Nicola Lamb: In the numbers game, pollsters came out on top

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Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama walks past each other on stage at the end of the last debate. Photo / AP
Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama walks past each other on stage at the end of the last debate. Photo / AP

The country wasn't ready for another fresh start so soon after the last one - or at least not another fresh start with a different crew.

Someone, somewhere will be writing thoughtful prose about the death of punditry at the hands of the pollsters after the US election.

There will be a lament for the loss of intrigue, surprise and mystery after the political statisticians proved so accurate in their predictions.

But that's really a bit premature.

This election suited the stats gurus - there were few twists, it only seemed competitive in the final month and it involved an incumbent with all the advantages that brings.

There were reasons why this was a fairly static, stay-the-course election rather than a "change" one.

The presidential election it most resembles is George W. Bush versus John Kerry in 2004.

As it was then, the US is smack in the middle of a cycle, although it's economic rather than military.

The country wasn't ready for another fresh start so soon after the last one - or at least not another fresh start with a different crew.

The Republicans also picked the best candidate willing to run, not the best option they had.

In Mitt Romney, they had a candidate who looked fresh off the set of Mad Men, and who then picked a junior edition of himself as his running-mate. That choice of Paul Ryan showed the party's problems in a nutshell: it was all about appeasing the conservative base rather than reaching voters outside the GOP and reflecting a more diverse America.

Republicans complained that Romney should have been doing better but he was up against a charismatic President with a higher likeability factor, a formidable election machine and a slowly improving economic backdrop.

Most of the stumbles were on the Romney side.

Barack Obama had a bad first debate in Colorado but he had enough time to recover and used his last two debates and appearances over Superstorm Sandy to put Denver, October 4 in perspective.

Romney's policy shifts caught up with him whereas Obama was able to hammer constant themes.

The President had built a level of trust with the public over security and foreign affairs - even with the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in the Benghazi incident - that Romney found hard to pierce.

The campaign was not an even contest.

The most exciting election of recent times was the Democratic primary face-off between Obama and Hillary Clinton four years ago. Both candidates were inspiring in different ways, on a fairly level playing field and had the broad appeal to be able to compete for each other's supporters.

At the moment the Democrats have assembled a formidable coalition that is approximately 80 per cent of the minority vote and 40 per cent of the majority vote under a centrist leader. Once again they were able to draw the youth and female voting blocks.

The Republicans, to stay competitive as a party in the future, have to get in a position to be able to compete hard for those voters - the way Obama and Clinton did.

They do have some politicians capable of it.

However, the party is likely to be in thrall to the Tea Party for some time.

But should the next Democratic candidate come up against a Marco Rubio or Chris Christie in 2016, it could be a decent battle.

And one the pollsters find harder to plot.

- NZ Herald

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