In the US presidential elections there are many factors that matter: the candidate, the ability to convey a message, the ads, the money, the performance in the debates … and of course, the unexpected crisis that flare up whether as a result of uncontrolled international events or natural catastrophes.
All those variables are reflected in the last opinion polls -unlike other countries, in the US it is legal to publish a survey on the eve of the elections-. This industry, as it happens with other marketing tools, is pretty developed in the US. Therefore, opinion polls are accurate and normally are quite good at predicting the results.
However, in today’s elections, the national surveys predict a dead heat, which means that all will come down to the electoral votes, and thus, the result of a few “swing” states, such as Florida, Virginia or Ohio. In all these states, the surveys are very tight, most of them within the margin of error.
In this context, the key factor that will decide the elections will be the so-called “ground game”. Consultants and political junkies also call it the GOTV (“get-out-the-vote”) operation. Essentially, these concepts include all the activities to push your voters to the polls, like door-to-door visits, phone calls reminding them which day is the election and where they must vote, or providing them with transportation to the college if they are handicapped, etc. A powerful GOTV requires a good organization, a strong presence on the ground with an army of volunteers coordinated by a diligent staff.
The importance of the GOTV was revealed to me covering the Senate race in Nevada in the 2010 midterm elections. Harry Reid, the majority leader in the Senate, faced a strong anti-incumbent sentiment, and polls indicated that he might lose his seat. Nonetheless, he carried the race easily, by around 6 points. And the reason was that he had gathered so much money, that he could build an insane GOTV, the best in Nevada’s history.
According to experts, a better GOTV usually amounts to an increase of a candidate’s votes by between 1% and 3%, which in a tight race can be decisive. So, who has a better GOTV, Obama or Romney?
In 2008, Obama’s GOTV was far superior than McCain’s. It seems that Republicans learnt the lesson, and they have improved their “ground game” this time … But it seems that not enough to match Obama’s. For example, both in the states of Florida and Ohio “Team Obama” has more offices and volunteers.
Therefore, my prediction is that Obama will beat Romney in most “swing states”, and will achieve his reelection. He may get around 300 electoral college votes (270 are needed to win). Whether this prediction is right or wrong, the next post will be about the impact of the elections on the US foreign policy in the Middle East.