A number of interesting points of view here, worthy of a round up.
Let's start with Jay Cost, who predicts a Romney win:
When I started making election predictions eight years ago, I had a very different perspective than I do today. I knew relatively little about the history of presidential elections or the geography of American politics. I had a good background in political science and statistics. So, unsurprisingly in retrospect, I focused on drawing confidence intervals from poll averages.
Since then, I have learned substantially more history, soured somewhat on political science as an academic discipline, and have become much more skeptical of public opinion polls. Both political science and the political polls too often imply a scientific precision that I no longer think actually exists in American politics. I have slowly learned that politics is a lot more art than science than I once believed.
Accordingly, what follows is a prediction based on my interpretation of the lay of the land. I know others see it differently--and they could very well be right, and I could be wrong.
I think Mitt Romney is likely to win next Tuesday.
For two reasons:
(1) Romney leads among voters on trust to get the economy going again.
(2) Romney leads among independents.
Cost sees the economy as the issue this year, and with the expected Dem turnout and Romney's edge among independents ad being decisive. Full disclosure...I've known Jay since his old Horserace Blog days and his track record is a pretty good one.
Michael Barone, probably the dean of American political writers sees the key to the election in Romney's rise in support in affluent suburbs:
..polling shows Romney ahead in Colorado, which Obama carried by 9 points last time, and the race closing in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, which Obama carried by 14, 10 and 16 points, respectively.
That tends to validate my alternative scenario that Mitt Romney would fare much better in affluent suburbs than Republican nominees since 1992, running more like George Bush did in 1988. The only way Pennsylvania and Michigan can be close is if Obama's support in affluent Philadelphia and Detroit suburbs has melted away.
This also helps explain why Romney still narrowly trails in Ohio polls. Affluent suburban counties cast about one-quarter of the votes in Pennsylvania and Michigan but only one-eighth in Ohio.
A pro-Romney affluent swing is confirmed by the internals of some national polls. The 2008 exit poll showed Obama narrowly carrying voters with incomes over $75,000. Post-debate Pew Research and Battleground polls have shown affluent suburbanite Romney carrying them by statistically significant margins.
In particular, college-educated women seem to have swung toward Romney since Oct. 3. He surely had them in mind in the foreign policy debate when he kept emphasizing his hopes for peace and pledged no more wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.
My other alternative scenario was based on the 1980 election, when vast numbers of voters switched from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan after their single debate one week before the election. In that debate, the challenger showed he had presidential stature and the incumbent president seemed petulant and small-minded.
We saw an even more vivid contrast between challenger and incumbent in the Oct. 3 debate. In the next two debates, Obama was definitely more focused and aggressive. But Romney held his own, and post-Oct. 16 polling showed him improving his standing even though many debate watchers thought Obama won on points.
What we may be seeing, as we drink from the firehose of multiple poll results pouring in, is a slow-motion 1980.
Karl Rove, whatever one my think of him understands retail politics. He makes his 51-48, at least 279 electoral votes prediction for a Romney win, and his analysis of Ohio is particularly interesting:
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 American 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. Democrats also suggest they are bringing Obama-leaning independents to polls. But since Mr. Romney has led among independents in nine of the 13 Ohio polls conducted since the first debate, the likelihood is that the GOP is doing as good a job in turning out their independent supporters as Democrats are in turning out theirs.
He also deconstructs a recent poll:
Desperate Democrats are now hanging their hopes on a new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll showing the president with a five-point Ohio lead. But that survey gives Democrats a +8 advantage in turnout, the same advantage Democrats had in 2008. That assumption is, to put it gently, absurd.
CNN shows the president up by 3% in Ohio, inside the margin of error, but again the turnout assumption relies on 2008 and the mechanics reveal a +6 oversampling of Democrats.
Rasmussen sees Ohio dead even.In fact, he sees the entire election as too close to call.
I also note that President Obama drew a measly 2,800 crowd in his last Ohio appearance..while Mitt Romney's draw in his was around 25,000.
Jim Geraghty notes that the president is spending his last campaign weekend in Wisconsin, while Mitt Romney is campaigning in Pennsylvania, which tells you the candidate's internal polls are telling them something. Or as Geraghty puts it:
Obama is in big trouble in Wisconsin. He is spending his last weekend in a state that last went Republican in the 1984 Reagan landslide.
Team Romney is going hard after Pennsylvania because both internal and public polling show significant movement toward Romney in recent days. Yesterday, Rep. Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio drew large and enthusiastic crowds in Pennsylvania. On Sunday, Romney will hold a campaign rally in the Philadelphia suburbs. Who would have thought that Obama would spend the last days of the campaign defending a solidly blue state, while Romney makes a play for another one?
We'll see whose right in just a few days.