In his final pre-election Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove makes some fearless predictions about what we'll see next Tuesday night. As you browse through his thoughts, bear in mind that he didn't earn his "architect" moniker by accident. On the current polls:
It comes down to numbers. And in the final days of this presidential race, from polling data to early voting, they favor Mitt Romney. He maintains a small but persistent polling edge. As of yesterday afternoon, there had been 31 national surveys in the previous seven days. Mr. Romney led in 19, President Obama in seven, and five were tied. Mr. Romney averaged 48.4%; Mr. Obama, 47.2%. The GOP challenger was at or above 50% in 10 polls, Mr. Obama in none. The number that may matter the most is Mr. Obama's 47.2% share. As the incumbent, he's likely to find that number going into Election Day is a percentage point or so below what he gets.
On turnout and independents:
One potentially dispositive question is what mix of Republicans and Democrats will show up this election. On Friday last week, Gallup hinted at the partisan makeup of the 2012 electorate with a small chart buried at the end of its daily tracking report. Based on all its October polling, Gallup suggested that this year's turnout might be 36% Republican to 35% Democratic, compared with 39% Democratic and 29% Republican in 2008, and 39% Republican and 37% Democratic in 2004. If accurate, this would be real trouble for Mr. Obama, since Mr. Romney has consistently led among independents in most October surveys.
And on the crucial race for Ohio -- which we touched upon earlier -- Rove says members of the successful Bush '04 Buckeye State team are seeing good signs:
But doesn't it all come down to the all-important Buckeye State? Here, too, the early voting news isn't encouraging for the president. Adrian Gray, who oversaw the Bush 2004 voter-contact operation and is now a policy analyst for a New York investment firm, makes the point that as of Tuesday, 530,813 Ohio Democrats had voted early or had requested or cast an absentee ballot. That's down 181,275 from four years ago. But 448,357 Ohio Republicans had voted early or had requested or cast an absentee ballot, up 75,858 from the last presidential election. That 257,133-vote swing almost wipes out Mr. Obama's 2008 Ohio victory margin of 262,224. Since most observers expect Republicans to win Election Day turnout, these early vote numbers point toward a Romney victory in Ohio.
They are also evidence that Scott Jennings, my former White House colleague and now Romney Ohio campaign director, was accurate when he told me that the Buckeye GOP effort is larger than the massive Bush 2004 get-out-the-vote operation. Democrats explain away those numbers by saying that they are turning out new young Ohio voters. But I asked Kelly Nallen, the America Crossroads data maven, about this. She points out that there are 12,612 GOP "millennials" (voters aged 18-29) who've voted early compared with 9,501 Democratic millennials. Are Democrats bringing out episodic voters who might not otherwise turn out? Not according to Ms. Nallen. She says that about 90% of each party's early voters so far had also voted in three of the past four Ohio elections.
Rove notes that "most observers expect Republicans to win election day turnout." Indeed. McCain won election day in Ohio by three points; he got swamped by Obama's early vote tsunami. Bottom line: Turnout, turnout, turnout. Finally, "intangibles" and a final prediction:
In addition to the data, the anecdotal and intangible evidence—from crowd sizes to each side's closing arguments—give the sense that the odds favor Mr. Romney. They do. My prediction: Sometime after the cock crows on the morning of Nov. 7, Mitt Romney will be declared America's 45th president. Let's call it 51%-48%, with Mr. Romney carrying at least 279 Electoral College votes, probably more.
Wow. Meantime, Fox News' latest national poll shows an exact dead heat, at 46-46. The good news for Obama here is that he's not losing. The bad news for him is that he's sitting at 46 percent as the incumbent in a D+5 poll, he's trailing independents by seven points, he's losing on jobs and the economy by 13 points (41/54), and Republicans have a ten-point enthusiasm gap.
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