This week in the Washington Post blog, The Fix, Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake argue that new polling data from the Pew Research Center shows that the real swing vote for Mitt Romney and President Obama is just 7%.
Can this possibly be true?
Well, yes. But in reality, no.
As pollsters are quick to tell you (especially when trying to explain away highly inaccurate polls), all polls are a snapshot in time. And Pew’s polling methods are generally better than most, if only because the Pew Research Center is truly independent and not in thrall to either major political party.
And while Cillizza and Blake are good political analysts, like everyone else in our nation’s capital, they suffer from being in an echo chamber and lack exposure to (and understanding of) self-identified independent voters.
Their analysis of the Pew poll, while provocative, is wrong. Here’s why:
Look at the two major parties’ presumptive nominees, and you see a couple of badly flawed candidates. Mitt Romney looks inauthentic to most independent voters and out of touch with the problems and concerns of most Americans. Barack Obama is a better communicator and has a better campaign operation than Romney, but he has real problems with swing voters as well. Obama has fallen far short of delivering on his 2008 promises of hope and change, and there is a general perception out there that his handling of the economy has been at best misguided and at worst inept. The main issue for independent/swing voters in this election will be the economy. In terms of actual performance on this issue, they have found Obama lacking. And when it comes to the economy, Romney has two major factors in his favor:
1) fixing the economy is his purported strong suit, and
2) he can run as a Washington “outsider” who promises to bring proven best practices from the business world to bear on our economic problems (although history would show that this is unlikely).
That, in itself, practically guarantees a close election. But there are other factors that make the notion of a low 7% swing vote highly unlikely.
Both the Romney campaign and the Obama campaign have indicated that they believe the best route to victory is to take the low road. Two billion dollars (that’s billion with a “b”) will be spent on this year’s presidential election. Which means $2 billion will be spent chopping up each of the major party nominees and making sure we see the absolute worst of both of them. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of ways to breed dissatisfaction with both candidates. So this assumed 7% slim swing vote is certain to grow as voters change their minds back and forth between these two candidates.
And who says there will only be two candidates? With voter disgust for both parties at an all-time high, and with so much negative information out there about both major-party candidates, you can pretty much take this to the bank:
There will be a another option in this year’s Presidential race. A strong Independent candidate would start with nearly 20% support.
And that would really upset the current dynamics of the election.