Nevertheless, I admit that there are scenarios in which the numbers could indicate a forthcoming sleeper Romney win. I simply find those scenarios unlikely, given that any other conclusion requires me to throw out virtually the past month of polling as somehow blind to the contingencies. I am not willing to do that, because my faith in Mitt Romney is weaker than my faith in the laws of probability. Which, by the way, is not a slam on Romney. God made the laws of probability. The Romney campaign is the creation of men.
I could stop here and simply join the likes of Nate Silver in saying I believe Barack Obama will win Ohio on the basis of the state polls. But truly, that is not what motivates my pessimism. Polls can be wrong — catastrophically so, in fact. If my time in Ohio had convinced me that the people of Ohio are amenable to Romney the man, and the message he brings, I would cheerily brush off those polls, as I am inclined to do with the ones showing an Obama lead in New Hampshire (a libertarian state with a distinctly New England cast and a love of fiscal conservatism). The trouble is, my time in Ohio didn’t convince me of that.
In fact, it convinced me of just the opposite.
To illustrate why, allow me to explain the findings of the latest Survey USA poll, which shows Obama leading by three points:
“Romney leads today, as he has in each of the 4 polls, on which candidate would do a better job balancing the federal budget. Obama leads today, as he has in each of the 4 polls, on which candidate is more in touch with the average voter.”
These two sentences explain, in devastating detail, why Barack Obama will win Ohio. Why? Read on to find out.
The musical “1776″ includes the line, “Most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.” When it comes to Ohio’s electorate, this sentence is about as alien as a Michigan State supporter. Most men (and women) in Ohio would rather foreclose the possibility of becoming rich to others than escape the reality of being poor themselves. It is not for nothing that this state gave the socialist Eugene Debs one of his best showings in the early 20th century.
That spirit is still alive today, and you can see it in the attack ads the Obama campaign and its allies have chosen to emphasize in their never-ending barrage of this state’s electorate. Nowhere has the Bain Capital line of attack been more fiercely emphasized than in Ohio. Conservatives may have entertained themselves with a bit of a joke about the left’s hypocrisy when the Obama campaign attempted to “otherize” Mitt Romney with an ad calling him “not one of us” for being an outsourcer, but the Ohio electorate wasn’t laughing. The Obama campaign has been diabolically intelligent in their focus on this state, because they realize that even if Ohio voters accept the caricature of President Obama as a neo-Marxist, anti-colonial black radical with a hatred of the rich and of America, that caricature of Obama still has an advantage over Mitt Romney because of two simple facts:
Mitt Romney is rich, and doesn’t hide it, and Mitt Romney is smart, and doesn’t hide it.
It is the latter part that truly damns Romney’s prospects. As anyone who has looked at the Bush-era election cycles should be able to tell, Ohio voters will vote for a spectacularly wealthy candidate like George W. Bush, so long as he is opposed by an egghead like Al Gore or John Kerry, who also happens to be rich. Similarly, in 2010, neither John Kasich nor Ted Strickland emphasized their technocratic brainpower in running to be Ohio’s governor, and as such, the more successful but still homegrown Kasich ended up winning. If Romney’s IQ appeared to be 50 points lower, he would not have to worry, because Obama’s self-conscious egghead persona would do all the work for him.