I know it is popular to look at the so called swing state polls and expect that these and and only these will be decisive in the upcoming election and in a sense, a micro sense they will be. But unlike any other election the presidential election is about the big picture, the macro elements will decide the micro elements.
Nothing is more macro when it comes to the presidential election than turn out. Where for many years Democrats have had an advantage in party registration, though that may be changing, Republicans have had an advantage in actually turning out to vote. Often times this turning out and actually voting has offset the Democrats numerical advantages.
There is little doubt that the enthusiasm gap in 2012 favors the Republicans, perhaps as much as it did the Democrats in 2008, if that holds true Romney's path to victory is made a great deal easier. As I pointed out on a couple of occasions (here and here) the turn out in 2008 which elected Obama was a historic negative for the Republicans.
Turnout matters. To win a national election, especially a close one, turning out "the base" really matters. To give you an idea of how important this is in 2004 the voters were equally split between the parties, 37% of voters were Republican and 37% were Democrats with 26% Independents. Compare that to 2008 when the electorate was 32% Republican and 39% Democrats with 29% Independents.
In both elections 89% of Democrats voted for their party's candidates and 93% of Republicans voted for their party's candidate. But obviously 89% of 39% of the voters is far more than 93% of 32% of the voters. What did this turn out difference mean? Far more than you would think. Probably more important than Obama's advantage with the Independents was the low turn out of Republicans. Not since 1980 when Reagan changed everything by not only beating Carter but doing it with only 28% Republican participation, not since then has the Republican Party failed to have at least 35% voter participation in a presidential election. Even with Perot in 92 and 96 even with the "hanging chad" thriller in 2000 not once had Republicans cast less than 35% of the vote, until 2008. That little know and hardly mentioned detail was also an historic consequence of the 2008 election.
As I said this time around that will not happen, Republicans will show up at the polls, perhaps in unprecedented numbers. But what about Democrats and others who voted for Obama? Will they show up? It is very doubtful that they will show up and vote in anywhere near the numbers that they did in 2008. I can say this without much hesitation simply by looking at Obama's approval ratings.
Every Tuesday Gallup posts its weekly summary of their previous week's poll demographics. Though these change from week to week they pretty much stay within certain fairly well defined margins and they certainly show trends. For example Obama's approval ratings over the past six weeks have been 47,45,45,45,46 and this past week was 44. This is pretty much in keeping with his approval for well over a year of between 43 and 48. Obama has not had a weekly approval rating of 50% in any given week for well over a year. This in itself ought to tell you how bad this election is for Obama, but the details are even worse.
Let's compare how Obama did in some important demographic categories in the 2008 election and how his approval ratings compare today. In 2008 Obama received 66% of the 18-29 year old vote and they turned out in record numbers, here are the last six weeks approval rating with the kids he has been feverishly courting 56,52,55,58,55 and 52%. How about the all important Hispanic vote which he went to so much trouble to try to influence by his illegal executive order. In 2008 he received 67% of the Hispanic vote the last six weeks approval rating among this extremely important segment of is coalition are 60,58,63,56,57 and currently 56%. And these are the positive demographics for Obama.
Consider the precious Independent vote that everyone says will decide the election. In 2008 Obama received 52% of the Independent vote but for some time he has been well below even the 50% threshold and for the last six weeks it has been a dismal 41,39,41,41,41, and 44%. There is virtually no way that Obama can win if he remains in the low to mid 40's with Independents. Even a significant improvement to near the 50% level (very doubtful) still won't help him if he can not garner the enthusiasm and turn out from other groups such Hispanics and the youth.
If all this was not bad enough for Obama the worst is this. In 2008 women made up 53% of the electorate and 56% of women voted for Obama. With that advantage he was obviously unstoppable. You can see why the Democrats came up with the whole "war on women" meme and are trying everything but honesty to win them over, but it really isn't working. Obama's approval rating among women is 50,49,47,48,49 and 50%. In fact the recent ABC/WAPO poll has him 46%-50% underwater among women. Even if Obama gets 50% of the female vote he will loose in a landslide because men do not like Obama as the last six week in the Gallup shows where among men he was 40,44,44,42,42 and 41%.
One last important point which I have made before. Among Blacks, obviously Obama's most loyal constituency in 2008 Obama received 95% of the vote, his approval rating for the last six weeks has been 89,88,84,83,89 and 84%. There is no doubt that blacks will support Obama in tremendous numbers perhaps even in the 95% level he received in 2008, but will they show up in the same record numbers? Or the Hispanics or the youth vote? Those lower approval numbers are going to manifest themselves somewhere and I very much suspect that it will do so in turnout. This is especially true of the youth vote who are historically the least likely to vote anyway but I suspect that it will be true across the Obama coalition.
After all if you do not approve of what your candidate has done and if you don't want to vote for the"other guy" the chances are pretty good you just won't show up,. That as much as anything is why Obama will loose-big.