5:00 P.M. EST
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center here in Washington. It’s a pleasure to have you join us on this election day 2012. We are very honored today to have John Zogby of Zogby International join us, and he’s going to give us an overview of the polling statistics, in fact some last-minute statistics that he just got off the phone with, and he’ll have those for you. We’ll have about 10 minutes of introductory remarks and then we’ll take your questions.
So without further ado, John.
MR. ZOGBY: Thank you so much. You keep having me back, and that’s so nice. Thank you. What you’re about to hear is for entertainment purposes only, please. (Laughter.) This is very, very, very, very close. Did I make my point? Yes. The very last-minute polling that I had from my own company taken right up until noon today was tied nationwide. In fact, it had Governor Romney leading by just under 1 percent, 1 point. And in fact, what is very significant, I should point out, is not only the popular vote nationally with Romney leading by 1 point, but that there could clearly be a factor of the minor party candidates. We still had the Libertarian polling at 2 percentage points and the Green candidate polling at 1 percentage point. Now, frankly, will those candidates get 2 percent of the vote today or 1 percent today? I don’t know. But what I do know is that when a race is so close and so close in key battleground states, anything that those candidates get can, in fact, have an impact on the major candidates and turn one state one way or another.
So let me just point out – this is kind of the tail wagging the dog here, but the minor party candidates hurt Romney more than they hurt Obama in most of the key battleground states. Now, with that said, that’s the popular vote and that’s nationwide, and it’s still important. People have been asking me, “Is it a beauty contest only?” Of course not. It’s the national community vote. And importantly, you could have the case – there are a number of scenarios here – where one candidate wins the popular vote and loses the electoral college. Why does that matter? The electoral college majority elects the next president of the United States. However, if there are going to be close states and contested court cases, as we had in 2000 in Florida, perhaps multiple states today, one of the leveraging arguments that one of the candidates could make is, “I won the popular vote and I need to have my case heard about this state or about the electoral college.”
This is complicated. Let’s take a look at some of these states. This is what I have so far, and I actually prepared a very elegant document. These are killing me. I have to tell you this. I was here in 2000, I was here in 2004; I was hoping at this age that it could be like Ronald Reagan versus Walter Mondale and I could do this from an easy chair back home. No, it’s not going to happen.
All right. By everyone’s measure, President Obama has 201 electoral votes that are clearly blue state and staying blue. That’s California and New York and Connecticut and so on. As of my most recent polling, I’m giving Ohio to the President with 18 electoral votes. Why? I have the President leading by 7 in Ohio as of noon today, and every one of the last six polls that were taken has the President leading by at least 3 percentage points. There’s one outlier that has it as a tie, the Rasmussen poll. I’m giving Ohio to the President, 18.
I’m giving Iowa to the President. That’s 5 electoral votes. I have the President leading by 6 in Iowa as of noon today. The last seven polls taken in Iowa, the President has been leading by at least 4 or 5 points.
I’m giving Colorado, 9 electoral votes, to the President. The President has been leading every single one of the last six polls and is averaging between 3 and 4 point lead as of noon today. Nine electoral votes.
Seven electoral votes from Nevada I’m giving to President Obama. He has been leading in Nevada throughout. There has not been a point in the last two months where Governor Romney has led.
Michigan, there have been reports of Michigan tightening up, 16 electoral votes. The problem is I haven’t seen it. I can only go on the basis of what I’ve seen, and the lowest margin has been 3 percentage points in Michigan and the average has been the presidential lead of 4.5 to 5 points. Sixteen electoral votes then to Obama.
My poll as of noon today has the President leading by 10 percentage points in Wisconsin, and the average lead is at about 7. That’s 10 electoral votes.
Four electoral votes in New Hampshire I’m giving to the President because the President is leading every one of the last six polls in New Hampshire. And I’ve spoken, as I have in all of these states, to Democrats and Republicans, and this is what they’re telling me privately.
So at that point, add 69 votes to the President’s 201 that he had when we started. That’s 270 electoral votes.
Now, I have never believed that Pennsylvania was competitive at all. There was a sense that it was tightening. It could very well be tightening, but it was never reflected in the polls. The lowest lead that the President has had has been 3 in Pennsylvania. He’s been averaging a 4 or 5 point lead in the last seven polls that have been taken. That’s 20 more electoral votes.
I come up then with a total of 290 electoral votes as we talk right now. Now, it is 5 o'clock Eastern time. I am cognizant of the fact that I was here eight years ago saying something very similar, and I can tell you also that the message that was on my mobile phone was that the Bush family are despondent; they believe that they lost the election. So did I. And guess what? He didn’t. He ended up winning in Ohio. Things can change, but I’m giving you what the most recent polls up until noon Eastern time show. And the last samples are from last night through this morning, and I’ve seen no evidence to dispute any of this so far.
Now, that’s 290. Governor Romney is given as red state 191 electoral votes. There are three states left. There’s Virginia, 13 electoral votes. I have the President leading by 2.5 points in Virginia. I’m holding that open. I’m not giving that to anyone.
North Carolina, I have Governor Romney. That’s 15 electoral votes. I have Governor Romney leading but only by 2 points. Now, let me tell you about North Carolina. It is a different state, and one of the things that I have seen both Virginia and North Carolina, in North Carolina in particular there was a large African American population and vote, a small but growing Hispanic vote in North Carolina, and then very importantly a significant creative class population – people who work in the knowledge sector, in the research triangle in Charlotte, and so on – growing. I have the President – I did not have him leading by much among the creative class until the last three or four days of polling, but I do have Governor Romney leading in North Carolina.
And Florida, Florida, Florida. As of noon today, the President leading by 1 percentage point in Florida. Those are three states I’m not distributing to anyone right now. With all of that said and done, I do see the President with 290 electoral votes.
Now here, suppose this scenario plays out. I’m going to play out all the scenarios for you. Scenario number one is what I just laid out. Governor Romney wins the popular vote, loses the electoral college. The issue then becomes: Does Governor Romney concede? And I don’t know. To me, the more important question than who wins today or tomorrow, the more important question is: Will someone concede? And that I really, honestly don’t know. And with a fiscal cliff looming as well as any one of several global crises in Europe and in the Middle East, most notably the fact that we could have stagnancy and gridlock here in Washington is very troublesome.
What if the President wins the popular vote and loses the electoral college? It could very well be much of the same scenario. Someone – look, my people are Lebanese so I can talk like this. It’s like a traffic stop in Beirut, where you have eight cars converge at an intersection. Eventually, one of those cars has got to back up and let the other side go through. That’s the best I can do: A Beirut intersection is what we could be heading for.
Don’t ask me any questions. (Laughter.) No, please.
MODERATOR: In fact, we’re going to go to questions right now. And we’re joined by our colleagues at our sister office in New York, the Foreign Press Center there. So we’ll take questions if they come to the podium, but first we’ll turn to you guys here in the audience, and please cite your name and your news organization. We’ll start back there.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. This is Yasmeen Saeed Hany (ph) from El Akhbar (ph) daily newspaper, Egypt. Do you think that Governor Romney got momentum by one bandwagon vote made by the polls after his first debate? Thank you.
MR. ZOGBY: This race was always destined to be tied simply because the nation is tied. When you look at the demographics, we are at the tipping point. To be honest with you, this is another subject for another time. I don’t see demographics moving in favor of the Democratic Party so much as I see demographics moving away from the Republican Party. But at this moment in our lives, we’re at equilibrium. What had happened was that for two weeks there was not a credible – two weeks prior to the first debate, there was not a credible GOP challenger. He had made missteps. He had not rallied his own base. He was caught on tape, which was problematic. And the President then had a lead as high as 8 points in my poll prior to the first debate. All that was needed was a credible candidate, and that’s what emerged with Governor Romney. Now a lot has been said – the opposite – about President Obama, and it was a terrible performance. But it had a whole lot more to do, I think, with a very good performance, reassuring performance, of Governor Romney in that debate – and yes, equilibrium and then some momentum for Romney.
But what’s important here, neither candidate in this last month has been able to sustain more than a few days of a slight lead, and it reminds me very much of Gore vs. Bush in 2000. Two or three-day lead, just when I would want to look at the fourth day and see a momentum building, it would start turning in the other direction; that’s very much like this.
MODERATOR: Okay. Right here in the front.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m (inaudible) from Yemen TV. To what extent do you think the independent would play a role in shifting the results or being a turning point either for the Republicans or for the Democrats?
MR. ZOGBY: I’m looking very close at independents. We go into this election, anywhere 13 to 15 percent of independents undecided. So a big question mark is: Are they actually even going to vote? But what’s made things so volatile in this race – now, volatile meaning a couple of days Romney up by two, a couple of days Obama up by two – it’s been independents shifting back and forth. That’s how volatile it is.
But I’ll tell you this: If we see young women voting today, then President Obama wins, because 10 percent of young women are undecided. They’re probably not going to vote for Romney. The issue is they’re going to vote – if they vote or not. If they vote, they’re going to vote for Obama. On the other side of that, if I see cars in the parking lot with little statues of Jesus and bibles in the front seat, that means that evangelicals are going to turn out to vote. Understand 10 percent of evangelicals are undecided. Ten percent are undecided, and one-third of those undecided evangelicals say they will never vote for a Mormon. So that’s what kind of makes our lives a bit interesting here.
MODERATOR: Okay. A question back here.
QUESTION: Yeshwan Draja (ph), Hindustan Times, India. How does early voting impact exit polls like yours?
MR. ZOGBY: Exit polls – mine were not exit polls in the pure sense. Exit polls traditionally are taken right at select polling places, and mine are actually internet polls that were done over the last months. And then the ones that I related to you were from last night through about noon of today.
In terms of impacting exit polls, just as we’ve had to rethink the landline live telephone call as a methodology, we have to rethink the era of exit polls when 40 percent – as many as 40 percent voters – have already turned out to vote. So you have to mix the methodology in some way. You have to capture people who have already voted.
With that said, what do we know so far? That both sides are claiming victory in early votes. But in terms of the polling that I’m looking at, slight advantage to Romney nationwide in terms of the early vote, slight advantage to Obama in some key states, notably Ohio and Virginia where more early voters seem to have voted for the President. So, score it balanced.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’re going to turn to our colleagues in New York, and please give your name and news organization.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. Marta Torres from La Razon newspaper, Spain. I would like to ask you if you have any numbers about the Latino vote, what they are doing in Florida, Nevada, and some other states.
MR. ZOGBY: I have late polls, obviously I have not seen exit polls yet. But what I have seen nationwide of the Latino vote is that the President has achieved 70 percent, in some cases exceeding 70 percent, to Romney’s anywhere from 24 to 28 percent of the Latino vote.
Now there’s a couple of significant things there by way of interpretation. One is that John McCain, who got 31 percent of the Latino vote last time, that’s an underperformance. Anyway, Romney does not look like he’s even achieving that among Latinos. Secondly, if you add the 70-71 to 24-28, you have very few undecided Latinos. That means they’re going to vote. That’s very important.
Now I’ve said this many times before the foreign press that the Latino vote 20 years ago was only 4 percent of the total. Four years ago, it was close to 9 percent of the total. We’re looking at the Latino vote exceeding 10 percent of the total vote. What’s that mean? If Barack Obama gets a larger share of a larger vote, as the pre-election polls are suggesting, that’s good news for him and bad news for Romney.
Now let me tell you in terms of the states, we’re seeing the same trends. Even in Florida – and I say even in Florida – you have a large Latino vote, you have a Cuban presence in Florida. I think first of all, pre-election polls have Barack Obama polling anywhere 65 to 68 percent of the Latino vote in Florida. What’s that saying? The old Cuban conservative Republican vote is moving on and the younger Latino vote – the younger Cuban vote is more mixed, distributed among the two parties. But then also, the typical Latino in Florida today is Venezuelan, Colombian, Mexican, Dominican, and so on.
MODERATOR: Okay. Yes, back here.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr. Zogby. My name is (inaudible), World Business Press Online, Slovakia, and this is also for Czech Republic. My question is: Could you elaborate, please, how the events on the latest day, the – first on Sandy, then praising by Chris Christie for Obama, then better than expected, I don’t know, GDP or employment report could add credit for Obama and take off for Romney? Thank you.
And (inaudible) another question: I know that foreign policy should – foreign policy was not an issue in this election, but please, if you could elaborate perspective with two scenarios how the foreign policy could develop in the future if Romney’s elected as a president or if Barack Obama is reelected, and also with the perspective for Middle Europe? Thank you very much, appreciate it.
MR. ZOGBY: Oh, good. Two big, big questions. Okay. First of all, Hurricane Sandy and Chris Christie. One of the rules I learned very early in life is if someone is standing in front of me and holding a checkbook, do not anger that person. (Laughter.) I thought that was a funny line. I’m sorry. (Laughter.) I think everybody gets the metaphor here, okay?
Very simply, in terms of Chris Christie, this was not the time to be arguing with the President of the United States. This was the time both symbolically and practically to be working as a team. I don’t know if anyone has been to the site; it’s devastating, the impact of the hurricane.
What impact did it have? It – number one, it allowed Barack Obama to do something that a former governor cannot do, which is look presidential. And so by managing a crisis, being present, Barack Obama learned very much from Rudy Giuliani and from Mike Bloomberg textbook on how a chief executive handles a crisis, something that Romney was clearly at a disadvantage for. Secondly, what the hurricane did was it knocked Mitt Romney off the front pages, off the broadcast news. It knocked him off of his message. What are you supposed to say? I think he did – he was admirable in terms of collecting clothing and canned goods and money and so on, but he was off of his message for at least 72 hours, particularly at a time when he was in the middle of a two or three day momentum that he had been building, and then pow. It did hurt him, there is no question about it.
In terms of foreign policy, and I’ve mentioned this here, actually, before, we need to understand that there are two Americas here demographically, when it comes to foreign policy. And for the purposes of shortening this and keeping it simplified, one side – and that is the group that’s over 50 and particularly over 65 years of age – those are the remnants of the American exceptionalism, America is the lone superpower, my country right or wrong philosophy. That is that old sense of duty and honor and the American flag. America can do no wrong and it chooses when it wishes to act in its own interests, whether that helps or hurt anyone else. That’s particularly over 65.
Those under 50, and particularly those under 35 are part of the end of empire America, the end of the America that can do whatever it wants whenever it wants to. This is a generation that has grown up post-Desert Storm into 9/11 and beyond, and have seen the limits of American power. And I should, of course, include Iraq and Afghanistan as prime examples. And so in that sense, foreign policy is very important in this election, overshadowed, of course, by the economy and perhaps again by social issues. But the direction of American foreign policy is so radically different depending on which of the two candidates is elected.
Now if you look at the demographics and who supports whom, obviously over 50 heavily supporting Mitt Romney, over 65 in particular. Those under 35 – those under 50, but those in particular under 35 tend to support President Obama. Okay?
MODERATOR: Question right there.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) TV. First, can you explain why a swing state such as New Hampshire could swing back and forth, and almost impossible to predict? And secondly, we’re told earlier that Pennsylvania is tie, but what make you so confident that you give it to President Obama? And the last question is, do you see any behavior change for the Asian vote? Thank you.
MR. ZOGBY: Ah, okay, good. Three questions. All right. (Laughter.) First of all, New Hampshire. As like any other state, New Hampshire has geographic boundaries and it has its own culture, but if you take a look at the southern rim of New Hampshire, that’s in the Boston zone and heavily into the creative class, heavily into high tech economy, Route 128, the Boston – America’s first Silicon Valley, actually. As opposed to a more rural, actually more mountain and lake zone of conservatives, “live free or die,” as opposed to southern New Hampshire, that does tend to be more liberal and certainly on social issues, anyway. And so the state is split. You see the same thing here in Virginia. You see the same thing Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, Ohio versus Cincinnati, Athens, which technically is in the south of the United States. And we can go on with any number of states. So you’re having states that are flipping and swinging back and forth depending on the specific campaign, the specific issue, the specific candidate.
I know the third one was the Asian vote, the second was Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania – I get these calls like you get. “Hey, Pennsylvania’s tied today! Inside tracking: the President says it’s – the President’s pollster says it’s tied.” Show me the numbers, because any numbers that I have seen, I haven’t seen a tie in Pennsylvania. Is it competitive? It sure could be, and that could all very well be true, that the President’s pollster had it tied. I didn’t, and I never saw one that was. And that’s really all I can say about it.
Why did Romney go into Pennsylvania? I think there may be two reasons. This is – the numbers hat is off, and the speculation hat is on. One is that it didn’t look good for him in Ohio. Eighteen electoral votes, he’s got to go somewhere, and if it’s within three points in Pennsylvania, try Pennsylvania. There is a big conservative and conservative Catholic domain of Pennsylvania. The other fact is, and I don’t mean this to be cynical, but it could be true, I know that Karl Rove’s American Crossroads spent about three and a half million dollars in Texas over the weekend. Why? Simply to build up the popular vote, try to get as much of the popular vote as you
as leverage when you’re making a case if – big if – you are losing or could lose the electoral vote.
Asians as a whole – I love this. Asians are Filipino, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, everyone in between. Okay? But we call it Asian Pacific and it does tend to be 60/40 Democrat over Republican. Vietnamese are an exception. They tilt heavily Republican. The thing to look out for is that the Asian vote is about 5 percent of the total and it’s growing as a population and growing as part of the demographics of America, and it’s not favoring the Republican Party.
MODERATOR: We have about six minutes left, so we’re going to take one question from New York and then come back here and wrap it up. New York.
QUESTION: Thank you. Ahmad Tatir (ph) (inaudible) newspaper, Egypt. I have a question, and since we’re speaking about the minority situation, about the Arab Americans, especially in a state like Michigan, where it is a toss-up and there is a significant number of Arab Americans residing there, and also in Florida and northern Virginia, where they have a significant number. Can the turnout of their vote make a difference in the result, in the final result of the popular vote, or it will be insignificant?
MR. ZOGBY: Any small group is significant this year, period. Because the states are so competitive; it’s so close. Now let’s take a look at Florida. I said I had the President up by 1. I had him up by .7. So it’s even that close in Florida, and sure, Arab Americans, particularly in the Jacksonville area, where you have a significant number, also parts of south Florida, but I would say in particular in the Jacksonville Duval county area, can have an impact in a close race like that. Northern Virginia – obviously Virginia’s very competitive, and northern Virginia has a pretty decent concentration, still about 1 percent of the total vote in Virginia. But we could be looking at a 1 percent race, or a half a percent race.
Michigan – I don’t think Michigan is that close. There were some suggestions that it was narrowing in Michigan. Arab Americans are about 4 percent of the total vote in Michigan, and that’s a state where both parties actively cater towards that – the Arab American vote. And so yeah, the Arab American vote can certainly have an impact. And I would include Ohio in the mix as well.
MODERATOR: Okay. We have time for one last question. We’ll take that in the back row, right here in Washington.
QUESTION: Actually, two very fast questions. (Laughter.) Do you see any scenario where either Romney or Obama do not concede today, and if so, what – how protracted could this be? And second, what is your take on the debate about polling that has been between Republicans and Democrats in the last few days?
MR. ZOGBY: Okay. In terms of concession, I think that both sides are so hardened that there would be – there will be an enormous amount of pressure on either candidate to not concede. This is, in many ways, an Armageddon election. If the other side wins, this is the end of America and the world as we know it. Okay, I think that’s how both sides view it. And sadly, we have the social media that allows for that sort of thing to be hardened. And so I – frankly, no matter – these are two fine men who’ve run for the presidency of the United States, but they would be viewed as traitors if they conceded too soon.
In terms of polling, first of all, so many technological changes. This is a field like the media in – higher education, we’re standing on tectonic plates trying to do our job and use new technologies. The specific argument, though, about overrepresentation of Democrats, underrepresentation of Republicans, I think in some instances, I had some problems myself with some of my colleagues who at points – and I always have, this isn’t brand new – but at certain points, will come up with a sample that’s 42 percent Democrat and 26 percent Republican. I don’t know how that happens. It – I never get that. I’ve never gotten that. I do apply a weight to adjust for political parties, because I think good polls need a certain stability. But I’ve never had to apply a weight when there’s been such a tremendous imbalance as some of my colleagues get. And so I think that debate’s going to continue.
Is there a polling conspiracy against the Republican Party? Nobody invited me. (Laughter.) So I don’t know.
MODERATOR: John, thank you for very, very much. It was a pleasure you have you here once again. We always enjoy your visits, and our next briefing is at 6:30 in about an hour. That’ll be on foreign policy, and we hope you join us.
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