Since nobody knows for sure what will happen on Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s presidential prospects can be simultaneously thought of as both dead and alive.
You could say the same things about the fate of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Where you stand depends on where you sit.
Democrats and many in the media are convinced Obama will win. Meanwhile, as James Fallows observes, “the evidence convinces me that, beyond the spin and the lunacy and the media’s interest in keeping any race ‘close,’ a lot of Republicans really believe that Romney is about to win.”
As Fallows suggests, boosterism is always a factor (on both sides), but there are legitimate reasons why each side believes they will win.
National Journal’s Reid Wilson explains the disparity:
“Republicans believe Democrats are counting far too much on low-propensity voters and a booming minority turnout that isn’t going to materialize on Election Day. Democrats believe Republicans are hopelessly reliant on an electorate that looks far more like their party than the nation as a whole.”
Wilson ultimately concludes that “after Election Day, somebody’s pollsters are going to be proven seriously wrong,” but it’s much more serious than that.
The consequences of both sides expecting to win could have much larger implications than merely leaving a few pollsters with egg on their face.
A lot of Americans are going to be stunned, broken-hearted, and outraged, come Wednesday morning.
One of Fallows’ readers emailed him recently, worrying that “[S]hould Obama win in a couple of weeks, the right will need to portray that not as the American people choosing the other guy and his priorities/worldview, but as something fishy, possibly corrupt, and certainly illegitimate. That job will be all the easier if a foundation has been built in the political narrative that Romney was winning all along.”
It’s understandable that some Republicans who believe Obama has been a lousy president — and who see the unemployment rate hovering around 8 percent — will be utterly perplexed if Obama wins. This is especially true where epistemic closure is involved (people who only watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh.)
Meanwhile, Democrats — who look to Nate Silver and his ilk — will be stunned if Obama doesn’t win.
For this reason, Rush Limbaugh suggested on Thursday that a Romney win would likely lead to a legal challenge: “How do you set it up that the election’s been stolen from you?,” Limbaugh asked. “How do you set it up that there has been fraud and you need lawyers in there? Well, you have all these polls that show Obama up 5 in Ohio — with a plus 7 Democrat sample.”
Half the nation may be stunned Wednesday morning. This could get ugly.