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One Week to Go

Hurricane or no hurricane, election day is a week from today. People may have to wade to the polls and vote by candletight, but elections are not called off due to the mere inconvenience of 80 MPH winds, flooded roads, and power outages. Let's take a quick run down of where we are now. There were five national polls released yesterday, from Politico, Pew, WaPo, Rasmussen, and Gallup. The results were Obama+1, tie, tie, Romney+2, and Romney+5, respectively. The straight average puts Romney ahead by 1.2 points. However, both Gallup and Rasmussen have had strong biases in the direction of Romney all year, and Rasmussen does not call cell phones. Gallup does, but there have been persistent issues about whether it is sampling enough minorities. All things considered, it is probably very close to even at this point. The popular vote could be a real nailbiter and we may not know how it turns out until well after election day, when all the absentee and provisional ballots have been counted.

The electoral-vote situation is somewhat different. Here is a quick rundown of the key states.

So what's the bottom line? With all the usual caveats about hurricanes, voter ID laws, court decisions, balky or hacked voting machines, etc., Obama probably has a very small edge in Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, and New Hampshire on the basis of polls won, rather than their arithmetic averages (which is what the map shows). For example, North Carolina shows a solid Romney lead, but that is on the basis of one Rasmussen poll, whereas two other polls show it is tied. If Obama wins these five swing states and loses the others, he gets 43 electoral votes from them. Added to his base of 242 plus New Mexico, he has 290, which gives him some margin for error. But again, as we all know, in politics a week is a long time. Obama could flub handling Hurricane Sandy or something else unexpected could happen. It would be foolish to make a call at this point.

Another factor to consider for the coming week is that the polling data is going to be sparser and less reliable as both the pollsters and respondents may be under water and lacking power and/or telephone service.

Obama Cancels Events to Stay in Washington

President Obama flew back to Washington to coordinate the federal response to Hurricane Sandy instead of campaigning. He clearly remembers George W. Bush's nonresponse to Hurricane Katrina and what it did to his standing. He also knows that the hurricane is a two-edged sword: if he is seen as putting the lives of people ahead of his campaign, that will surely make him look presidential and win some votes. He said: "The election will take care of itself next week. Right now our number one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives." It is hard for Romney to rebut that. Any criticism Romney has of Obama's behavior will be seen as crass and political, so he has to keep mum for the moment.

Five Hidden Factors That Could Affect the Election

Politico has a list of five factors that haven't gotten much coverage but which could turn out to be important.

Hurricane May Delay Final Jobs Report Scheduled for Friday

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to issue its jobs report for October on Friday. However, due to Hurricane Sandy, federal offices were closed yesterday and will be closed again today, which could delay the release of the jobs report. A lot is riding on the report. If it shows yet another decrease in unemployment, President Obama will tout it as a sign that his plans are working and the economy is getting better. If it shows that unemployment has risen since the 7.8% reported in September, Mitt Romney will be shouting from the rooftops that it is time for a change. If there is no report due to the Hurricane, the status quo will prevail.

Romney supporters accused the Obama administration of cooking the books with the September drop under 8% and will surely make the same accusation if it drops again. If it goes up, they will cite the BLS' long history of impartiality. In reality, too many economists at the bureau are involved for anyone to fudge the numbers. The word would leak out immediately. But that is unlikely to stop the conspiracy theorists.

Who Gets the Blame for the Loss?

If Romney wins, Democrats will tear their hair out, but for the most part they are likely to blame Obama himself for his half-hearted effort at the first debate. Up until that point, he had solid leads everywhere and people were starting to talk about a landslide. That changed instantly the minute the debate was over. Obama lost badly and both sides knew it. Unless there are a lot of machinations in the voting process, Democrats will mope and hope Hillary rides to the rescue in 2016.

If Obama wins, the Republican Party will engage in a full-blown civil war pitting the tea party against the establishment. The establishment (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove, etc.) will blame the tea party for forcing Romney to take crazy stands that put him to the right of Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) at times. If Senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin go down in flames and the Democrats hold the Senate by a tiny margin, the tea party will also be accused of blowing winnable Senate races.

The tea party will shoot back that Romney was not a real conservative and everyone knew it. If only they had nominated a real conservative, they would have won. Unfortunately, all the conservatives who ran in the primaries were buffoons, so they ended up with Romney. There is virtually no chance that a defeat will move the Republicans back to the center. They will try to nominate a "real" conservative in 2016, and be convinced that is the ticket to victory. Certainly Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Chris Christie will be thinking that, in any case. Recall that after Barry Goldwater was crushed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the conservatives in the party took no heed and did not change course, finally electing Ronald Reagan in 1980, although Reagan, who raised taxes several times as President, would probably be unacceptable in today's Republican Party. Probably the only thing that might make the party rethink its position is if Ryan or Rubio wins an early and decisive primary victory, runs a fantastic campaign, and is crushed by Elizabeth Warren in a completely ideological campaign.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Colorado 47% 48%   Oct 25 Oct 28 ARG
Florida 49% 50%   Oct 25 Oct 28 ORC International
Massachusetts 56% 39%   Oct 24 Oct 28 U. of New Hampshire
Montana 41% 47%   Oct 19 Oct 21 Pharos Research Group
North Carolina 45% 45%   Oct 21 Oct 26 Elon U.
North Dakota 40% 54%   Oct 26 Oct 28 Mason Dixon
Ohio 48% 50%   Oct 28 Oct 28 Rasmussen
Texas 39% 55%   Oct 15 Oct 21 U. of Texas

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Connecticut Chris Murphy 51% Linda McMahon 45%     Oct 28 Oct 28 Rasmussen
Florida Bill Nelson* 49% Connie McGillicuddy 46%     Oct 25 Oct 25 Rasmussen
Hawaii Maizie Hirono 57% Linda Lingle 35%     Oct 15 Oct 22 Ward Research
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren 47% Scott Brown* 47%     Oct 24 Oct 28 U. of New Hampshire
Maryland Ben Cardin* 50% Dan Bongino 24%     Oct 20 Oct 23 OpinionWorks
New York Kirsten Gillibrand* 64% Wendy Long 22%     Oct 23 Oct 25 SurveyUSA
Virginia Tim Kaine 51% George Allen 44%     Oct 22 Oct 26 Washington Post

* Denotes incumbent