A Pollster Goes Way Out On A Limb
The only reason the Marquette University Law School Poll is a bigger deal than other polls is because the local media chooses to make it so. That's okay though. One of the great things about political campaigns is that they eventually end and we quickly learn the results (Bush/Gore and Prosser/Kloppenberg notwithstanding).
Therefore we're going to know Tuesday night whether Marquette University Law School pollster Charles Franklin is "Magic Charles, the guy who saw something that nobody else saw" or "Wrong Way Franklin, the guy who messed the bed"?
The final Marquette Poll claims that Obama is leading Romney by an 8 point margin in Wisconsin! This is inconsistent with other recently released polls showing the race either tied or Obama slightly ahead (but within the margin of error). For what it's worth, I'm told that internal polling done for the campaigns also shows the race to be a dead heat.
Still, Franklin may know something that no one else does - including President Obama.
Obama is in Wisconsin today, Saturday and Monday. Campaigns that believe they're ahead by 8 points typically don't make three visits to a State in the last five days before the election. Still, maybe Marquette is on to something - or maybe the pollsters were smoking crack (figuratively speaking, of course).
Charlie Sykes has an excellent analysis of the problems with the poll. My objection is more fundamental. I just don't think it makes sense given recent history.
In June, Scott Walker won Wisconsin by 7 points. If the recent poll numbers are to be believed, it means that there has been a 15 point swing between Walker voters and Obama voters in five months? Hardly.
In addition, the second last Marquette poll showed Romney and Obama tied. In most polls across the country, Romney has either maintained or gained support over the last two weeks. Charles Franklin has perhaps the only poll in the country that shows Romney hemorrhaging voters? Doubtful.
If the Marquette poll numbers are correct, the races in almost all the other swing states are closer than the race in Wisconsin? Yeah, right.
The reason polls matter is that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If supporters of one candidate think they have no chance of winning, they tend to become less motived to vote or work to get out the vote on Election Day. Sometimes candidates really do have no chance of winning. That's not Wisconsin in 2012 though - for either side.
I'm not ready to make a prediction on whether Romney or Obama will win Wisconsin (although I will do so on Monday). I do however believe the election will be extremely close. In addition, I continue to believe that Tommy Thompson beats Tammy Baldwin unless there's a Wisconsin landslide for Obama that nobody sees coming (except the Marquette pollster).
Still, by Wednesday morning we'll know who was right. It might turn out that the Marquette poll absolutely nailed it. Alternatively, it might be that the pollster went way, way, way out on a limb and then had the limb give out.
"Magic Charles" or "Wrong Way Franklin"? We'll know shortly.