Undecideds few and far between [UPDATED]Published 1:46pm Monday, October 8, 2012 Updated 3:49pm Monday, October 8, 2012
It was kind of amazing on Wednesday. I met someone who was among the three to six percent.
Not the one percent, mind you – those considered among the richest in the country. Not the 47 percent – the percentage who don’t pay federal income taxes and whom presidential candidate Mitt Romney called “dependent on the government” and has taken guff for saying since it came out.
Nope, I’m talking about a member of the three to six percent of likely voters (depending on which poll you choose) who still have not made up their mind as to who they will vote for in the presidential election.
According to the Gallup poll (which, I’ve heard, many people do not believe), Obama leads Romney by 4 percent, 49 to 45, with six percent undecided. The Rasmussen Reports say Obama leads Romney by a rate of 49 to 47 percent, with only three percent undecided.
Of course, the national polls do not matter. It’s all about the electoral vote. As those of us over the age of 25 probably remember, Al Gore had more votes than George W. Bush in 2000, but lost the electoral vote and the presidency. And at this point, Obama has a 332-206 lead in electoral votes.
In other words, among those 3 to 6 percent of undecided voters, only the voters in “swing” states actually matter. In other words, if you live in New York, California, or Maryland, all states that favor Obama (blue), the decision of the undecideds will have no impact. Similarly, the undecideds will have limited impact in states such as Texas, Georgia and North Dakota (red).
Only states where the vote is close, and particularly in those states which have a lot of electoral votes, does it matter what the undecideds decide. It’s why the media spends so much time worrying about Florida (29 electoral votes, 3 point differential in the polls) and Ohio (18 electoral votes, 4 point differential). Currently, Obama is ahead in those two states. If Romney can get ahead, the election tightens considerably (285-253).
Ironically, Minnesota is considered a “swing” swing state. With a 9-point lead in the polls, Obama is certainly ahead, but it’s not the blowout that it is in Democratic stronghold states such as California (61-37) and New York (63-36).
So what does this mean? Well, for the 94-97 percent in the swing states, it means many, many presidential campaign ads on television (think Heitkamp-Berg with slightly better production quality). It means that, for most of us, the presidential debate is more about entertainment value than information. My take on the debate Wednesday night was that nothing either candidate said surprised me, and no new information was revealed that would cause me to change my mind. And that’s probably the same for everyone else among the 94-97 percent.
For that person I talked to who is among the undecideds, the debates, and the stances Obama and Romney take on economic policy, national defense, health care, education and foreign policy, really mean something.
What it also means for most political insiders is that, contrary to popular belief, there’s wisdom in devoting campaign resources not to changing the minds of undecideds, but in getting those who are already decided to actually get to the polls and vote.
After all, there’s a big difference between taking a phone poll in which you don’t even have to tell the truth, and punching that chad on the official ballot box.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org