Carlson: Indices to follow

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

As the contest for the Presidency begins here is a list of “keys to the outcome”:

1) The 80/40 rule. This refers to the President’s standing among minority voters. As long as he maintains above 80 percent of the minority vote (which he is doing), Mitt Romney has to garner over 60 percent of the total white vote. Ronald Reagan came close in his re-election campaign, but not even the Gipper beat the 60 percent mark. On the other hand, it will be difficult for the President to maintain above 80 percent of the minority vote.

2) Where are independent women going? The independent female vote is especially critical for both candidates. Republicans are betting economic concerns will drive their vote. Democrats bet the social issue of access to abortions, especially in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother, will drive this vote. It is noteworthy that Romney, once the nomination was secured, tilted back to his historic position of sanctioning abortion in cases of rape, incest, or the health of the mother.

Hard core, pure pro-life conservatives will swallow their displeasure and still support Romney given the President’s incredibly liberal stance on this issue.

Both party’s made a good pitch for women through strong presentations first from Ann Romney and then from Michelle Obama. Polling results gave the nod to the First Lady for doing the better job of humanizing their spouse—-but both did well by their man. The question is who will women identify most with? The betting is with Michelle, not Ann.

In the end, if undecided women vote from an unemotional viewpoint, then economic concerns will prevail and Romney is the beneficiary. If, on the other hand, it is a more emotional vote, concerns about equity and access to abortion will carry the day.

3) As goes Ohio. . . . . . No Republican in modern times has won the presidency without taking Ohio. Of all the toss-up states this is the one Romney absolutely needs to win to garner the minimum 272 Electoral College ballots needed. In July, 2004, in an unmatched display of hubris, George W. Bush’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove, laid out in excruciating detail in the Sunday New York Times Magazine just how he planned to take Ohio.

It was braggadocio, pure and simple. He was engaging in pure political taunting. But he was correct, even knowing how he planned to win; Democrats could not alter the outcome. Romney’s people have undoubtedly mastered every last detail of the Rove plan, so keep an eye on Ohio.

4) The 5 percent Lie Factor. All the polls say it is a dead heat—each has around 48 percent. Don’t believe it. Romney is ahead if one factors in the 5 percent Lie factor. The phrase derives from the 1982 California gubernatorial race in which popular African-American and former Los Angeles Police chief and then LA mayor, Tom Bradley, was running for governor against little known state senator George “Duke” Deukmejian.

Bradley led every poll throughout the campaign including the final weekend polls, which predicted a win by a 4 percent margin. The Duke’s spinmeisters told pundits they were going to win by 2 percent because they had figured out 5 percent of those saying they supported Bradley were flat out lying to pollsters. They gave what they thought was the politically correct answer rather than how they really felt.

How they figured this out they did not say, but it was born out in the final vote.

We like to believe race does not matter, but it does. Until proven otherwise, the 5 percent lie factor when a major race is between a minority and a white is a good rule of thumb. So, subtract 5 percent from President Obama’s 48 percent and add it to Romney’s 48 percent and you have Romney safely ahead, 53 percent to 43 percent. And if I’m Obama, I campaign like I’m behind, because he is.

5) The money race. This will be the easiest to follow. In over 90 percent of federal races including the presidency, he or she who raises the most bucks, wins. Right now, Romney is ahead.

6) The debates. There are three and if Romney comes out even (which he will) he wins. Romney is a superb debater (see James Fallows article, September’s Atlantic) and is lowering expectations well. The key to debates, though, is not what they say. On the contrary, turn off the sound and see how they carry themselves. Experts say 85 percent of a person’s views about a debate relate to the non-verbal signals. Thus, this one is a toss-up.

Follow these six indices. You’ll have a good idea who will win.

CHRIS CARLSON is a former journalist who served as press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andrus. He lives at Medimont.

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