candidate.

While impossible to measure precisely, it is likely that the shift took place among voters who were disenchanted with the president but unsure whether Romney would be any better. After the debate, some may have concluded that Romney looked like a plausible president and was worth a shot.

Where will it go from here? If nothing changes in the real world, the race will remain close until Election Day. If perceptions of the economy or events in the Middle East shift, the election could shift, as well. But the bottom line is that whatever changes take place will be driven by voter perceptions of reality, not the petty preoccupations of the political class.

Scott Rasmussen is founder and president of Rasmussen Reports.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Acme man’s ephemeral sculptures appear to defy laws of physics
  2. Rossi: After L.A., NFL should tread carefully
  3. Oncologists wary of scaled-back guidelines in cancer screenings
  4. Cal (Pa.) softball loses slugfest; season comes to an end
  5. Early success in White House race a pleasant surprise for Carson
  6. Posthumous election wins have happened in Western Pa., nation
  7. 4 dogs found dead in Beechview home; woman charged
  8. Starter Liriano strikes out 12, leads Pirates to series sweep of Mets
  9. Saudi King Salman vows retribution for suicide attack on mosque
  10. Neighbor arrested after McKeesport house fire, authorities say
  11. Photo Gallery: The Zac Brown Band kicks off summer with First Niagara show