Thirty-two years ago, political apathy was so rampant on the campus of my alma mater, Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois (now Concordia University Chicago) that supporters of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and John Anderson had to join forces to promote student political involvement under the organizational title "Voters Organized to Elect SOMEBODY" (V.O.T.E.S.).
That ambivalent moniker sums up the condition of the 2012 race five days out from Election Day. One thing seems certain five days out from what may be the most important presidential election in modern history: either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is going to win.
Well, one other thing: either Obama or Romney is doomed, and totally without hope. In fact, either Obama or Romney have such an overwhelming advantage in the polling and other dynamics of the race that victory is simply and obviously inevitable.
Gallup will begin polling again today. Rasmussen has continued to show Romney up by a couple of points. The RCP average still shows a tie- but something occurred to me today that offers a more benign explanation (for a Romney supporter such as myself) than a sudden change in momentum for the president's apparent from that fact- an explanation pointed to by the fact that a great many people still see the momentum going Romney's way.
The president's campaign, it should be noted, doesn't.
The explanation is simple: for the last two days, the RCP average hasn't included the storm-suspended Gallup poll, which has been consistently showing a bigger Romney lead than the others. Naturally Romney's average showing has deterriorated; a consistently solid pro-Romney result hasn't been included for the past two days!
There are other reasons not to lose heart- not the least of which being what may be the reversal in voter opinion which will prove decisive on Tuesday. I would have thought this unthinkable before the debates, but voters like Romney personally better than they like President Obama.
I think I've noted before that some commentator or other- I forget who- predicted that given Obama's record, the only way he could possibly be re-elected would be to run a campaign so negative and divisive that he couldn't possibly expect to govern even if he won. I'm afraid that commentator (whoever it was) was right. If POTUS comes out on top next Tuesday, it will be by a whisker- and he can kiss good-bye any delusions that Republicans will suddenly become compliant because the people have spoken. The Obama campaign has been so ugly and so dishonest that if he wins, the gridlock in his second term is guaranteed to make that in his first look like a support group on Quaaludes.
But more to the point, his negative campaign has squandered his most important asset with the voters: his likability. It's not just that his fabled 2008 "cool"is gone; he's developed a serious case of nasty, and the voters don't like it.
But I digress. You will learn nothing from the individual state polls other than that Obama either has a comfortable lead in Ohio, or that Romney is breathing down his neck there- or even leading. Paul Ryan's solid-blue home state of Wisconsin is either in play, or not. President Obama's alleged "electoral fire-wall-" the grouping of large, solid blue states thought to be Romney-proof and having enough electoral votes to theoretically deny Romney the 270 he needs to win- is either holding, or the electoral map is wide open.
Iowa, where this blog is being written, is a swing-state in which Obama has a slight lead, or else a large lead, or else Romney is ahead by a nose, unless it's tied.
Even the pros don't know what to believe. All one can do is to watch the results, give more credence to consensus than to anomaly- and hold on to your hat.
I do not say that the polls and the commentators can't tell us anything about what's likely to happen, and I still think we'll know by Sunday night. Even Obama supporters- for all their bluster- seem to concede that the independents favor Romney. And remember that the Democratic early-voting effort in Ohio seems to have been a flop, while the Republicans claim to have a ground game there even more formidable than their fabled 2004 effort.
Another thing that should be borne in mind: the polls with the larger samples tend strongly to favor Romney. As the survey linked to in the last sentence shows, all national polls it sampled with 1000 or more respondents favored Romney, while all polls with fewer than 1000 respondents either favored Obama or were tied.
But I could be wrong. This could end up being a wild race that may well by no means be over when we get up next Wednesday morning.
Or Thursday. Or Friday. Or for a lot of mornings to come.