(Providence, Rhode Island) – Our prayers this week are with the families of those Americans who died in the Mideast violence. It seems insignificant – even petty – to talk about politics at a time like this, but it is true that everything that happens in our world has some sort of political consequence or fallout. These tragic events are no exceptions. Here are some observations for this week:
“Mideast Unrest” – I have been asked numerous times this week whether the murders of the U.S. Ambassador and others in Libya, as well as the general turmoil in the Mideast, will change the outcome of the election. So far, polls don’t show much change. In truth, it is probably too soon to really know. If the violence subsides quickly and things stabilize, it helps the incumbent, President Obama. If things get worse and more chaotic and it looks as if U.S. influence is nil, the advantage swings to Governor Romney. Remember that in 1980 people supported President Carter a long time for his handling of the Iran-hostage crisis, but eventually grew frustrated and weary and turned to Governor Reagan. Of course, that situation had a whole year in which to percolate. This latest crisis comes just over seven weeks before Election Day.
“50 Days” – Monday begins the 50-day countdown to Election Day. President Obama continues to hold a 3.1 percent lead in the Real Clear Politics composite poll. After Mitt Romney got a 3-point bounce from the GOP convention, the Democrats got a bounce-back from their convention. The bad news for Republicans is that Romney seems to be gaining little traction in the nine battleground states. He leads in only one - North Carolina. He is barely behind in Iowa and Virginia and possibly can take both. Still, that’s not enough to open the White House doors. On the other hand, President Obama’s approval rating still peaks around 47 percent. If that’s his ceiling, the remaining undecided voters could swing the election to Romney. But these numbers are about the same as three weeks ago, before the conventions. My conclusion: Right now it’s Obama’s election to lose.
“Poll Discrepancies” – The latest Rasmussen Poll, taken Saturday, has Mitt Romney up by two points; but the latest Gallup Poll from Saturday has Barack Obama up by four points. Yes, there is a margin of error; but what else might explain the differences? Well, a lot has to do with the screening questions. For example, one pollster can simply call three hundred adults and say: “Who will you vote for in November, Obama or Romney?” Other pollsters ask more probing questions, such as “Are you registered to vote this year?” and “Did you vote in the last election?” Such prequalifying questions can identify what are known as “likely” voters, making that poll a more accurate predictor.
“How Much is a Gallon?” – Crude oil hit a four-month high this week at $117 a barrel. Prices at the pump are now over $4.00 per gallon in many places across the U.S. And turmoil in the Mideast often means higher oil and gas prices, too. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the fault of the U.S. President or not. If prices continue to trend higher – just as with unemployment numbers – it’s never good news for the incumbent. What had not been an issue can quickly become one at the 11th hour.
“Rhode Island Voter ID” – I continue to be surprised at how vehement the arguments are from the left that voter ID laws should be overturned. Indeed, the laws are being challenged in many states, except for one. Rhode Island, which is arguably the most liberal state in the nation and is dominated by a strong Democratic party, also passed a voter ID law. It has been used twice this year and is being phased in with full implementation by 2014. The state is issuing free IDs to all who need them; and those who don't yet have their IDs can vote by provisional ballots (subject to later verification). Few if any problems have been reported. It’s interesting that a Democrat-led initiative is working here, but Democrats are fighting similar laws in other states. Maybe they should just copy our version of the law and be done with it. Good political ideas are often “borrowed” from someone else who did it first!
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