Reëlection Watch: September 29, 2012
Now that polls are coming out at a furious pace, we too are stepping up the pace of Reëlection Watches, to a weekly schedule.
What’s the latest on the upcoming Presidential election? Let’s dive in and see.
In the national popular vote matchup of President Barack Obama versus Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the President’s lead has grown to its largest level since early April. Unlike his April lead, though, we’re now seeing a number of polls with Obama garnering 50 percent of respondents, making this new lead carry significantly more weight than that of the spring. Obama’s lead over Romney comfortably exceeds that of President George W. Bush over Senator John Kerry on this date eight years ago, but is just over half the size of his lead over Senator John McCain four years ago.
Obama’s favorability polls remain very good, with most exceeding 50 percent. Romney’s favorability polls have improved somewhat, but he still has been unable to break the 50 percent ceiling. Obama has consistently held a three to five percent edge over Romney all year.
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 79, up 7.6 points from last week. The past three weeks have shown the largest shift since the Intrade Obama reëlection market opened.
Overall, things look very good for the incumbent President at the national level.
Not much has changed on the Republican front. Mitt Romney is still having difficulty digging out from under his Mitticulous reputation. This week, he ran a new advertisement, and for the first time spoke directly to the camera. That is, this was the first ad he ran where he was talking directly to Americans. Good for him, since he needs to connect with American voters to win, particularly after last week’s “47 percent” débâcle.
But there’s something wrong with the ad. Let’s look at the transcript.
Too many Americans are struggling to find work in today’s economy. Too many of those who are working are living paycheck to paycheck, trying to make falling incomes meet rising prices for food and gas. More Americans are living in poverty than when President Obama took office and 15 million more are on food stamps. President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is my policies will make things better for them. We shouldn’t measure compassion by how many people are on welfare. We should measure compassion by how many people are able to get off welfare and get a good paying job. My plan will create 12 million new jobs over the next four years—helping lift families out of poverty and strengthening the middle class. I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message because we can’t afford another four years like the last four years.
Romney’s talking to the audience about…somebody else. Notice how the word “you” never appears? When he’s talking about what he’s going to do, he’s not talking about what he’s going to do for the people watching the ad. “..[M]y policies will make things better for them.” Not for you…for them.
This is, in a nutshell, the core problem Romney has in connecting. It highlights his worldview (or at least the meme of his worldview), that Romney supporters are not the poor or middle-class families. The problem he has is that a significant percentage of those who support him (or at least supported him before this past month) are poor or middle-class families. If you look at the crosstabs in those polls that provide them, his supporters have crossed many income lines. Sure, the highest-income families are most likely to vote for him, but if your election strategy is to dominate the top five percent and drive away the other 95 percent, you’re going to lose.
The polls have opened in 21 states. At least, the home polls have. Absentee ballots are now able to be submitted in Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Of them, the ones of most interest in the battle are Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin; we need to pay especially careful attention to those three state’s polls from here on out.
A total of 37 states allow for no-fault absentee ballots, and the remaining 16 are spread over the next 18 days. Next week’s batch includes the critical states of Ohio and Florida.
The Electoral College
Here’s what the Electoral College looks like, based on current polling data:
Here are the 15 states with new data since last time, covering only those discussed around the Internet as “leans” or “tossups”, from reddest to bluest:
- Arizona got back on the list last week, because there was a hint of evidence that the race was tightening in the Grand Canyon State. The latest Rasmussen poll, showing Romney with a ten point lead, suggests otherwise. Arizona remains “Likely Romney”.
- Indiana finally got polled again, and once again it’s Howey/DuPauw, who sees a dozen point lead for Romney. If it weren’t such a sparsely-polled state, I’d move Indiana to “Likely Romney”, but the error bars are huge here. My gut calls it “Likely Romney”, but the model doesn’t support that.
- North Carolina was twice polled in the past week. Civitas saw a four point Obama lead, while NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist found Obama up by two (which adjusts to a tie). North Carolina is still a “Leans Romney” state, but barely; it’s quickly moving to “Tossup” territory.
- Iowa was polled by three firms in the past week. American Research Group and Public Policy Polling saw Obama leads of seven points each, though PPP’s adjusts to five for house bias. The Iowa Republican, a conservative media site, commissioned a poll from Voter/Consumer Research, who acknowledges adjusting its poll in a fashion akin to that of Dean Chambers’s Unskewed Polls. Even with that intentional bias, Romney leads by a mere point. Iowa is now on the far blue end of “Tossup”, which gives Obama a slight edge now that Iowans can vote by absentee ballot.
- Florida is getting hammered even harder than before. Last time I listed nine polls in two weeks. This time we have six in a single week. The Miami Herald/Mason-Dixon ran an automated poll — which excludes people without landlines, and thus demographically tends to lean a few points to the right — and saw a point in Obama’s favor. American Research Group, CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac, and Public Policy Polling came away with Obama leads of five, nine, and four points, respectively; the latter two adjust to 11 and two. And The Washington Post and The Florida Times-Union/Insider Advantage saw Obama leads of four and three points, respectively. Last time I mentioned that I think the polls are showing a sticker two point lead for Obama. That still appears to be the case. Nonetheless, Florida’s systemic forces could push that down to just shy of a point, so it’s still very possible for either candidate to take Florida’s 29 electoral votes. This is why I’m keeping the Sunshine State in “Tossup”; for me to move it to “Leans Obama” will require a lead of four points, even on election eve.
- Colorado was polled twice in the past week. Public Policy Polling’s six point Obama lead adjusts to four, while Gravis’s four point Obama lead adjusts to seven. This latest round nearly pushes Colorado out of “Tossup”, and into “Leans Obama”; if we see the same thing for another week, I’ll move it.
- Virginia was polled twice this past week. Both Suffolk/WWBT and American Research Group both saw a two point Obama lead. They’re within the historical trend, and thus there’s no reason to move Virginia out of “Leans Obama”. Virginians have been able to vote by absentee ballot for a week now.
- Nevada got polled four times in the past week. Public Policy Polling’s nine point Obama lead adjusts down to seven, lining up with American Research Group’s poll. NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist’s two point Obama lead, on the other hand, adjusts to a tie, which lines up with the conservative-leaning poll from the Retail Association of Nevada. Overall, Nevada remains “Leans Obama”.
- New Hampshire was polled by two firms in the past week. NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist, who saw a seven point Obama lead, which adjusts to five. American Research Group came away with Obama up by seven. The race tightened up over the past two months, moving New Hampshire to “Tossup” last week, but it is beginning to look as if Obama is pulling back ahead. If this sticks for another week, I’ll move it back. This is a race to watch closely.
- Ohio was thrice polled in this past fortnight. The Washington Post saw an eight point lead for Obama, while Gravis saw Obama up by one (which adjusts to five). Meanwhile, CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac came away with a rather large ten point lead for the President, which adjusts to just shy of a dozen points. That last poll sounds a little too optimistic, even before the house bias adjustment. Even so, it’s clear that Ohio isn’t near “Tossup” anymore. The question now is how long things need to stay like this before it moves to “Likely Obama”. What I’m looking for here is stability in the upper single digits, given the number of forces at play in the Buckeye State. We’re not there yet, but the trend is suggestive.
- Wisconsin got an automated poll from WeAskAmerica, who saw an astonishing dozen point Obama lead. This is particularly surprising when one considers that automated polls exclude the more liberal households without landlines. In fact, it’s far enough from the trend that I’m inclined to consider it an outlier for now. I’m still waiting for a little more data to move Wisconsin out of “Leans Obama” into “Likely Obama”.
- Michigan was polled five times in the past week. MRG, CNN/Opinion Research, and The Detroit News found Obama up by six, eight, and 14 points, respectively. The Detroit News was left of the pack last time, so I suspect that’s a case of house bias of a couple points. Even so, Rasmussen saw a dozen point Obama lead, which puts that poll in the same ballpark as The Detroit News. And when Gravis shows Obama up by four, which adjusts to seven, it’s clear that the President’s lead in Michigan has solidified. Michigan remains “Likely Obama”.
- Minnesota was polled two more times, by Public Policy Polling and The Star Tribune/Mason-Dixon. Their seven and eight point Obama leads confirm that last week’s move to “Likely Obama” was the right one.
- Pennsylvania was polled four times in the past week. The Tribune-Review/Susquehanna poll is the outlier, showing Obama up by a mere two points. The Morning Call, Franklin & Marshall, and CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac show Obama leads of seven, nine, and 12 points, respectively. Pennsylvania is now far enough into “Likely Obama” territory that this is the last time I’ll mention it unless there is evidence of moving in the direction of “Leans Obama”.
No state changed columns in the past week, though there are a few potentials for next week. Obama still has a probable 284 electoral votes, based on my projection. It’s been nearly three consecutive months in which Obama could lose all tossups and still stay in the White House.
If I had to predict an Electoral College result, I’d keep things exactly where they have been for over two months. Romney would win Florida, and Obama would win the other tossups. I don’t see enough structural advantage for Romney in those to give him the edge that he’d have in Florida. That prediction would give Obama 303, and Romney 235.
How do you feel about these predictions? Do you differ on them? If so, how, where, and why?
- Romney Camp Downplays Debate Expectations
- Reëlection Watch: September 22, 2012
- Watch: Obama, Romney Aim for Early Voters Before First Debate
- Obama Leads in Polls in 3 Swing States Including North Carolina
- Polls: Obama leads Romney in New Hampshire; tight contests in Nevada, North Carolina — @NBCNews, @WSJ
- Obama leads in nearly every swing state, on pace for 2008-like landslide