Forget the polls. This election is far from over for Democrats.
As campaign manager for former Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, I spent the final days of the election desperately trying to increase voter turnout in key counties in battleground states and recruiting more canvassers to help us get out the vote. While our media strategists had completed their work and the final tracking polls came in, it was my job to reach people where they live, work, play or pray.
With only days left in the 2022 midterm political cycle, any campaign manager worth his or her reputation is now experiencing “crunch time.” Volunteers have what they need: canvass lists of infrequent voters, phone numbers, scripted text messages and posters to put up around key precincts cross their communities. Now is the time for candidates to focus on their closing messages to voters.
There’s no question with so many polls – tracking polls, individual candidate polling, aggregate polling – that some voters are likely to start tuning out rather than getting ahead of the crowd by voting early or filling out their ballots and returning them before the deadline.
But no matter where candidates stand in the most recent poll, it’s not over. It’s never done until the voting has ended and the counting gets underway.
No one really knows what Election Day will bring
Despite many predictions that Republicans will capture control of the U.S. House and are in contention to win a Senate majority, no one knows for sure what will happen. The same goes for predictions in races for governor and other state and local contests.
Remember 2016? Almost no pollsters and pundits predicted Donald Trump would defeat Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In fact, an analysis by The New York Times updated on its website at 10:20 p.m. ET on Nov. 8, 2016 – election night, when polls in the eastern half of the country were closed – boldly stated: “Hillary Clinton has an 85% chance to win.”
There are many other examples of polls and political forecasts coming up short.
A danger of the intense media focus on polls is that simply reporting poll results can discourage people from voting, altering the outcome of elections. Hearing their favored candidate has a sizable lead or trails badly in a race inevitably convinces some voters that their vote doesn’t matter.
We’re addicted to midterm election polls: And it’s not doing us any good.
Key variables in every election poll involve who is polled and the expected size of voter turnout. To be accurate, the small group of people polled must mirror the makeup of the far larger number of people who actually vote. And, of course, views people hold when polled may change by the time they vote.
While the national news media understandably focuses on candidate positions on national issues in their coverage, many voters look to candidate positions on state and local issues when deciding whom to support, particularly when it comes to candidates for governor and other state offices. Candidates need to keep that in mind. They need to increase their visibility and make one last plea to voters to help them.
Although nothing is certain, a wave election – where one party picks up a large number of offices – seems unlikely this year because Democrats and Republicans are both showing strength in different states and congressional districts. Wave elections aren’t a series of landslides, but a series of close races that primarily break for the same party.
Voter turnout is traditionally lower in midterm elections than in presidential election years. But that may not be the case this year, if strong early voter turnout in Georgia and other states is any indicator. Large turnouts usually benefit Democrats. But Republicans know how to get out their vote, including infrequent voters in rural areas and many independent voters who might not be inclined to vote for either major party.
That’s the wild card in 2022: Voter turnout and voter choices could come down to which candidate reached out to them, not by advertising on TV or their favorite digital platform but by visiting their neighborhood, speaking their language and understanding their concerns.
Final 96 hours are critical
The question now is how many young voters, independent voters and nonaligned voters will decide not to stay home but to take a chance to vote for the candidate they believe speaks to their concerns. This is why the final 96 hours are vital as a few undecided voters will decide to vote.
Gen Z could swing election – if they vote: As Gen Z, we’re told we will ‘fix everything.’ Voting in the midterms is the first step.
I believe in democracy, so I hope as many Americans as possible vote in coming days, even if they vote for candidates I might oppose. To keep our democracy healthy, we need voters to vote. We need to respect the right of every eligible citizen to cast their ballot without intimidation or threats of violence.
We also need candidates and voters alike to accept the election results. I’ll accept the November election results even if Republicans come out on top, just as I did in 2000 when I was campaign manager for Vice President Gore and joined him in accepting his narrow presidential election defeat by George W. Bush. Trump is the only presidential candidate in American history to refuse to accept his election loss.
Are politics to blame for our polarization?: Red and blue America don’t trust each other. And that’s driving us dangerously apart.
So, it’s not over. We need to remember that polls don’t decide elections; voters do.
Following election news is important, but actually participating in elections is far more important. As the old saying goes, politics isn’t a spectator sport. Get out of the stands and get onto the political playing field.
Donna Brazile is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, an ABC News contributor and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She previously served as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, and managed the Gore campaign in 2000.