My wife looked grief-stricken when I walked into the kitchen this morning. She was staring at her computer screen, and I worried that she’d received an email about a death in the family, or worse, that the Boston Red Sox had re-hired Bobby Valentine.
But she just got some bad poll numbers. Someone had tweeted Karl Rove saying that no one who’d ever been winning the Gallup poll among likely voters this late in an election had ever lost, and Gallup had Romney up 7. I’d just come down from that bad trip when I read Nate Silver’s blog post on The New York Times website that Gallup was a frequently inaccurate outlier and everyone else has the race basically tied. “He still says Obama’s got about a 70-percent chance of winning,” I told her. I might as well have told her to avoid the brown acid.
Hi, I’m Jason Stanford, and I’m a political junkie.
“Not everybody is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction. But it is. They are addicts, and they are guilty and they do lie and cheat and steal — like all junkies,” wrote Hunter S. Thompson. “And when they get in a frenzy, they will sacrifice anything and anybody to feed their cruel and stupid habit, and there is no cure for it. That is addictive thinking. That is politics — especially in presidential campaigns. That is when the addicts seize the high ground.”
I don’t want to get clean. I just want to know if we’re winning. If the polls are right, then Obama is beating Romney in early voting, which is good, right? But those who plan to vote on Election Day overwhelmingly support Romney. Augh! But as long as Obama holds his lead in Ohio, he wins, right? Not if Romney takes Iowa, though. On the other hand, Florida is a must-win for Republicans, and Obama is up among registered voters but losing among likely voters. Oh dear.
I yearn for the relative peace of the Cold War. Say what you will about the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, it was dependable. Getting yo-yoed by public polling has made me insane. I’d go to yoga to calm down, but I’m afraid that while everyone else was in downward dog, I’d stand up and shout, “What’s wrong with you people? Obama has fallen behind in Virginia!” It’ll be a moral victory for me if the only thing I punch in the next two weeks is a ballot.
This is what I get for linking my emotional wellbeing to the polls. I study them like a cardiologist looking at EKG results. Obama’s job approval rating is over 50 percent! Romney’s favorables are underwater! I compulsively recheck swing state polls during the day, seeing the South slip away and hoping that a Rust Belt firewall is forming. I can recite Electoral College scenarios with annoying alacrity, and my prize for this treasure trove of information is a constant state of nauseating anxiety.
Instead of a break, I keep looking for my next fix. I even spent time this morning watching Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan riff with Michelle Obama about Malia’s first homecoming dance and whether the First Lady prefers the President in boxers or briefs. “None of the above,” she said. What? No! I panicked that Michelle’s joke tanked among swing voters, but then I calmed myself with the idea that maybe it was helping him with schwing voters.
If you’re not like me, there’s still hope for you. Pay no heed to the polls and the pundits in the last two weeks left in the campaign. We’re in the fog of war when reliable intelligence is hard to come by, and the only productive thing to do is reload. If you want your guy to win, get off the couch and get out the vote.
Of course, what do I know? I’m the idiot who thought Rick Perry was going to be the Republican nominee.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen Members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @jasstanford.