The PJ Tatler

Seriously, Don't Panic About the Latest Polls

On Saturday my family and I went to downtown Austin to watch the Longhorns host the New Mexico Lobos. It was a glorious afternoon filled with all the chants and colors of a typical Horns home game.

The crowd of more than 100,000 was fired up, Mack Brown prowled the sidelines as he always does, Big Bertha and Bevo were on hand, and the team had their game faces on. But the outcome was never seriously in doubt. The Longhorns came into the game ranked #17 in the country, while New Mexico is unranked and unloved nationally. The Lobos hadn’t even scored against the Horns in their previous three meetings. Fundamentally, the two teams are from two different planets. The Lobos are far far down the NCAA pecking order, while the Horns own one of the most valuable brands in sports. So even when the Lobos were able to move the ball with ease early against the Longhorn defense, hardly anyone thought the game would be anything but a spanking for the visitors.

Final score, Longhorns 45, Lobos 0. It was over by halftime.

The presidential campaign is not going to be like that Longhorns game. It’s unrealistic to think that both teams don’t have experienced personnel on the field who are capable of winning the game. If the presidential race is like a football game, then it might be more like the Saturday matchup between the Florida Gators and the Texas A&M Aggies.

The Aggies were the home team and wanted to make a statment in their new conference, the SEC. Hosting the Gators, they led most of the way and looked like they might pull off the win. But the fundamentals caught up with them: They’re just not as good as Florida. Final score: Florida 20, A&M 17.

As the incumbent in the election, President Obama is the home team. He just had a mostly disastrous convention, but Bill Clinton managed to make a circus catch to put Team Obama ahead. We’re about midway through the third quarter.

But the fundamentals will catch up. Team Romney has been outthinking and mostly outraising Team Obama, until this month when Team Obama won the fundraising race by a field goal. The economy is not only not improving, it is getting worse. Here’s how Mort Zuckerman sees the Obama economy now.

The alarming numbers proliferate the deeper you look: 40.7% of the people counted as unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more—that’s 5.2 million “long-term” unemployed. Fewer Americans are at work today than in April 2000, even though the population since then has grown by 31 million.

We are still almost five million payrolls shy of where we were at the end of 2007, when the recession began. Think about that when you hear the Obama administration’s talk of an economic recovery.

The key indicator of our employment health, in all the statistics, is what the government calls U-6. This is the number who have applied for work in the past six months and includes people who are involuntary part-time workers—government-speak for those individuals whose jobs have been cut back to two or three days a week.

They are working part-time only because they’ve been unable to find full-time work. This involuntary army of what’s called “underutilized labor” has been hovering for months at about 15% of the workforce. Include the eight million who have simply given up looking, and the real unemployment rate is closer to 19%.

The economy alone may do Obama in among late-deciding voters. But the economy isn’t the only issue in play.

We’re seeing story after story in the mainstream press indicating that Obama is a poor leader or that he wastes his time on trivialities. The more late-deciders hear these stories, the worse he will do with them. These are serious times, and he is not coming across as a serious leader.

Right now, Obama is also benefiting from political correctness in two key ways. Voters have been hesitant to tell pollsters what they really think when it comes to this president and one key social issue with which he has identified. That issue is same-sex marriage. The president has come out in favor of SSM, which creates a fundamental problem for him. The issue polls far more strongly than it votes. Sure, younger voters tend to support SSM in greater numbers than older voters, but younger voters tend not to vote until they’re older and have learned a thing or two. More liberal when we’re young, we all tend to get more conservative as we see and experience a bit more.The young vote simply is not going to be there to save Obama this time. Some of those voters just aren’t interested anymore, and some have grown up since their childhood affection for Barack the blank slate. Many of them still can’t find work thanks to their hero from four years ago.

Additionally, Obama polls more strongly personally than he does professionally. I believe that this is evidence of the same chasm we see in polls versus votes on gay marriage. Americans don’t want to tell pollsters that they dislike the president, out of fear that they will come off as racist. The fact is, the president’s race helped him win four years ago but will not help him win re-election. His record will matter no matter how many distractions he and his campaign toss up. The same voters who tend to say that they like Obama personally still rate him poorly on his job performance. Many of those voters turned out to buy chicken sandwiches last month to defend free speech. They will turn out in November.

None of this means Romney has this thing in the bag. Far from it. Florida still had to score, and Romney still has to run a great ground game against an incumbent who may have a weak arm but he has a strong line in front of him, in the form of his own campaign and the mainstream media.

Romney still has to play to win. But win he can, and probably will.

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