American Elections 2012: Obama is Moving Past Republican Romney

President Obama is moving past Republican challenger Mitt Romney in !swing state! opinion polls and the press this week is pounding on Romney for a floundering campaign. That’s not a surprise after a liberal web site posted a secret video in which Romney told supporters at a private fundraiser that he was writing off 47 percent of all Americans who he said were dependent upon and expected government to help them. "[M]y job is not to worry about those people,! the candidate told the crowd.

Still, Obama supporters worry that they are being set up for an October reversal of fortune (the election is Nov. 6), while Romney is scrambling to assure his money men and party leaders that the campaign is going exactly as planned.

An interesting quirk in the polling this year is a finding that Obama performs best among prospective voters reached on cell phones. About 30 percent of U.S. households no longer have landline telephones, and pollsters are struggling to find a legitimate cross-section of voters when most cellular phone numbers do not appear in public listings.

Similarly, Obama does better in live polling – where an individual interviews the voter by phone – than in computer-generated interviews. These polls are considered to be more accurate than the cheaper, more automated alternatives, and so Obama’s leads are likely real, at least for now. (For more detail than even the most focused American political animal can absorb, see this blog by the New York Times political statistics guru: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/obamas-lead-looks-stronger-in-polls-that-include-cellphones/)

Casual followers of our election may not realize that all of the campaigning, advertising and foment is taking place in just a dozen or so of the 50 states, omitting big states like California, New York, Texas and Illinois where, except for Republican Texas, Obama is a certain winner.

I watch baseball on TV at home in Southwest Washington, just across the Potomac River from Virginia, and see a barrage of advertising by both candidates, parties and !independent! committees aimed at Virginia voters. My office colleague who commutes 40 miles from Baltimore sees none, because Maryland is solidly Democratic.

Even in !swing! states – Florida, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and a few others – most voters long ago decided whom they support. Millions of advertising dollarsare spent each week in those states to reach a handful of voters still undecided. Many of them will not vote at all. But neither candidate can ignore these !low-information voters! who can make the difference in the outcome, as happened in the Bush-Gore 2000 election. The comedy show Saturday Night Live! captured this absurdity:

Romney’s next – perhaps last? – big opportunity comes next Wednesday (Oct. 3) when the first nationally televised debate will be staged in Colorado.