Mitt to Be Mr. Excitement!

By Roger Simon

September 21, 2012 6 min read

There are two groups of voters in this country that still could save Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Unfortunately for him, they may not actually exist.

These groups are "undecided voters" and "likely voters." I know what you are saying: They certainly do exist! We read about them every day in political stories.

But being written about and being real are not the same thing. (Ask Donald Trump. Or Kim Kardashian.)

According to The Associated Press, "These undecided voters, called 'the persuadables' by the campaigns, represent about 6 percent of the electorate, according to recent polls."

According to BuzzFeed: "Recent public polls in major battleground states suggest the portion of the electorate that is truly undecided in this race is tiny, and shrinking."

Judging by anecdotal evidence — what used to be called "reporting" — I believe the undecided vote has shrunk not just to tininess, but to nothingness. Or at most it has shrunk to the guy at the end of the bar who keeps mumbling about the Trilateral Commission, notch babies and how black helicopters follow him home at night.

Who really can't decide between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? Who goes around saying: "These guys are Frick and Frack! There is no difference between them!"

To me, there is a clear choice this year. Both men are politicians, but they are very different human beings and would govern very differently with very different agendas.

Pick the one you like. I am willing to accept your verdict. As Adlai Stevenson once said: "In America, anyone can become president. That's one of the risks you take."

But don't tell me you can't decide between the two. You know the only person in America who really can't decide between the two? The previously mentioned Ms. Kardashian.

She recently told the Guardian that she voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but now she is a "liberal Republican," though disturbed by some stances taken by Mitt Romney. "I don't know which way I'm going to go," she said.

So the two campaigns may spend nearly $2 billion to get her vote. Because, as the old political saying states, "As Kim goes, so go Kourtney and Khloe."

I understand that some people will not vote this year. They don't like either candidate, they don't like the savage nature of the campaign, or they are turned off by politics in general.

I get that. But most Americans are optimists — optimism being defined as "I'm willing to get out of bed each morning and try out another day" — and pollsters spend millions of dollars finding which Americans are not just registered voters but "likely" voters.

Likely voters are the gold standard for polling. Because who is more likely to vote than a likely voter?

A lot of people, as it turns out. A study that surfaced last December by Todd Rogers, a public policy professor at Harvard University, and Masa Aida, an analyst at the polling firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, found that voters not only lie to pollsters about voting, but they lie in intriguing ways.

Their paper is 39 pages long, densely worded and filled with charts, graphs and footnotes, and is written for academics, not the general public. I waded through it, but except for Slate, which did a fine article on it, the study received virtually no media attention.

Yet it is important. Rogers and Aida did something very simple, yet very clever. They took the names of the people who told pollsters they were likely to vote and then looked at the voting registers to see if they actually voted.

Their chief finding: "Unsurprisingly, many who predict that they will vote actually do not vote. More surprisingly, many who predict that they will not vote actually do vote."

In the 2008 election, 13.3 percent of those who said they were almost certain to vote did not vote. Some 26 percent of those who said they would probably vote did not vote.

But the shocker is that 54.8 percent of those who said that they would not vote actually did go out and vote. Why is this important? Because when you tell a pollster or a campaign that you are not going to vote, they lose interest in you.

Why should a pollster bother asking you questions if you're not going to vote? Similarly, if you tell a campaign you are not going to vote, it is not going to send you literature or arrange to get you to your polling place on Election Day.

Why voters predict they will vote, but don't, requires further study, the paper says.

But one thing stands out about those who say they will not vote, but do: excitement.

Those who do not plan to vote get "aroused by the excitement of others." They discover that "many of their friends and family" are going to vote and get carried away by this "social influence" and end up in the voting booth.

Clearly, Romney therefore needs to become Mr. Excitement, an energizing, exhilarating, thrilling, motivating candidate.

Oh. Is that all?

To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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