* The Bradley Effect: The conditions of '08 are not the same as '12. Obama is not the idealistic, hope & change candidate he was then. Now instead of having an image as being above the partisan fray...he is seen as just another politician and there has been some missteps publicly that make him appear less the man who made the great '08 speech on race and more the paritioner in Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church:
1) Awkwardly getting involved in a local matter when a black Yale professor was arrested for disturbing the peace and not cooperating with a responding officer.
2) His Justice Dept dropping charges against two members of the New Black Panther Party in a slam-dunk voter intimidation case.
3) His proxies claiming racism against critics of his administration. I've grown weary of hearing from members of the Congressional Black Caucus saying patently naive and false things like 'no other president has had this level of opposition, and the only difference is he's a black man'.
Now I know this is bringing me into it a little bit, but many scientists make ground breaking observations because of personal experiences and reactions to things. So why should political scientists be any different? I got polled two weeks ago by a human (not a robo-poll) by one of the organizations that make it onto RCP's average. It was a young sounding female on the other end. As much as I know about poll construction and the like, and knew the reasons behind the questions as well as why I did not vote for Obama in '08...or now in '12...when asked who I voted for in '08 I answered Obama. It was a knee-jerk reaction...no thought...was barely aware of the words coming out of my mouth.
In reviewing the mental tape after the call...the reason is this year I voted straight ticket Republican when I have never done that before. I've always voted for about two or three Democrats (largely because there are often two or three Republicans who are pieces of shit who get through...and I hear about it through Republican friends or organizations I've associated with). In '08 I voted 40% Dem, 40% Rep and 20% Libertarian. In the 20 years since graduating high school in a small, rural Missouri town...I've lived overseas and studied other cultures and had friends, bosses, and heroes from all races, religions, and sexualities. So in no way are my opinions of Obama or his presidency based on race. And despite the Vulcan political scientist in me...the human side took over and I lied about who I voted for in '08 because I did not want this stranger thinking I'm a racist.
And in '08...I did almost vote for Obama. I literally did not make up my mind until I was putting pencil to paper on my absentee ballot two weeks before the election. I can remember sitting there, taking 2-3 minutes to fill in that oval. In the end I voted for McCain when I realized that while Mo could go either way (McCain won by 3,900)...Obama was carrying key swing states like Ohio and making in-roads in states like NC and Va...as well as the popular vote by a good margin. So my vote wouldn't matter.
Anyway...I digress. The point of my story is that if someone with as strong and well-informed opinions as I could be susceptible to the Bradley Effect...what about small business owners for whom image is everything? Or a teacher or union member who disagrees with the prevailing attitudes at work? Talking to someone is far different than posting on NG or pulling a lever in a ballot box...where no one sees who you are voting for. So I do think there is a good chance for the Bradley Effect to rear its ugly head in this election. I give it a 55-60% chance...not definite...but somewhere between possible and probable. (How's that for equivocation!?!)
* 1992: There is a hint of desperation in the air from the Obama campaign that may signal that internal polling is not as good as the picture of Victory the campaign is trying to project publicly. This week Obama released The New Economic Patriotism booklet that outlines his plan for a second term. Rachel Maddow had the following to say:
"Given how reluctant Mitt Romney has been to divulge any details about his governing agenda, it came as something of a surprise that the Republican has been aggressively pushing the line that President Obama lacks a platform for a second term."
"Indeed, despite the ambiguities of the Romney/Ryan plan, the Romney/Ryan campaign, just over the last couple of weeks, has incorporated the "Obama has no agenda" attack into practically every speech and press release lately."
She quotes another source: "After weeks of being challenged by Democrats and Republicans to lay out his second-term agenda, President Obama's campaign is releasing a 20-page booklet called "Blueprint for America's Future" on Tuesday and airing a new television ad to support it. [...]"
"I suspect the Obama campaign has been reluctant to push this line too much in recent months because it leads to an inevitable question: if these ideas are worthwhile, why weren't they enacted in the first term?"
Now go back to about this time in 1992...
George H.W. Bush was being criticized for having no plan. He may have been resting on his Desert Storm laurals...afterall with a 92% approval rating...no Democrat considered presidential material made a run for the Democratic nod opening the door for a young Bill Clinton to make a run. So Bush probably suffered from the same confidence/arrogance/hubris Obama did going into the first debate: 'he can't beat me...so I'll just phone this in'. So the administration did not run on economic plans during a recession/poor economy. In fact this is what the Washington Post wrote in Sept 1992:
"President Bush Thursday drew together a disparate package of his administration's past proposals to revive the nation's economy and reintroduced them under a new umbrella that he said will be the basis for a second-term "agenda for American renewal."
"In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, a five-minute campaign commercial broadcast Thursday night on four television networks and a 29-page document sent to Republicans nationwide, Bush sought to convince American voters that he has a coherent plan to achieve a goal of almost doubling the size of the U.S. economy. The plan, he argued, is based on principles of limited government and reliance on the marketplace that differ significantly from those of his Democratic opponent, Bill Clinton."
"The political rationale for the repackaging was clear in Bush's introduction by Michigan's Republican Gov. John Engler, who called the president "the man with the plan." Bush has been widely criticized for going from one election-year economic plan to another in order to convince voters he understands and will work on reviving the stagnant economy."
" "Perhaps the point that we haven't conveyed effectively," a senior aide said, "is how (prior Bush proposals) all fit together. So that's what this is trying to do today, to show the comprehensive approach." "
So the point is...Obama is also talking about trust the same way the first Bush did in 1992. The only significant advantage/difference that breaks for Obama is he lacks a third party foil unlike Bush who had Perot drawing votes away from him.
So in conclusion...the race is turning out very differently than when I created the OP for this topic. The endgame is shaping up to be the most exciting race I've seen since my Senior year of HS 20 years ago. My gut gives a slight edge to Romney...but not enough to predict a Romney victory that falls outside the margin of error...which is not where I expected to be when I started this thread.