Reëlection Watch: June 30, 2012
This is the first edition of Reëlection Watch after the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare. It’s too early to see any significant effects, though. And, being the last day of June, it’s the last day in which I use the broadest ranges for tossups. In electoral vote land, a couple of states changed columns in the past two weeks.
So, how are things going for the President lately? Let’s dive in.
Still no change in Obama’s approval/disapproval rating in the Real Clear Politics average. It’s been the same story for the past few months. The Right Track/Wrong Track polls suggest a slight worsening trend, though not by much.
The improvement in Congress’s approval spread continues, as it has for half a year now. The generic Congressional ballot which had until recently shown a trend of undecideds becoming decideds, saw a recent decline for Republicans. It hasn’t gone on long enough to call it a trend yet, but it’s something to watch for as we head into summer.
This shift appears to be echoed in the national popular vote matchup of Obama versus presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney. It’s been a noisy month, though, so again this may not be indicative of a trend.
I’m adding a new segment, starting in this edition, on favorability ratings. Real Clear Politics is tracking them for both Obama and Romney. While the spread is interesting to look at, the favorables are more indicative than unfavorables when it comes to the vote tally. Favorable translates to a vote, while unfavorable translates to a non-vote; as such, high unfavorables for both major candidates is more likely indicative of a lower turnout than of an assured victory for either candidate.
Obama’s favorables have been at least 50 percent very consistently on polls of “Americans” or “registered voters”, but less so on polls of “likely voters”. Then again, there have been so few “likely voter” polls of Obama’s favorability that there aren’t enough data points to tease the signal from the noise. Favorables above 50 percent are highly correlated with winning an election if the opposing candidate doesn’t have similarly high favorables. Romney’s favorable rating has yet to crest above 50 percent on any poll. In every poll where he and Obama appear on the same poll, his favorable rating is lower than Obama’s.
While these polls are highly suggestive of an Obama victory, they are typically farther removed from the key signal of electoral votes than are many other indicators. We’ll hit the others down below.
As of yesterday, Intrade had Obama at a 54.1 percent chance of reëlection, up two points from last time. This is the first increase in some time, with the rise beginning about ten days ago.
Things remain in a pro-Obama state on the national scene, and might possibly be improving. We’ll have to wait until next time to see if it’s noise or a trend.
Unemployment compensation claims fell slightly recently, though not enough to matter in terms of improving the economy this summer. We’re pretty much at the end of employment numbers having an impact on the upcoming election, barring a huge swing in one direction or the other between now and October, an unlikely event.
Euro jitters continue to impact the United States stock markets; the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped last week and then recovered this week to close where it was two weeks ago. Overall, the shape of the market trends suggests that 13,500 (or perhaps a few hundred points below that) is still the ceiling for the Dow until there is some especially compelling evidence of a significant improvement in the US economy.
Oil prices continue to stay low, relative to our recent peak. West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude are essentially unchanged for the past two weeks at $84 and $97, respectively. 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 continued to fall after the oil price drop; the national average is $3.35 per gallon, down 17 cents from two weeks ago, and 19 cents below the same week last year.
Natural gas prices still falling, 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, and at current trends will reach that price by the end of July.
The recent economic dip appears to have come to a close, with leading indicators pointing up, and trailing indicators stabilizing. I continue to believe 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, this is the last installment of the economic section, unless a major shock occurs between now and the fall.
The Electoral College
As I mentioned above, I’ll be narrowing the Tossup zone starting in our next installment, and widening the Likely zones.
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 are still “Leans Romney” to Real Clear Politics, and I still think they’re nuts.
- Arizona went back to the “Leans Romney” column in the land of Real Clear Politics. Rasmussen’s latest poll gives Romney a 13-point unadjusted lead (which adjusts to about 11 points). This confirms my beliefs from last time, that Arizona is nearly as far into “Leans Romney” territory as Indiana. This is not going to be a decisive state in the election.
- Montana had a new poll from Rasmussen, showing an adjusted seven-point Romney lead. That margin would leave the state in “Leans Romney” territory until late summer if it stays pretty steady.
- North Carolina has two new polls, one from Rasmussen and one from NBC News/Marist. Accounting for their biases, they line up with the others of the past month, slightly on Romney’s side. North Carolina is near the border between “Tossup” and “Leans Romney”, though far enough away to stay in “Tossup” until probably October, at the current rate.
- Florida, had a new poll from Quinnipiac, though its adjusted Obama lead of four points makes it seem like an outlier. Absent more polls to confirm Quinnipiac’s shift, I’m leaving the Sunshine State a “Tossup”.
- Iowa was polled by WeAskAmerica this week, who found Obama with a mere one-point lead. This confirms the recent overall trend suggesting that Iowa has a very slight lean to Obama, but not enough to overcome daily noise. If this position remains the same, Iowa will be a tossup right to election night.
- Ohio had two new polls, one from Quinnipiac, showing an adjusted nine-point Obama lead, and one from Public Policy Polling, showing an adjusted tossup. The polls in the Buckeye state have been all over the map, suggesting a high degree of error overall. This makes Ohio a tossup only because the noise appears to be drowning out any signal.
- New Hampshire is being called “Tossup” by Real Clear Politics. With two new polls, one from NBC News/Marist, showing an adjusted four-point Romney lead, and one from Rasmussen, showing a six-point Obama lead, it appears that they may be right. The data seem about as noisy as Ohio’s, though I consider New Hampshire just a shade bluer than Ohio.
- Colorado has two new polls, one from WeAskAmerica, who indicates a four-point Obama lead, and one from Public Policy Polling, who indicates a two-point adjusted lead for Obama. Those two match the recent trend of a slight lean to Obama. If this persists until early October, I’ll consider Colorado a Leans Obama state. For now, though, it’s still a Tossup.
- Michigan was polled three times in the past two weeks, making for seven in the past month. NBC News/Marist shows an adjusted tie, Mitchell Research found Obama ahead by one, and WeAskAmerica indicated a two-point Romney margin. Collectively, this suggests that the Rasmussen poll from last time was an outlier. Michigan moves up the list considerably this month, and is now among the Tossups.
- Virginia got only one new poll since last time, from WeAskAmerica, who found a five point lead for Romney. This is far enough from the recent trends to suggest that the poll is an outlier. Absent more data to support WeAskAmerica, Virginia remains on the blue end of the Tossup range.
- Oregon was polled again by Public Policy Polling, this time giving enough of an edge to Obama to keep it as a “Leans Obama” state. It appears their previous poll was an outlier, based on the broader trends.
- Wisconsin was polled recently by Marquette University, who showed a six-point lead for Obama on a Likely Voter model (we don’t have enough data to adjust for house bias) and Rasmussen, who had an adjusted one-point margin for Obama. Based on collective recent data, Rasmussen looks like an outlier here. I’m still confident that Wisconsin belongs in the “Leans Obama” column.
- Maine had a recent poll from WBUR/MassINC, who found a 14-point Obama lead in a Likely Voter model. If this gets confirmed by some other pollsters, Maine will move from “Leans Obama” to “Likely Obama” starting in July.
In the past two weeks, both Michigan and New Hampshire moved from “Leans Obama” to “Tossup”. Obama now needs 39 electoral votes (up from 19 last time) out of the 126 in the tossup group. If my ordering is correct, the dividing line would have to be above New Hampshire for an Obama win, and below New Hampshire for a Romney win. Yes, Romney could win Florida and Ohio, and still lose the election.
Romney’s rise in the national polls appears to be reaching a ceiling, at least for now, but the Electoral College shifted slightly in his favor. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court decisions on Arizona’s immigration law and Obamacare impact the polls over the next few weeks.
If I had to predict an Electoral College result, I’d still 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.
How do you feel about these predictions? Do you differ on them? If so, how, where, and why?
- Reëlection Watch: June 16, 2012 (logarchism.com)
- Bain Pain: Poll shows swing state voters sour on Romney’s CEO record (dailykos.com)
- Ed Koch, Former Obama Critic, Wants Him Reëlected (alan.com)
- Poll: Romney trounced in Massachusetts (dailykos.com)
- DEM POLL: Obama slips in Ohio… (politico.com)
- Will Obama’s New Immigration Policy Turn Into An Oops Moment? (conservativesonfire.wordpress.com)
- New Republic: Obama’s Twofold Strategy (wnyc.org)
- Poll: Obama has edge in three battlegrounds (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)