Time to stop being a wuss. I will take my chances and say it straight out: I think Romney is going to win - not just the popular vote but the electoral college as well. Why do I believe this? Not just because I am persuaded by one set of statistical analysts as opposed to another, although Michael Barone is the psephologist whom I would trust with my electoral life if I were a candidate - and he is predicting a comfortable win for Romney. And it is worth making clear that disagreeing with the state polls is not simply a species of Republican wishful thinking. Most of the major polling organisations are over-sampling Democrats deliberately in states where they believe that this corresponds to actual voter numbers. But the assumptions on which the over-representation of Democrats are based may be out of date, or false for more subtle reasons which I will proceed to elaborate.
So no, it isn't just arcane number-crunching that leads me to the conclusion that hardly dares to speak its name. It is something far more indefinable: something which those of us who have been engaged with politics for half a century or so are inclined to trust. As that brilliantly perceptive commentator Peggy Noonan has said, Obama's campaign does not look or feel like it is winning - and Mitt Romney's does. The turnouts and atmosphere at Obama events are rather pitiful by comparison to the tremendous, ecstatic receptions that are greeting Romney and they are notably pitiful by comparison to the thunderous Obama pre-victory march across the country in 2008. He and his surrogates (even the still hugely popular Bill Clinton) have often played to half-empty venues. It seems that only by offering a free pop concert with A-listers like Bruce Springsteen, or a Hollywood celebrity fest, can the President pull really large crowds. And those crowds, if my television screen is to be believed, consist overwhelmingly of kids who scream for Springsteen and the rap artist Jay-Z as enthusiastically as they do for the President.
We have had some experience of this sort of phenomenon in Britain. Remember Cleggmania? That too depended on the noisy support of young voters who proclaimed their passionate commitment to their hero - and then didn't bother to turn up and vote. It seemed that the political frenzy was more a generational bonding experience than a serious intention to affect the future of the country. Romney's enormous crowds, on the other hand, are composed of grown-ups - and if they are prepared to wait for hours in the freezing cold to see their candidate (without an accompanying entourage of celebrities), then my guess is that they will also turn out to vote.
So I will take my chances and stake my claim. At least if I am right, I will have the satisfaction of having put it on the record. Way back in 1992, I was absolutely convinced that John Major was going to beat Neil Kinnock - against all the evidence of the polls and the overwhelming received wisdom of the media. I pleaded with the newspaper for whom I worked (not this one) to let me write a piece saying as much. But they refused: it was just too preposterous an idea. So I lost my chance to be the only political journalist to have made a correct prediction of that momentous election in print. Wouldn't want that to happen again.
Janet Daley was born in America where she began her political life on the Left as an undergraduate at Berkeley. She moved to Britain (and to the Right) in 1965 where she spent nearly twenty years in academic life before becoming a political commentator: all factors that inform her writing on British and American policy and politicians.