Reëlection Watch: July 14, 2012
Things are heating up in the Presidential race, and probably will continue to do so for the next four months. Though polling was lighter than usual over the past two weeks, the latest round has helped to confirm my suspicions of outliers from two weeks ago, and served to move one state.
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 of oscillation right around zero for the past few months, with no discernible trend. The slight worsening in the Right Track/Wrong Track polls I mentioned last time appears to have peaked. It has, thus far, proven to be but a tiny blip.
The improvement in Congress’s approval spread continues its slow and steady pace. The sharp decline I mentioned last time for Republicans in the generic Congressional ballot has since been echoed by the Democrats, taking people out of the decided columns and returning them to the undecided column. We’re getting more frequent polling on this metric, so we can expect the noise to diminish over the next month or two. It does look mighty close, either way.
In the national popular vote matchup of Obama versus presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the President maintains his narrow lead, which appears to be stabilizing at a couple of points. However, keep in mind that there are enough people in the undecided column to exceed by a factor of four the gap between the two candidates.
Obama’s favorability polls continue to be generally over 50 percent favorable among “Americans” or “registered voters”, but less so on polls of “likely voters”. Quinnipiac had one worse than that trend, and Newsweek/Daily Beast had one better, which makes them appear to be marginally off the mark on either side. Romney’s favorable rating still has yet to crest above 50 percent on any poll, though he’s come close a few times. Both the Quinnipiac and Newsweek/Daily Beast polls show the same differences for Romney that they showed for Obama (i.e., Quinnipiac showed Romney worse than the trend, and Newsweek/Daily Beast better). In every poll where he and Obama appear on the same poll, his favorable rating continues to be 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 55.7 percent chance of reëlection, up three and a half points from last time. This is the second increase in a row, and big enough to indicate a trend, reversing his April-through-June decline.
Things remain in a pro-Obama state on the national scene, and appear to be improving. It’s showing the glimmerings of a trend; we’ll keep an eye on this one.
I haven’t had much reason for this section to appear in a while, but it’s time to take a closer look at Mitt Romney, in terms of his own potential as a general election candidate. As I mentioned above, his favorable ratings have consistently been lukewarm. His supporters seem to be more anti-Obama than pro-Romney, which is a problem for the challenger. A Presidential candidate badly needs to get voters to be enthusiastic to head to the polls and cast a vote.
And yet, over the past two weeks, Americans are frequently being reminded of why they aren’t enthusiastic about the former Governor of Massachusetts.
On the Supreme Court decision regarding Obamacare, he referred to the individual mandate as a tax, yet claimed that the same mandate enacted at the state level is not a tax. While a policy wonk can readily comprehend how this is possible (and to one who is able to comprehend this, the argument is unconvincing), the typical American is left bewildered. Even many of Romney’s supporters are left with a feeling that he’s being dishonest.
In a similar fashion, the question of when he departed Bain Capital smacks of dishonesty. Either he left in early 1999, in which case he wasn’t eligible to run for Governor in Massachusetts when he did (he would have been a resident of Utah), or he left a couple of years later, in which case he was involved in offshoring jobs and investing in a company that sold aborted fetuses. His filings with the SEC suggest a later departure.
All together, this is painting a picture that lines up with the existing meme that Romney is unprincipled, and says whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear. Whether it’s true or not, it takes twice as much work to undo that sort of damage as to cause it.
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:
You’ll notice the list below is much shorter than last time. Many states have not been polled in the past two weeks. 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:
- North Carolina has three new polls. Republican-sponsored Civitas found a five-point lead for Romney among registered voters. Democratic-sponsored Project New America/Myers indicated a one-point lead for Romney among likely voters. And Public Policy Polling came up with a one-point lead for Obama (corresponding to an adjusted five-point lead for Romney). This is in line with what we’ve been seeing for a while among Tar Heels. North Carolina is near the border between “Tossup” and “Leans Romney”, though just far enough away to stay in “Tossup” until probably October, at the current rate.
- Florida had two new polls, one from WeAskAmerica and one from Rasmussen. WeAskAmerica found a one-point lead for Obama, and Rasmussen a one-point lead for Romney (which adjusts to almost a point for Obama), both among likely voters. A margin that narrow is statistically indistinguishable from a tossup, even if on the day before the election. Florida today is exactly where Iowa was two weeks ago.
- Virginia got only one new poll since last time, from Public Policy Polling, who found an eight point raw lead for Obama (translating to an adjusted five points). This is close enough to the trend to confirm that the WeAskAmerica poll I mentioned two weeks ago was, indeed, an outlier. Virginia remains on the blue end of the Tossup range.
- Wisconsin was polled again by Marquette University, who now shows an eight-point lead for Obama on a Likely Voter model (they had six points last time) and Public Policy Polling, who had a raw six-point lead for Obama (this adjusts to three points). As I suggested last time, Rasmussen’s adjusted two-point lead for Romney appeared to be an outlier. The additional data confirm this; I remain confident that Wisconsin belongs in the “Leans Obama” column, though Real Clear Politics believes it to be a tossup.
- Pennsylvania has a new poll from WeAskAmerica, whose Likely Voter model shows Obama with a seven-point lead. This matches the long-standing trend, and confirms that the Keystone State is a “Leans Obama” state.
- Maine had a recent poll from Critical Insights, who found a 14-point Obama lead in a Registered Voter model. This is the confirmation I was looking for last time; both Real Clear Politics and Logarchism are moving Maine to “Likely Obama”.
In the past two weeks, only Maine has moved, from “Leans Obama” to “Likely Obama”. Some of this comes from the low number of tossup and leaning states that were polled since last time. Nonetheless, Obama still needs 39 electoral votes out of the 126 in the tossup group.
Romney’s rise in the national polls still appears to be reaching a ceiling, at least for now. The Electoral College is showing early signs of moving in Obama’s direction. Thus far, the Supreme Court opinions at the end of their term do not appear to be having an impact.
If I had to predict an Electoral College result, I’d keep things exactly where they were last time. 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 30, 2012 (logarchism.com)
- Obama Leads Romney Nationally, Boosted By Unmarried Voters: Poll — Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com)
- From bad to worse with blue-collar men for Obama (decoded.nationaljournal.com)
- Poll of Polls: Obama ahead of Romney, but slightly (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- New Pew poll shows Obama up by seven points on Romney in national race (examiner.com)
- Marriage gap fuels Obama’s lead over Romney: poll (news.yahoo.com)
- Poll: Married and unmarried voters don’t see eye to eye over election (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- Obama Slips With Latino Voters: Quinnipiac Poll (huffingtonpost.com)