Lara Brown told Idaho teachers last week that Mitt Romney's debate performance could give him a small boost in national polling.
"It might be just enough to get him nationally tied," Brown said during her keynote talk at Thursday’s history conference at Boise High. On Friday, I wrote about Brown's robust defense of the Electoral College.
I've reopened my notebook this morning to find more good stuff from the Villanova University political scientist, who projects a Romney Electoral College win, 275-263, despite a popular vote edge of about 2 million for President Obama.
Romney did get a bump in Gallup's daily tracking poll, which is based on a seven-day rolling average. Today's version shows a 2-point improvement for Romney. The race has narrowed from a 50 percent to 45 percent Obama lead last week to 49-46 Obama.
Brown said history suggests a close election, no matter the daily events.
"All these gaffes don't really matter," she said. "The news, to a certain extent, doesn't matter. What actually matters is we have an incumbent running for president in a weak economy and we have a very polarized electorate. Those three things structure this election in such a profound and narrow way that there's really little chance for the candidates to do all that much."
Even with a good debate showing, Romney's campaign must excel at turning out voters, Brown said. "At the end of the day, it's still going to come down to turnout."
Brown offered some excellent measures of polarization and said we really shouldn't be wringing our hands at the contentious climate in American politics.
When Obama was elected in 2008, 52 percent of Americans called themselves Democrats and 40 percent Republicans, according to Gallup. That figure is now 45 percent Democratic and 45 percent Republican.
Party identification, Brown said, is the best measure of voter behavior. "Ninety percent who say they are Democrats will vote for the Democratic nominee; 90 percent who say they are Republicans will vote for the Republican nominee. It's is our best predictor."
Brown cited a Pew survey indicative of the divide: 78 percent of Republicans say the federal government has too much power; just 28 percent of Democrats agree.
"If we wonder why we have partisan bickering or gridlock in Washingon, it's actually very simple," Brown said. "We just don't agree....Because we don't agree, we fight. There's nothing wrong with that."
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