The pollster for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicted Monday that 130 million people – the highest percentage of eligible voters in American history – will turn out in this presidential election.
“Turn-out IS going to go through the roof,” McCain’s pollster, Bill McInturff, says in a strategy memo released to the press. “Last night, 81% of voters described their interest in this election as a 10! Wow.”
McInturff says he thinks traditionally Republican states are “MUCH more competitive than is generally believed by the media,” and says McCain’s salvation will come from “’Wal-Mart women” — women without a college degree, in households making under $60,000 a year.
The case McInturff makes is much more optimistic than anything detected by outside pollsters or analysts.
High turnout of motivated new voters has long been viewed by strategists for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as his key to victory.
But McInturff maintains that the new record will not be disastrous for his candidate because all types of voters will surge, not just young people and African-Americans.
“I now believe turn-out will begin to approach levels not seen since other comparable presidential campaigns in 1960 and 1968,” McInturff wrote. “In today’s terms, that could mean breaking the barrier of 130 million voters!”
That would be up from 122 million in 2004, a turnout rate of 60.7 percent of those eligible to vote. The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate said that was the highest turnout since 1968, when 61.9 percent of eligible voters turned out.
“There is simply no model that begins to know or predict the composition of the electorate at this level of turn-out,” McInturff continued.
“My own view … and our own weights in our surveys … reflect a belief that African American turn-out will be at historic levels, there will be a significant boost with voters 18 to 29 years old, yet the overall high level of turn-out will begin to mute the increase in the percentage these sub-groups represent in the overall electorate.”
McInturff, the lead pollster for McCain-Palin 2008 and a partner in Public Opinion Strategies, wrote to the “McCain Strategy Team” in a memo titled “State of the Race and Ballot Position”: “First, let’s be clear: This is a hard election to ‘predict.’
“The historic nature of the candidates on both tickets, the huge influx of unregulated money by the Obama campaign, the dour public mood, and the unique level of voter interest all suggest an historic level of turn-out, not witnessed in over 40 years.”
But McInturff asserted the McCain, lagging in polls nationally and in key states, “has made impressive strides over the last week of tracking.”
“The campaign is functionally tied across the battleground states … with our numbers improving sharply,” he wrote. “The race has moved significantly over the past week, closing to essentially tied. ... [W]e are witnessing an impressive ‘pop’ with Independent voters.”
McInturff said these gains have come from “Non-college men,” “Rural voters, both men and women, “Right-to-life voters” and “soft Democrats.”
“[O]ur long identified target of ‘Walmart women’ – those women without a college degree in households under $60,000 a year in income are also swinging back solidly in our direction,” he wrote.
“It is not surprising we are witnessing this closing as we are finally having an opportunity to run a campaign that focuses on Senator Obama’s record on taxes and his lack of experience,” McInturff added.
“This has been the week where ‘Joe the Plumber’ has literally become a household name. … The campaign’s relentless focus has helped strengthen our margins on the issue of taxes and broadened as well to the attribute of handling the economy and jobs.”
As a sign of hope, McInturff added: “There is more elasticity in this campaign than is imagined.”
McInturff says he believes that “older, downscale, more rural, and … economically stressed” voters who “are quite negative about the direction of country and seek change … have significant hesitations about Senator Obama’s experience and judgment.”
“[I]t is my sense these voters WILL vote in this election and WILL break decisively in our direction,” he wrote.
“Senator Obama’s numbers are different than anything we have ever seen before among African Americans. In most polls, McCain is losing these African American voters by margins like 97% to 1%.”
“[T]his means the only undecided/refuse to respond voters are white and Latino,” McInturff said. “I am becoming increasingly persuaded it will be very difficult for Senator Obama to perform much above his percentage of the vote in a state. This puts any number of historically red states very much ‘in play’ and MUCH more competitive than is generally believed by the media.”