Reëlection Watch: October 6, 2012
This week has been a time of major change. We have some pre-debate data, and some post-debate data, so you’ll see both in this week’s edition of Reëlection Watch.
What’s the latest news? 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 shrunk a hair. It’s not that Obama’s numbers have been dropping; we’re still seeing a number of polls with Obama garnering 50 percent of respondents. Rather, Romney’s numbers have been rising more quickly than Obama’s, closing the gap. Obama’s lead over Romney still 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.
Going into the debate, Obama’s favorability polls improved beyond their already promising levels, with all exceeding 50 percent. Romney’s favorability polls have improved somewhat, but he still has yet to break the 50 percent ceiling. Obama has consistently held a three to five point edge over Romney all year, and was at six points going into the debate.
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 69, down ten points from last week. It’s the first reversal in a month, and the loss has clearly been tied to the debate performance on Wednesday.
Overall, things still look good for the incumbent President at the national level, though Intrade suggests they’re not as good as they were a week ago.
Wednesday marked the first of three debates between the two candidates. Romney clearly overperformed expectations. His section opening answers were extremely well rehearsed, and he was able to keep Obama off guard by announcing, to everyone’s surprise, that he would not support a tax policy that raised taxes on the middle class, or that increased the deficit. That he was unwilling to explain how he would achieve this while simultaneously cutting marginal rates by 20 percent across the board was essentially beside the point. At least for Wednesday night.
While he had a number of whoppers that he delivered, his steadfast insistence that his tax policies wouldn’t do what the analysts concluded they must do clearly unsettled the President, and took the wind out of the sails of much of his argument.
The net result here is that Mitt Romney has, for the first time in the campaign, managed to not squander an opportunity with which he has been presented. It’s too early to tell if this is a new trend or an anomaly, but it bears watching going forward.
It’s too early for the debate’s effects to show up in a meaningful way in any but a few polls; next week’s installment should show them all over the place.
The absentee and in-person early polls have opened in the District of Columbia and 24 states, highlighted below in green:
Of them, the ones of most interest in the battle are Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin; we need to pay especially careful attention to those states’ polls from here on out. Next week’s batch includes the important states of Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, and Oregon.
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 polled by HighGround/Moore and Public Policy Polling, both of whom saw comfortable leads for Romney. Arizona remains “Likely Romney”, though not by enough to drop off the list entirely.
- North Carolina was polled three times in the past week. SurveyUSA saw a two point lead for Obama, but both American Research Group and Rasmussen found Romney up by four. Public Policy Polling came away with a tie, which leans to Romney. North Carolina is still a “Leans Romney” state.
- Iowa was polled twice in the past week. The Des Moines Register and WeAskAmerica both saw Obama ahead by four. Iowa moves to “Leans Obama”, which is important since Iowans can currently vote by absentee ballot, and in person…and have been doing so.
- Florida got polled twice this week before the debate. NBC/Wall Street Journal/Maris and Gravis both saw Obama up by one. There were no adjusted leads for Romney between May (!) and the debate. Since then, Rasmussen and WeAskAmerica both saw leads for Romney, by two and three points, respectively. Florida’s systemic forces are enough to push the state an additional point and change, making the Sunshine State “Leans Romney”. Floridians have been able to vote since Tuesday.
- Colorado was polled before the debate by WeAskAmerica, who saw a three point Obama lead. Last time I noted that Colorado was right on the cusp of being moved to “Leans Obama”. This latest poll does the trick.
- Virginia was polled before the debate by NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist, who saw yet another two point lead for Obama. In the two post-debate polls, both Rasmussen and WeAskAmerica saw Romney leads, by one and three points, respectively. It’s enough to move Virginia back to “Tossup”. Virginians have been able to vote by absentee ballot for two weeks now, and Obama was ahead for the bulk of that time.
- Nevada got polled before the debate by WeAskAmerica and Gravis. WeAskAmerica found an astonishing 11 point lead for Obama. While that smacks of an outlier, given the history, even Gravis found a lead for Obama (albeit a mere one point). The overall trend looks like about six points in Obama’s favor. Had that been a static number with some history, I’d move Nevada to “Likely Obama”, but because the Silver State has been more like quicksilver of late, Nevada remains “Leans Obama”.
- New Hampshire was polled before the debate by WMUR/University of New Hampshire. They saw an astonishing 15 point lead for Obama. While I suspect that’s an outlier, it’s not going to be a double-digit outlier. I said last week that I’d move New Hampshire back to “Leans Obama” if I saw confirmation of his lead, and now I’m doing so.
- Ohio was polled five times this week. Before the debate, The Columbus Dispatch ran an automated poll, which found a nine point lead for Obama, close to the eight point lead seen by NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist (who uses one of the most rigorous polling methodologies of all the firms). Public Policy Polling saw a four-point Obama lead. On the other hand, in the two post-debate polls, Rasmussen found Obama up by a mere one point, and WeAskAmerica came away with a Romney lead by one. On balance, Ohio remains “Leans Obama”…mostly because people have been able to vote in Ohio for nearly a week. But it’s clear that Obama’s comfortable pre-debate lead in the Buckeye State has all but evaporated. Another week like the Rasmussen and WeAskAmerica polls, and Ohio will become a “Tossup” state.
- Wisconsin got polled before the debate by Marquette University, who saw an 11 point Obama lead. Given last week’s automated poll from WeAskAmerica, this number is credible. I no longer consider last week’s poll an outlier. Instead, I’m moving Wisconsin out of “Leans Obama” into “Likely Obama”.
- Michigan was polled before the debate by WeAskAmerica. That new poll indicates a dozen point lead for Obama. Barring a significant shift to the right, Michigan is sufficiently deep into “Likely Obama” territory that it drops off the list after this week.
- New Mexico was polled twice before the debate. WeAskAmerica’s automated poll gave Obama a ten point lead, close to Rasmussen’s 11 points. Like Michigan, this is the last we will hear from New Mexico unless we see a dramatic lurch to the right.
There was a lot of movement in both directions this week. Pre-debate polls in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin shifted those states to the left. The post-debate polls in swing states shifted Virginia and Florida to the right, and are in danger of doing the same to Ohio. Based on the model, Obama has a probable 303 electoral votes. It’s been three consecutive months in which Obama could lose all tossups and still stay in the White House.
But the post-debate polls are just beginning to show up, and they are not looking good for the President.
If I had to predict an Electoral College result based on the model, I’d keep things close to where they have been for three months. The lone Tossup, Virginia, would go to Obama. That prediction would give Obama 303, and Romney 235. That’s the same as it has been for a couple of months.* But I suspect we’re going to see more states shift to the right in the next week.
How do you feel about these predictions? Do you differ on them? If so, how, where, and why?
*Editor’s note: I did some bad math in an earlier version of the article.
- Reëlection Watch: September 29, 2012
- Obama Walloped On Intrade Early In Debate
- They Want You to Think the Election is Over
- Poll: Romney holds advantage in North Carolina
- Obama 348, Romney 190: UAH astrophysicist, who got it right twice before, predicts electoral results
- Moody’s predicts Obama victory over Romney