"Don't count your chickens" is an old fashioned, fun way of saying "don't assume because it can make an ass out of you and me (ass-u-me)" or "there's no point to counting prematurely." Actually, the full saying really is, "don't count your chickens until they are hatched." Of course, the wisdom in the saying is absolutely correct, since, as a practical matter, unhatched chickens pretty much all look like eggs so chickens cannot be reliably counted until they are hatched or roost in some fashion - which is the equivalent of an election day.
That said, I am not going to take my own advice, and I am going to stick my neck out on the 2012 Presidential election. I expect to be excoriated, embarrassed, criticized from all sides, but I also think a little dose of tea leaf reading might help calm down some of the heat being generated out there.
There are several interesting telltale signals out there that are worth pointing out:
1. Various polls that are asking people what they feel about certain questions - not including who they plan to vote for - are revealing interesting insights:
- Who do you think will win the election? - 2/1 say Obama
- Which party do you most closely identify with on policy issues? - 2/1 say Democratic
- Which candidate do you like best and understands you best? - 60/40 say Obama
2. A number of studies and polls indicate that the number of undecided voters has shrunk to 3-5% of the total expected voting population. Approximately half of those people are not in States that are believed to be in play. That suggests that only about 3% (or about three million people) may hold the key to the election outcome. Other polling suggests quite clearly that those three million people are about 2/3 nominally Democrats and also that virtually all those people have one main criterion for their vote, which is to have Washington stop gridlocking and start solving problems. At the same time, Obama has pretty much held a steady +/- 3% margin over Romney since he clinched the nomination.
3. The main pitch for Romney coming out of the convention has been "vote for me because Obama has failed you and not delivered." Obviously not said by the Republicans is that they deliberately and consistently blocked his proposals, even of things they had long supported, from 2008 to the present in order to charge him with such a failure. The public appears to be well aware that Bush, not Obama, is responsible for creating the problems Obama inherited. And, moreover, the public is increasingly aware that the alleged inactions by Obama were at least as much caused by Republican intransigence as any Obama failures.
4. Another issue is the selection of Ryan as candidate for VP. While Ryan appears to be an appealing guy, which may compensate a bit for Romney's personality burdens, Ryan's Tea Party popularity also appears to be a big negative, particularly among independent voters who do not like and even fear the extremisms of the Tea Party.
5. Then there are the money issues. (Not Romney's wealth, which is not helpful to him because it does set him apart from ordinary folks) but the vast, uncontrolled, largely unidentified sources of sums coming from a very few individuals and corporations in order to try to influence and buy the election for Romney. That topic has become well and widely known and it scares a lot of ordinary Americans, who are not doctrinaire conservatives. Those fears are not much polled or even expressed but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the belief that the more money Romney spends the more he may hurt his cause.
6. Finally, after the Republican convention one poll evidently showed that Romney trailed the empty chair that had been used as a metaphor for a missing Obama. If that says anything at all, it suggests that Romney is already pressing the outer limits of his appeal and may explain why his pitch was more towards existing Obama supporters than independents.
Yes, there are 100 million or more chickens/eggs/voters scrambling around out there. They all do have to roost by Election Day on November 6. For all of the reasons spelled out above, this observer believes that, unless there is some significant and unexpected exogenous event between now and the election, Obama will win by a respectable margin, of both popular votes and electoral votes, which even might exceed his margins in 2008.
And, if that proves to be the case, we are very likely to see a version of Simpson-Bowles between the election and Christmas. And, if that happens, the years 2013 - 2018 could very well be a time of growth, prosperity and improved democracy.