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.

National Polls

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.

The Com­pe­ti­tion

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.

Con­clu­sion

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?