Polls A Mixed Bag This Election Season

Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz talks about the very latest polling on Tuesday's presidential elections with NPR's senior political correspondent Mara Liasson.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Our Mara Liasson is also standing by for us. Mara, what do you make of such different polling data from different organizations?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, this has been a difficult year for pollsters. I mean, even though we have a lot of national polls that show the race tied or, as Andy shows, with a point or two up for the president, some of them show a point or two up for Romney, the battleground state polls are, in many cases, all over the place.

We had a Tampa Times Tribune poll that showed Romney up six, and then we had a Wall Street Journal poll that showed the race dead even in Florida. So I think that part of the problem is the cellphone problem. More and more people are cellphone only, and it's harder to reach them. It's also hard to know what your model of the electorate is.

Is it going to look like 2008 when you had Democrats up by seven points, lots of minority voters, Hispanics, young people coming out? Or is it going to be an electorate that looks more like 2004 where the parties were about even?

RAZ: Let's talk a little bit more about battlegrounds. Where do they stand at the moment for each campaign?

LIASSON: Well, when you look at the battleground polls, the seven states that are going to matter for each candidate to get to 270 electoral votes, it looks like the president is up by a very small amount in most of them. The president sees the battleground for him as holding the line in Ohio and Wisconsin. The Midwest has become his firewall.

For Mitt Romney, he's trying to expand the battleground because if he doesn't win Ohio, he's going to have to make it up somewhere else. And that's why you see him going to Pennsylvania today. He's got to win Florida and Virginia and another big state like Ohio, and if he can't, he's got to go somewhere else.

And the Democrats just think that he's not going to be able to turn Pennsylvania. But the Republicans are trying and the polls have tightened there in recent days. And the Democrats sent Bill Clinton there just in case.

RAZ: Mara, let me ask you about Ohio because there are something like 200,000 provisional ballots that have been cast there. And if there isn't a decisive winner in that state, it could take up to 10 days to decide who won Ohio, right?

LIASSON: That's right. It could take up to 10 days because provisional ballots are not going to be counted right away. If somebody wins by fewer than the amount of outstanding provisional ballots, you're going to have to wait. In that case, we can only hope that the whole election doesn't just come down to Ohio as it has in the past because, otherwise, we're not going to have a winner for a while.

RAZ: And, Mara, it's been said that President Obama will win the popular vote in early voting but lose it on Election Day. Is that your sense?

LIASSON: That's possible. He did that in 2008. He got enough of his votes in early, and he could afford to lose the votes that were cast on Election Day. I think the more possible outcome is that he could lose the popular vote overall and win the Electoral College. It would be kind of like George W. Bush in 2000.

There are a lot of outcomes that we could have on Tuesday other than getting a clear winner in the popular vote and the Electoral College vote. You could have a split - Electoral College goes one way, popular vote goes the other. You could have a delay, as you mentioned. You could have a contested election just like Florida where there are all sorts of battles over voting machines and ballots. And several states have passed automatic recount laws since Florida in 2000 so that if either candidate wins by .5 percent or less, automatic recount.

RAZ: That's NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you, Guy.

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