When they were trying to persuade us that it was all over — that the fact that Romney was doing markedly less well than Obama in the polls of registered voters meant that he was cooked — the pundits and journalists who belong to what was, in 2008, so aptly called Obama’s “unofficial campaign,” repeatedly told us that the debates make little or no difference and that this year the voters have already made up their minds.
But is this true? It was certainly not true in 1980, and I have said as much. But what about other years? Was everything set in concrete in those years by 1 October? The answer, as Jay Cost made abundantly clear in his post this morning, is that no Presidential race is ever decided by 1 October. The exit polling data from 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 suggests that anywhere from 22% to 30% of the voters make up their minds in October and that one-third to one-half of those put the decision off until the last week. When pressed by pollsters earlier on, they may state a preference or indicate that they lean one way or another, but they are open to changing their minds.
There is a reason for this. Americans have minds; they are pleased that they do; and the only proof that they have they are actually exercising judgment is that, from time to time, they actually change their minds. Americans are a cantankerous lot.
So are there swings in October? Boy are there! Take a look at Cost’s chart:
The opera is not over until the fat lady sings.
You should read Cost’s entire piece. He also shows that Romney has been hoarding money. This month, as many within the electorate wake up, sigh, and contemplate the necessity of reaching a judgment, they are going to be bombarded.