Reëlection Watch: June 16, 2012
It’s been a more active past two weeks than one might previously have thought. In electoral vote land, one state has moved in the past two weeks, but expect to see more movement in the future as the zone for tossups narrows with the increasing number of polling data points and a decreasing amount of time for shifts.
So, how are things going for the President lately? Let’s dive in.
Much the same can be said for Congress’s approval spread, though there has been a now-visible slow but steady improvement over the past six months. The generic Congressional ballot mostly shows a trend of undecideds becoming decideds, though pretty equally to both parties.
The national popular vote matchup of Obama versus presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney appears to be tightening slightly, with Obama’s lead shrinking to less than a point. Both candidates continue to trend in tandem, though Obama has had a recent fall that wasn’t matched by Romney (hence the decline in Obama’s lead).
As of yesterday, Intrade had Obama at a 52.6 percent chance of reëlection, down two points from last time. The trend of deflating Intrade odds continues, and is rapidly approaching even odds.
Things are still in a pro-Obama state on the national scene, but just barely, and with a continuing trend moving toward an even race.
The unemployment rate rose in 18 states in May. However, the key state of Ohio had improving employment for its tenth straight month. This will give us an opportunity to see whether the national employment trends outweigh the local trends when voters are making their candidate choices. We need to see if Ohio outperforms the national trend for Obama over the next month or two.
I expected to see a bigger drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average before its rebound; it dropped another 100 points, and I predicted that it would bottom out about 400 points below that. It has rebounded about 700 points since its intraday low on June 4. The United States stock markets have been reacting strongly to activities in Europe, which suggests that its behavior is affected more by the whims of European government officials than by anything domestic. That said, domestic employment reports have also had an impact. I remain modestly confident that, absent some especially compelling evidence of a significant improvement in the US economy, the Dow will not rise above about 13,500 between now and the election.
In terms of oil, West Texas Intermediate crude is up slightly from its recent low of $83. It’s now at about $84, a one-percent rise. Brent crude (representing the European market), though, has fallen an additional two percent to $97. These numbers are indicative of stabilized prices, suggesting that recent economic shrinkage has come to an end. While the unseasonably low prices provide some fuel for economic growth, time is running out for any such growth to be reflected in the election. Unsurprisingly, gasoline has followed the oil price drop; the national average is $3.52 per gallon, down nine cents from two weeks ago, and 17 cents below the same week last year.
Natural gas prices are falling again, most likely a reflection of nearline storage approaching saturation, coupled with the naturally declining demand that comes with warmer summer temperatures. While the prices are still above their March bottom of two dollars per million British Thermal Units, they are rapidly approaching that price point again.
The recent economic dip appears to be coming to a close, with leading indicators pointing up, and trailing indicators pointing down. I’m increasingly certain that any economic improvements between now and November will not percolate into the vote, which means that Obama will have to abide by the current economy as his referendum yardstick. For this reason, I’ll be dropping the economic section soon, though it could return if a major shock occurs between now and the fall.
The Electoral College
As I mentioned above, I’ll be narrowing the Tossup zone from here on out, and widening the Likely zones. This is in part because we will have more polls in more states by more pollsters; more data points reduces sampling error and clarifies house biases. It’s also in part because things tend to stabilize in the summer in Presidential elections, and so we can be confident that, say, a ten-point lead for a candidate will not translate to a loss for that candidate in November.
For now, let’s see what the current Electoral College looks like, based on current polling data:
Here are the states with new data since last time, covering only those discussed around the Internet as “leans” or “tossups”, from reddest to bluest:
- South Carolina and Georgia shouldn’t even be mentioned, but Real Clear Politics has this funny notion that they are “Leans Romney” states. True, some very old South Carolina polls show small margins for Romney, but those polls date back to the time when South Carolinians believed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was going to be the Republican candidate. More recently, Georgia’s Romney polling margin is “only” about a dozen points. But it would take the movement of mountains to turn either of those states into anything near a tossup, let alone into Obama’s territory. They’re simply not credible as anything but safe Romney states.
- Indiana is a state that Obama captured by a whisker in 2008. While there hasn’t been much Presidential polling of Hoosiers, it’s hard to imagine Indiana going to Obama this time. And, if it does, the President will have a comfortable margin of electoral votes, rendering Indiana as anything but decisive in the upcoming election. I’m merely waiting for some polls to confirm that it should be colored dark red.
- Arizona is still being called a tossup by Real Clear Politics. With the now-clearer picture regarding Public Policy Polling shading a few points to the left, their most recent poll (mentioned last time), showing Romney with a seven-point edge, puts it far into “Leans Romney” territory…nearly as far as Indiana. Obama’s one play in the Grand Canyon state is a huge GOTV effort with Hispanics, and that’s probably not worth the effort. If Arizona is truly in play, then Obama has already safely made the requisite 270 electoral votes elsewhere.
- Missouri got a new Rasmussen poll, showing a seven-point Romney lead. Just as with the less-recent result from Public Policy Polling, it looks like Missouri’s on the border between “Tossup” and “Leans Romney”. If it’s still in the same spot in July, I’ll start coloring it light red.
- North Carolina has one new poll from Public Policy Polling, which shows a small lead for Romney, just like all of the others for the past month. Things appear to have stabilized among the Tarheels slightly on Romney’s side. Like Missouri, North Carolina is on the border between “Tossup” and “Leans Romney”.
- Florida, had two new polls, one from Purple Strategies and one from Public Policy Polling. The polls continue to straddle the even mark. However, with the more complete history on bias, it’s become clearer that the unbiased view puts Florida a couple of points into Romney territory. And it has stabilized there for a couple of months. It’s not as clearly in Romney’s camp as North Carolina, but it’s on the red side of the middle. I’m calling the Sunshine State a “Tossup”, but if pressed would call it “Leans Romney”. If Florida stays in this position through August, it will be painted light red.
- Iowa was polled by Rasmussen this week, and the Republican-leaning pollster found Romney with a mere one-point lead. The overall trend suggests that Iowa has a very slight lean to Obama, but not enough to overcome daily noise at this time.
- Ohio had one new poll from Purple Strategies, pointing to a two-point Romney lead. This one poll looks more like an outlier than a trend, but there’s something to consider here. Obama’s numbers have been steady, while Romney’s have been rising. This suggests that the Buckeye undecideds are breaking for Romney, a trend that we should watch closely.
- Colorado has two new polls, one from Purple Strategies and one from Rasmussen. Those two alone suggest a very slight lean to Obama. With the broader picture of more polls from the past month, it’s a state that I’d call for Obama if I couldn’t have any tossup states. But I can have tossups, so Colorado is purple.
- Nevada is in a similar position to Colorado. There’s only one new poll of late, from Public Policy Polling, and it gives Obama a six-point lead. But if you look at the longer view, it appears that Nevada has had a consistent three-point Obama edge for a few months. That’s small enough to still sit in Tossup land, but large enough to be bluer than Colorado.
- Virginia is a state where both Obama and Romney are accumulating undecided voters, and at roughly the same rate. This has been keeping Obama’s margin somewhat constant at about three points. This is consistent with the results of the three newest polls, from Purple Strategies, Quinnipiac, and Rasmussen. Virginia is roughly as strongly in Obama’s favor as North Carolina is in Romney’s.
- Oregon is worth a look. Nobody but Public Policy Polling has been there, and their last poll, from about a month ago, gives Obama a mere four-point edge. With PPP’s bias, that may put Oregon as far to the right as a point or two in Romney’s favor. I’m leaving Oregon as a “Leans Obama” state until we can get some numbers from someone else for comparison.
- Wisconsin was polled this week by WeAskAmerica, who found a five-point margin for Obama, on a Likely Voter model. This is consistent with other recent polls, giving us enough data points to be confident that Wisconsin belongs in the “Leans Obama” column.
- Michigan was polled four times in the past two weeks. Public Policy Polling shows Obama with a 14-point lead, while EPIC-MRA found Romney ahead by one. Baydoun/Foster indicated a one-point Obama margin, and Rasmussen came up with remarkable eight-point lead for the incumbent President. Reality is probably about an average of the four, keeping Michigan in “Leans Obama” territory.
- Pennsylvania has the opposite trend from Ohio; Romney’s numbers have been steady, while Obama’s are climbing. Quinnipiac and Franklin & Marshall show Obama with six– and 12-point leads, respectively. The Keystone State still “Leans Obama”.
- New Hampshire is called “Tossup” by Real Clear Politics. Even accounting for the Public Policy Polling’s bias, it looks more solidly “Leans Obama” than does Pennsylvania.
- Minnesota was polled recently by Public Policy Polling. Even accounting for PPP’s left bias, Minnesota is a solid Obama state, and there’s little reason to expect that to change. Like Arizona, Minnesota will not be a decisive state; if Romney wins here, he will have amassed a comfortable margin above 270 electoral votes.
While all of the bullet points above help to solidify the tallies in each column, only Wisconsin moved columns in the past two weeks, from “Tossup” to “Leans Obama”. Obama still needs 19 electoral votes (down from 29 last time) out of the 106 in the tossup group. Many combinations would get him there. Romney would still have to nearly run the table of tossups to eke out a victory.
It’s rapidly approaching tossup if you look at the national polls, but the Electoral College suggests that Obama continues to hold the edge. Recent weak employment reports do not appear to have had an impact on the states’ polling, either.
If I had to predict an Electoral College result, I’d put the dividing line in the above list between Florida and Iowa. That would give Obama 303, and Romney 235. In that scenario, Obama would be 62 votes shy of his 2008 tally.
- Electoral College map projection: Romney has real chance at victory (examiner.com)
- +6 Electoral College Votes: Brian Sandoval as VP Makes a Difference for Romney in Nevada (thepragmaticconservative.wordpress.com)
- Dems beginning to panic at Team Obama incompetence? (hotair.com)
- How Obama Could Lose the Vote But Win the Election (abcnews.go.com)
- Oh my: Romney and Obama now in a statistical tie — in Michigan (hotair.com)
- Reëlection Watch: June 2, 2012 (logarchism.com)