Power Play

Frightful Final Week for Campaigns

“For what we are about to see next, we must enter quietly into the realm of genius.”

-- Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in “Young Frankenstein.”

Here’s a scary story for any pollster or political strategist on Halloween: a dead-heat presidential election with considerable flux in several swing states just six days before Election Day.

But here’s the really chilling part: A massive East Coast storm has worsened the most complicated, confusing polling environment since the invention of the telephone.

(Little known fact: The second sentence Alexander Graham Bell spoke into the telephone was “Mr. Watson, if the election were being held today, would you vote for Republican Rutherford Hayes or Democrat Samuel Tilden?”)

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As if this closing week wasn’t enough of a phantasmagoria, there is the terrifying thought that Ohio isn’t aligning with the national polls.

The current Real Clear Politics averages of polls continue to show a national lead of about 1 point for Republican Mitt Romney but also a consistent Ohio advantage for President Obama of 2.4 points.

In the past three elections, the result in Ohio has been within two points of the national popular vote, and, as Power Play readers know well, the Buckeye State has been on the winning side in every presidential election but two in the past century.

Certainly it’s possible that the polls could be predictive and Romney could suffer the same fate as Al Gore in 2000 and win the national popular vote, but fall just short in Ohio and lose the election.

And it is also possible that and Ohio could deviate from its history go for Obama even as Romney won the election. The current spread in Ohio would be within 2 points of the national average and this might be the time that after 52 years, Ohio went with the losing team.

Given his recent rise in traditionally Democratic states, Romney might be the first Republican in the 40 presidential elections in which his party has competed to win the presidency without Ohio.


But one of the reasons Ohio is so good at picking winners is that its decision has so often turned the outcome of elections. Ohio is often decisive, no mere bellwether.

This might be the year that Ohio, which has long been losing population and has its smallest share of electoral votes in modern history, might be ready to give up its position of presidential prestige. But this political note wouldn’t bet on it.

Power Play’s bet on this election is that whatever the polls say today, Ohio will end up being on the winning team on Nov. 6. Either state polls have been undercounting Republicans and Romney will seal the deal there or Obama will have survived his dismal October and hold Ohio and retain enough of his blue-state firewall to win a second term.

Like any good scary story, the tale of the churning electorate now has a strong element of suspense. Hurricane Sandy has made it harder to poll, and given the existing challenges nationally and in survey-saturated Ohio – cell phones, caller ID, voter fatigue, dishonest answers – we can only guess at what changes are currently taking place in the electorate.

But by the end of this week, we will get to yank back the curtain and see what’s been happening. Has Romney’s long, slow surge continued like The Blob, gobbling up persuadable moderates? Has Obama found a way to rise from the grave to exact his vengeance?

As both campaigns profess serene confidence, those are the monsters that will haunt their dreams tonight.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“You could argue that [Hurricane Sandy] takes Libya off the front pages, but then again, it wasn't on the front pages in the first place. It is the mainstream media, who spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of articles on the supposed outing of a CIA agent in the Bush administration, in which she was safely in Washington and never in danger, has an epidemic of incuriosity about the murder of an ambassador.

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at  http:live.foxnews.com.


Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.