Pundits have coined a new term for the narrative that's emerging in polls about a potential Romney victory next week: "undertow" election. I was told by a PolicyMic pundit that since I live in California, my vote won't count. That may be true, but the least I can do is throw some surfing language into the mix. If the "undertow" pulling Barack Obama under the waves is real, Romney-Ryan is going to shred all over the president and carve out a win on November 6.
Members of the Obama camp continue to watch New York Times pollster Nate Silver's weighted polls and believe his odds-making. Meanwhile, polls with larger sample sizes like Gallup and Rasmussen tell a different story.
What is an "undertow"? Paul Starr wrote an influential article in 1994 in The American Prospect that mentioned an "undertow" that threatened the Clinton presidency. Starr referred to the undercurrent of mistrust of government and suspicion of evil purposes that had emerged after the 1992 election. That undertow is now a fact of life for all American presidents, and it may be connected to today's "undertow" election trend.
Mitt Romney is a candidate who says "gosh" and "gee whiz." Barack Obama is a president whose campaign promotes pictures of his opponent in a dunce hat and says that six year-olds know a "bulls******" when they see one. People are ready for positive leadership.
Most polls do show Romney up two or more points on Obama on a national level. The "battleground" state polls are less clear, although as PolicyMic pundit John Giokaris has pointed out, many of these polls oversample Democrats beyond 2008 voter turnout levels to obtain near-even results.
Another factor plays into the polling. As PolicyMic pundit Olivia Rivas drew to our attention weeks ago, pollsters are experiencing difficulty getting enough responses to put polls together. The average response rate to pollster contacts is now only 9%. More than a few people are reluctant to tell a stranger that they are supporting Romney-Ryan, as this commenter on the Breitbart site describes:
I audited news articles from the 1980 Reagan-Carter election, and polls did not show Reagan significantly ahead even as close as two or three days to the election. The narrative that "independents broke for Reagan at the last minute" is a convenient fiction to protect pollsters and news agencies from the embarrassing reality of that "wave" election.
It's well-recognized that 2010 was a "wave" election that swept Republicans into office across the country, not just in hardcore "red states." The "undertow" theory is now being coined to describe a wave that is pulling Obama down rather than pushing Romney up.
The simmering undertow of mistrust and frustration that was apparent in 2010 that has only deepened over the past two years. The frustration is deep enough that one out of five newspapers that endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 have officially endorsed Mitt Romney, including the Des Moines Register, a publication that had not endorsed a Republican candidate for 40 years. Major market newspapers in Texas, Florida, and Tennessee have made the switch and there are two unusual additions to the Romney camp: the Los Angeles Press Telegram and Daily News, which cover all of the smaller and suburban communities in the L.A. area. Another group of newspapers has moved into the "Does not endorse" column from endorsing Obama in 2008.
So what about my giant, meaningless state? Obama carried California by a whopping 24 points in 2008. The few polls that have been conducted, all by liberal or left-leaning organizations seeking to promote Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase ballot proposition that would put all levels of California taxes at the highest level in the nation ("For the Schools" - yes, FAILING, thanks brah) show the president up by between 12-14 points. In California, that is a loss of 1.8 million votes. Or as they say up north, a "hella" lot of people.
There's Obama's ground game, David Axelrod, Nate Silver, and the big ocean of people out there in America. Romney-Ryan: shredding. Obama-Biden: a yard sale could be on the way.