Mr Wiseass is going back to Washington

In a previous existence, I was a market researcher, and at University I studied psephology for a while. I’ve looked very hard at the US election, and if nothing changes between now and polling day, the Black Dude is going to win.

I will fess up here and now to the fact that I have thought Obama was a one-term no hoper since 2010. Thing was, I sort of expected the Republicans might come up with something better than Dick Martin as their candidate. Dick was the dumb one in Rowan and Martin’s laugh-in (left, on the right). He is also dead. You can see what I mean.

For around forty minutes since he decided to run, Mr Romney actually sounded like he might have the brains and balls to win…as opposed to having the two things the wrong way round anatomically. But that was it: Obama was rattled, and pulled himself together. Now – short of a major event to blow him off course – he is going to get the 270 electoral votes he needs.

But only just. For the first time since 1888*, the loser might actually win the popular vote. But if you tot up the Electoral College certs, and then drill down into the ‘swing’ States, Obama would still win.

Romney is showing very well in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina; but he must bag Ohio’s 18 electoral votes as well. Or rather, if he doesn’t, he needs to win all the remaining close calls. I doubt if he’s going to do that. Iowa and Wisconsin, for example, are moving briskly towards the President.

So what’s the call in Ohio? Five days ago, a poll showed the two candidates on 48% each, with a tiny 3% undecided. But last night, a new survey showed 49-48 for Obama. One can’t know for sure, but the swing to Obama was 3 points, suggesting that things are trending his way. If he wins Ohio, it’s an uphill struggle for Romney. Mitt knows this, and is now appealing directly to those who voted for Hillary Clinton there in the 2008 Primaries. He is also known to have money in his back pocket for a last-minute ad-blitz.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that nothing could stop Obama and hand the advantage to his challenger. Were today’s storm to hit New York and show the President to have been woefully unprepared, it might be enough to make a last-minute difference. If today’s FinMin meeting in Brussels goes badly for Greece (and it looks like it will) then financial contagion fears could push some folks Romney’s way as being the more savvy candidate to deal with it. And this coming Friday, there are some employment numbers about to break.

But for me, none of these is likely to swing enough votes away from Obama. He has already made a point of taking Storm Sandy seriously. Whatever happens in the EU this week, there’s unlikely to be a panic before November 6th. As for the employment figures, their interpretation has been a complete travesty for over a year now: one more bit of hocus-pocus is unlikely to make any difference. Ironically, even bad figures might work for Obama: Romney’s history is more one of destroying employment rather than creating it.

One of Romney’s greatest credibility problems throughout the campaign, in fact, has been the leaden-footedness of his advisers. If he does lose this election, it will be because tentative advice took away his one potential claim: that he understands the very markets that are likely to do for America before too long. He should’ve flayed the Labor Department’s numbers alive for the dishonest confection they so obviously are, been prepared to talk tough on the banks, shown Obama up for the economics illiterate he is, and been unafraid of pointing at the eurostorm coming America’s way.

He was never going to do any of those, because campaign pros always argue against them….and he would have found it hard to raise funds if he knocked the interests he so clearly represents. Their mantra remains “the markets will sort everything out”. They won’t, but Romney is A Believer…in that, if nothing else.

As I said two months ago, this has been a fight between Mr Butterfingers and Mr Stickyfingers. It’s just a shame that there seems to be no place in democratic politics any more for Mr Openhanded.

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* Although many sources still insist that Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, this is untrue: after the recount, Bush was narrowly ahead.