Tuesday: The big races look close

This could be a year when we don't have a real idea of the results in advance.
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Jay Inslee, left, and Rob McKenna at a debate.

This could be a year when we don't have a real idea of the results in advance.

As Election Day approached in 2006, 2008 and 2010, I was reasonably confident about the kind of an election we would have, even if I wasn’t sure about the exact outcome. Four years ago at this time, for example, we all had a pretty good idea who the next president would be. But this cycle, I am less confident about everything, including who will win.”

— Stuart Rothenberg, Roll Call Magazine.

Stu Rothenberg is one of the most respected political analysts in Washington D.C., and, as usual, he is right on target.  This election is completely unpredictable, both at the national level, and here at home.

Let’s start with the governor’s race. Since July there has only been one public poll showing Republican Rob McKenna ahead. The last two polls, done by SurveyUSA and the University of Washington give Democrat Jay Inslee a slight lead.

And yet, as of Friday, tracking polls done by the McKenna campaign, one of the initiative campaigns, and a national GOP group all show McKenna slightly ahead.

The same dichotomy exists in the presidential race. One side sees President Obama safe behind an electoral college firewall based on state level polling. The other argues that most of the state level media polls are wrong and sees national trends leading to a comfortable Romney victory.

The intriguing thing is the fact that most of the data fueling the pro-Romney hypothesis is being generated by Gallup, the granddaddy of American polling. Gallup’s tracking poll has consistently shown Romney ahead, and their data indicates that turnout will not be as high as it was in 2008, that Romney is actually ahead in early voting, and, most importantly, that the electorate will be significantly more Republican in 2012 than it was in 2008.

Other pollsters, and the Obama campaign, dispute all of this. Adding to the uncertainty, Gallup suspended their polling last Monday due to Hurricane Sandy. Gallup is likely to release new numbers sometime before Tuesday. Political junkies are waiting with bated breath.

The elections for president and governor will be close. Both Rob McKenna in Washington state, and Mitt Romney, nationally and in battleground states, lead among independents. (In the Washington Poll, McKenna led by 21 percent among independents. In the most recent SurveyUSA poll for which we have crosstabs, he led by 7 percent among independents). For Obama and Inslee to win, therefore, they need a partisan split that resembles 2008 when Democrats had a 10 percent advantage in Washington state.  Democrats say that will happen, Republicans say it won’t.

Maybe Gallup will give us a clue. Or maybe we will just have to wait until Tuesday. For now, flip a coin.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Chris Vance

Chris Vance

Chris Vance, a former Republican party chairman, is a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center.