William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE RACE THREE DAYS OUT – AT 9:56 A.M. ET:  Rasmussen has just posted his daily tracker, showing the race tied at 48% each.  While that's a bit discouraging, considering that Romney was ahead by two early in the week, there's a bit of sunshine:  The incumbent president is below 50%.

Those are national popular figures, essentially irrelevant to the main contest, the electoral vote, the only one that counts.  There Rasmussen still has it as 237 Obama, 206 Romney.  However, Ras still rates Florida a toss-up.  We would give it to Romney.  Ras also rates Virginia a toss-up.  It's been slightly Romney, but a bit wobbly.  There's some concern on the Romney side about snowfall in western Virginia, a Romney stronghold.

Ras has the critical state of Ohio deadlocked.  We consider that good news.  We believe GOP turnout on election day can win Ohio.

Ras has Obama five points ahead in Democratic Michigan, the closest it's been all year.  But Obama will probably take Michigan, and I see that the Romney people aren't campaigning there.  They are campaigning in Pennsylvania, where they have a shot.  Mitt is going to the Philadelphia suburbs, where support for Obama is diminishing.

But there is trouble:  Rasmussen constantly tells us that a president's approval rating is a good predictor of what will happen on election day.  Obama's approval rating has risen slowly, but constantly, during the last month, and stands at 51%.  Disapproval stands at 48%.  That is a reversal from substantial disapproval earlier in the year.  It is one indicator that Obama can squeeze by on Tuesday, something we're genuinely concerned about.

Why the increased approval?  Obama's perceived "handling" of Hurricane Sandy may be one factor.  However, the chaos that erupted in the northeast after Obama's photo ops with Chris Christie may erase the warm feeling.  In fact, more honest journalists have noted here that FEMA, much criticized after Katrina, has done a poor job in this hurricane, especially with its failure to provide enough generators. 

We'll be getting polling all weekend, and probably into Tuesday morning.  The race is too close to call.  Most polls, national and state, give it to Obama, by about the same percentages as in Rasmussen's approval survey.  But there are powerful signs in favor of Romney as well, such as lower Dem turnout in early voting, as compared with 2008.

A factor that looms large:  the obvious press bias.  It has to make a difference.  In a close race like this, it can make the difference.

November 3,  2012