State polling for the Presidential race was a little quieter for a week, and then picked up sharply this week. The rhetoric, though, has been anything but quiet for both weeks, with the increased scrutiny of Team Red coming from presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s naming Representative Paul Ryan (R-Janesville, WI) as his running mate, and increased scrutiny of the social-conservative wing of the Republican Party. Has the addition of Ryan to the team affected the outcome projections? Are the social conservatives scaring moderates away from Romney? Let’s take a look.
President Barack Obama’s approval/disapproval rating in the Real Clear Politics average continues to oscillate right around zero, as it has been since the beginning of spring. The Right Track/Wrong Track polls also remain mostly steady. Unless these have a significant change between now and election day, this is the last time we look at them.
The long improvement in Congress’s approval spread seems to have reversed, heading back deeper into negative territory. It’s no longer a useful metric for the Presidential election, though, and so this is the last time we will look at it between now and election day. As promised last time, the generic Congressional ballot is gone from Reëlection Watch; it’s also not of much use to us at this stage.
In the national popular vote matchup of Obama versus presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the President’s lead has shrunk some in the past two weeks, manifesting itself in a topping out Obama and growth for Romney. The Romney growth has been entirely after announcing Ryan as his running mate. Since it’s common to have a post-announcement bump, this is hardly unexpected. Ordinarily, we would expect this to revert to the mean shortly, but any such reversion would be obscured by the convention bump that we can expect to see next week. The shift we saw last time in Obama’s number appears to be sticky, which I noted last time puts Obama in the territory of a confident national popular vote win. Obama’s lead over Romney today is a little greater than his lead over Senator John McCain on this date four years ago. By this date in 2004, Senator John Kerry’s lead over President George W. Bush had all but evaporated, and he never got it back.
Obama’s favorability polls remain pretty consistently over 50 percent favorable among “Americans” or “registered voters”. The two recent “likely voters” polls suggest that his favorables are a point or two below 50 percent. Still, whether you look at recent numbers or longer history, the President has positive favorability, even while his job approval has been lower. Romney’s favorability polls haven’t changed in a statistically significant manner over the long haul; aside from one clear outlier, he hasn’t broken 50 percent yet, regardless of the type of sample. Obama still has the edge here.
While these polls remain 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 57.2, down about a point and a half from last time. This is the first decrease after two straight months of increases. I believe this is merely a reflection of the Vice Presidential announcement bump, and we should expect to see reversion to the mean after things settle down from the two conventions.
Overall, things still look somewhat rosy for the incumbent President.
We’re back to examining the Republican candidate. Well, now it’s candidates, as we know who the Vice Presidential candidate will be, too.
We’ve already talked about Ryan a few times. In that regard, there’s little to add here. However, it’s worth reviewing the potential impact of his addition to the ticket. As has been pointed out by many, it is impossible to add Ryan into the mix without eliminating a lot of the ethereal nature of Romney’s campaign to date. Suddenly, hand-waving must be replaced by concrete fiscal discussion.
But, moreover, moving from the House to a heartbeat away from the White House invites a level of scrutiny few can truly appreciate. Ryan’s reputation as a hard-line fiscal conservative hasn’t matched up with a thorough review of his voting record. He has, in fact, voted in favor of Keynesian policy…and even spoke out in favor of it during the George W. Bush years. To his credit, he called his earlier support a mistake, but it’s impossible to determine whether his change of heart was caused by a change in the party of the White House occupant. If nothing else, his reputation of consistency in fiscal conservatism has been called into question.
That said, there is no chance that a hardcore fiscal conservative would choose Obama over Romney. It’s possible that some would be persuaded to stay home or vote for Libertarian candidate Ron Johnson, though that is likely to be a very, very small number.
As it stands, Ryan is likely to help get the reluctant Republican base to the polls, which helps Romney. At the same time, it comes at the cost of pushing moderates toward Obama. It’s hard to tell which will be the dominant force between the two, but it’s probably the right gamble, given that moderates weren’t particularly enthusiastic about Romney before the Ryan announcement.
In addition, unscripted actions like Representative Todd Akin’s (R-Wildwood, MO) recent comments regarding rape and pregnancy are forcing Romney to go off message and into damage control mode. Next week brings us the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and it will now be particularly difficult to bury the absolutist abortion plank of the party under the glossier, more generic sentiment that Romney has tried to hold in public. This may be especially true on Tuesday night, when former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum delivers his missive on social conservatism.
The Electoral College
This is the second August edition of Reëlection Watch. The Tossup and Leans bands will narrow again next time, after the conventions.
Here’s what the 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:
- Montana was polled again by Rasmussen, for the first time in two months, and Romney came out ahead by 17 points. It’s hard to lend credence to this large a margin there, given the overall poll history contour. The biggest problem I have with Montana polling is that it’s been handled exclusively by Rasmussen and Public Policy Polling, and we haven’t heard from the latter in four months. Nonetheless, the new poll gives me the opportunity to reevaluate Montana, and I’m moving it into the “Likely Romney” column. Even with all of the caveats I listed, I have little reason to believe that Montana will be sending its three electors to vote for Obama, though I doubt that the margin will end up in the high teens.
- Missouri was polled by SurveyUSA, who saw a one-point Romney lead, Public Policy Polling, who saw a ten-point unadjusted Romney lead (which adjusts to a dozen), and Rasmussen, who found Obama up by one (adjusting to a two-point Obama lead). This group is hard to interpret. SurveyUSA and Rasmussen are pretty far to the left of the historical trend, and PPP is a couple of points to the right of the trend. Before yesterday’s Rasmussen poll, I chalked it up to SurveyUSA being the outlier, and PPP the trend. Now I’m not so sure. SurveyUSA and Rasmussen have both had a recent history of swinging pretty wildly, which leaves me cautious to lending too much credence to them this time. For this reason, I’m leaving Missouri as a “Leans Romney” state, waiting for confirmation in a couple of weeks of which were the more accurate pollsters this time.
- Florida had five new polls in the past two weeks. Rasmussen saw an unadjusted two-point lead for Romney (translating to a one-point adjusted lead), and Gravis saw the same two point lead as Rasmussen. Purple Strategies found Romney up by one point (which adjusts to a one-point Obama lead). Relative unknown FMW/Baydoun concluded that Romney leads by an astonishing 15 points, so far outside the trend as to be an obvious outlier. Finally, CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac came away with an unadjusted three-point lead for Obama, which corresponds to a five-point adjusted lead. The overall recent view suggests a Ryan Bump of a couple of points, which history suggests should dissipate. Otherwise, the noise remains of larger magnitude than the margin, making it impossible to determine a leading candidate in the Sunshine State from polls alone. Florida remains a total enigma, and thus an up-the-middle “Tossup”. Still.
- Colorado was polled once more in the past two weeks. Purple Strategies came away with an unadjusted three-point lead for Obama, which is an adjusted five-point lead. This reinforces my belief from last time that the early-August CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll was an outlier. Colorado remains on the blue side of the middle, but within Tossup range.
- Virginia was polled by Public Policy Polling, who saw Obama up by five unadjusted points (two adjusted), Purple Strategies, who found Romney up by three unadjusted points (one adjusted), and Rasmussen, who saw an unadjusted tie (that’s a little over a point in Obama’s favor). Virginia is still on the blue side of a Tossup, but this round suggests that it might be closer than it looked two weeks ago.
- Nevada got polled by the Las Vegas Review-Journal/SurveyUSA , who came away seeing Obama ahead by two points, and Garin Hart Yang, who found Obama up by five. The SurveyUSA poll shows a smaller margin than the historical average, but by exactly the amount one would predict from the Ryan Bump. Garin Hart Yang didn’t see the bump, despite covering the first weekdays after the announcement. Since we can expect reversion to the mean, I don’t see any reason to move Nevada from its current “Leans Obama” designation, particularly on the grounds of a single poll.
- Ohio got five new polls this fortnight. Purple Strategies saw a two-point unadjusted Romney lead, which adjusts to a tie, while Rasmussen’s unadjusted tie adjusts to a one-point edge for Obama. Public Policy Polling, on the other hand, saw an unadjusted three-point Obama lead, which adjusts to almost a tie. And then there was CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac’s six-point unadjusted Obama lead (eight adjusted), and Ohio Poll/University of Cincinnati’s three-point Obama lead. Ohio’s polling has long been noisy, but the broader trend looks like Obama has the edge. Ohio remains a “Leans Obama” state.
- Michigan had three new polls in the past two weeks. Baydoun/Foster saw a four-point lead for Romney, while Mitchell Research and Detroit News saw the opposite, five and six points for Obama, respectively. Real Clear Politics is at times too quick to react to some data, and moved Michigan to “Tossup”. Looking at the broader trend, though, Baydoun/Foster is clearly the outlier this time, particularly considering how far off the mark they were in Florida as well. Michigan is still a “Leans Obama” state.
- Wisconsin was covered by five pollsters since last time. Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen both saw a one-point unadjusted lead for Romney, which adjusts to a four-point lead in the former case, and a tie in the latter. Marquette University, CNN/Opinion Research, and CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac on the other hand, found a three-, four-, and two-point unadjusted lead for Obama, respectively, which adjust down to a hair under one and two points for the first two, respectively, and up to four for Quinnipiac. Things moved a hair in the Romney direction, but one would expect a Ryan Bump, which implies that we’ll probably see things revert to the mean after the conventions die down. We’re not going to be able to tell for sure until a month from now, but in the meantime I’m going to go on historic trends. Wisconsin remains in the “Leans Obama” column.
- New Hampshire was polled by both Public Policy Polling and WMUR/University of New Hampshire. PPP saw an unadjusted three-point lead for Obama, which adjusts to a hair below four, while WMUR found Obama up by three. Both are in line with the historical trend, so there’s no reason to move New Hampshire out of the “Leans Obama” column.
- Pennsylvania was polled by Franklin & Marshall, who saw an unadjusted five-point Obama lead, corresponding to a three-point adjusted lead; and by The Morning Call, who saw a nine–point Obama lead. I thought last time that the CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll was an outlier, but it’s possible we’re witnessing a shift toward Obama. Pennsylvania remains a “Leans Obama” state for now, but another round like this one will make me move the Keystone State into the “Likely Obama” column. It was enough to move Pennsylvania below New Hampshire in this list.
- Connecticut was polled by Rasmussen, whose eight-point unadjusted Obama lead (adjusting to nine) is right in line with expectations. It stays “Likely Obama”.
New York and Oklahoma were also polled, but there are no surprises in either state, with margins approaching 30 points. I’ll leave it to you to guess who was on top in those polls.
In the past two weeks, fewer states of interest were polled than in the two prior weeks, but the most crucial states have gotten more attention. Montana was the only state to move, and it has been poised to do so for a while. No states changed sides or moved into or out of the “Tossup” group, though if I were more aggressive in responding to individual polls I could have moved Wisconsin and/or Ohio. Obama still ends up with a likely 275 electoral votes, based on my projection. That’s now six consecutive weeks where Obama could lose all tossups and still stay in the White House.
Romney’s Ryan Bump seems to have stopped the bleeding, but it remains to be seen if he can buck the historical trend and make the bump stick. Until we see evidence that he can, the Electoral College remains in Obama’s court.
If I had to predict an Electoral College result, I’d keep things exactly where they have been for the past six weeks. That prediction 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?
- NBC/WSJ poll: Heading into conventions, Obama has four-point lead (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- Reëlection Watch: August 11, 2012 (logarchism.com)
- Will big money save Mitt Romney and the GOP? (english.ruvr.ru)
- NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reveals 2012′s stark racial divide (thegrio.com)
- “That’s what happened when I was president” (salon.com)
- Poll: Ryan-As-Running-Mate Helps Romney In Wisconsin, But Just A Bit (npr.org)
- NBC/WSJ poll: President Barack Obama has 4-point lead over Mitt Romney — @NBCNews (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- Poll: Obama Has Big Lead With Latinos But Enthusiasm is Tepid (themoderatevoice.com)