George Will and the Examiner's Michael Barone both predict landslides for Mitt Romney. Will thinks the nominee has a chance to pick up — get this — Minnesota with a final electoral college count of 321-217, and Barone estimates 315-223 with Romney winning Pennsylvania.
Are these predictions, which cut strongly against both conventional wisdom and number-crunching models such as Nate Silver's (who currently has Obama with an 86% chance of winning), simply reckless? My colleague Daniel Larison is right that both pundits want Romney to win, but they also have their reputations riding on these predictions — Barone is the editor of the Almanac of American Politics and George Will is, well, George Will. Without getting into Barone's state-by-state analysis, here are a few national factors that have mostly escaped discussion in the last couple of weeks but could play in Romney's favor.
Closing the Organizing Gap — One of the main conservative objections to polling this season has been the fact that some polls base their turnout on 2008 figures. Nobody disputes that Obama will get fewer votes, proportionally and numerically, this year than in his first election, but the question is how many fewer. In 2008 the Obama campaign utterly outclassed the GOP in organizing and technology, waging what was really the first 21st-century campaign. High-tech computer databases, voter targeting, and a massive get-out-the-vote operation were beyond anything the Republicans had in play. That's changed since then, but again the question is by how much? In a state like Wisconsin, the growth of outside-the-GOP groups could have a decisive impact on the result there.
The Bradley Effect — Mickey Kaus explains it here, but the gist is that there's some evidence to suggest undecided voters are reluctant to state their opposition to a black candidate for fear of being labeled racist. Even if the effect is minimal (it was in 2008), Jonathan Capehart all but suggests that the Republican Party is treating it as if it's not. The "it's ok to not vote for him this time" line has been a key part of the GOP's pitch to undecided voters.
Independents — Romney still has a huge polling lead among independents.
None of this is quite enough to convince me that the nominee has a chance at winning Minnesota or Pennsylvania, but it's enough to convince me that the race is a lot closer than much of the polling has been predicting.