With just four days left until Election Day, many are tirelessly watching the polls to detect movement toward either candidate in the final moments. Over the last few days, the Real Clear Politics average has switched from a .8 point Romney lead to a .3 point Obama lead, in part due to tightening in the two trackers that have been updated (Rasmussen and Washington Post/ABC) and a National Journal poll that appears to be an outlier, showing Obama up five points.
Today Rasmussen’s daily poll shows a tied race at 48 each. This sample was gathered the three days immediately following Hurricane Sandy, and would lead many to think the president might receive a small post-hurricane bump as Americans “rally around the flag.” If that is the case, over the next four days there is a good likelihood that whatever bounce Obama got from Sandy would dissipate as voters focus back to the election, and as bad news emerges from the northeast, of people still seriously suffering in places such as Staten Island.
In addition, there is a theory that the incumbent gets a small boost in the final week leading up to an election. In 2004, Kerry won late deciders of three days or less by nine points, but only won voters who decided over the whole last week by six points. That would indicate that the voters who decided in the final week, but before the final weekend, broke to Bush in 2004 by about eight to ten points. That’s a small slice of the electorate, but that would tighten the race slightly like we are seeing today.
If those numbers repeat in 2012, it would be very possible that the numbers that President Obama sees going into this weekend are the best he will see before election day. In addition to late deciders probably breaking more to Romney than Obama in these final four days, the tracking polls are currently showing a Democratic turnout advantage of three to four points. If Republicans manage turnout at levels that have been suggested by both Gallup and Rasmussen, Romney could be headed for a shocker on Tuesday that no one could have ever seen coming. Except for those paying attention to what’s been going on for the past four years, of course.