Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Paul is Likely to Win Iowa ... And Why Democrats Should Hope I'm Wrong

Mark Blumenthal has a piece on the latest Iowa polling and argues that the polling doesn't provide very certain answers about the outcome. The crux of his argument is here:

But be wary of placing too much faith in Iowa's current polling snapshot. The coming week will bring another round of surveys that may once again reveal changes in the standings. Equally important, the state's Republican caucuses will attract a very narrow slice of the potential electorate, historically about 3 to 5 percent of Iowa's adult population -- a group that pollsters cannot identify with precision beforehand. Most of the recent surveys depend on automated methodologies, most are missing voters who don't have landline telephones, and all will face the challenge of reaching Iowa voters between Christmas and New Year's, a time when many Americans are traveling away from home.

All this is true. However, if Blumenthal is right about all this, and if you think about the people these polls are missing, it would seem a lot of Paul voters are getting left out. For instance, "most are missing voters who don't have landline telephones." Who doesn't have landline phones? The young voters Paul attracts. Pollsters are not reaching voters who are traveling over the holidays? I'll tell ya who is not traveling: older voters. In short, these latest polls have Paul with a slight lead and yet they seem to be oversampling voters who are not inclined to vote for him and undersampling voters who are likely to vote for him. Finally, everyone has made a big deal about the lack of organizing in this year's Iowa Caucuses. Maybe it won't matter. But the polls will not necessarily reflect the advantage a well-organized campaign has and, if anyone has that advantage in Iowa, it is Ron Paul.

If you're a Democrat and you're excited that Paul may knock off Romney in Iowa, don't be. This actually works more to Romney's benefit than anyone else's. We all know the race will boil down to Romney and someone else. If that someone else is Ron Paul, Romney wins easily. So, to the extent that Paul gets a boost from Iowa or (more importantly) Gingrich and the rest of the alternatives to Romney under-perform and fail to get a boost out of Iowa, Romney is better off for the long haul.

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