Election Watch: October 30
We’re but a week away from Election Day, and that means it’s time once again to step up the frequency of the Watches. Starting today, I am combining the Reëlection and Senate watches into a single article, which will run today, Saturday, and Election Day, when I will deliver my final predictions.
This makes today’s article far lengthier than usual, but packed with nutritional data. And tasty, too.
I’ll start by looking at the elements that cross offices, and then delve into the Senate, followed by the Presidential race.
Early voting is now available in all states. The green states are accepting absentee ballots, but not early in-person ballots, while the gold states are accepting both.
Twenty-nine states allow in-person voting today, though today is the last day in the shaded Louisiana; of the battleground states, in-person voting includes Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Michigan and Virginia don’t offer early in-person voting. Many states stop early in-person voting on November 1, 2, or 3, including Colorado, Florida, and Nevada. Ohio was going to be one of them, until ordered by the courts to permit it through the weekend.
Interestingly, Democrats are significantly outnumbering Republicans in early voting in North Carolina. It’s unclear if this will carry over to November 6, but it’s worth noting that the ratio mimics that of 2008, though both parties are voting early in greater numbers than they did four years ago.
Now that the clock is running out, the “Tossup” and “Leans” zones are mighty small. This is squeezing the states to one side or the other, as you’ll see below.
Here is the current map:
As always, “Continuing” refers to the seats in Senate Classes 2 and 3, which are not up for election this cycle.
Here the highlights of the past week, walking from the Pacific to the Atlantic:
- Nevada: Three new polls in the past week. Rasmussen and NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist show Republican incumbent Senator Dean Heller leading Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Las Vegas) by five and three points, respectively. Public Policy Polling has the race tied. The overall adjusted margin is exactly where Marist is, just a touch closer than it was a week ago. As I noted last week, the story here is complex. On the one hand, this sort of relatively stable margin should mean “Likely Republican” this late in the cycle. On the other hand, the recent Behavior Research Center poll in Arizona suggested that the ever-increasing Hispanic vote is not being adequately captured in most current polling methods. Perhaps this explains why the past two biennial elections have had Democrats overperforming the polls. I’m keeping Nevada “Leans Republican”, but I’m definitely curious to see how Berkley does relative to the polls. Intrade’s markets show Heller at 65 percent (down 15 from last week), and Berkley at 36 percent (up 11).
- Arizona: Rasmussen had a poll here this week showing Representative Jeff Flake (R-Mesa) six points ahead of Democrat Richard Carmona. It’s tough to determine the true picture from a lone poll like this. Nearly every poll has shown Flake ahead, but not recently. Polls have been sparse in Arizona. And the Behavior Research Center poll suggests that Hispanics have been underrepresented. I’m leaving the Grand Canyon state “Tossup”, though I suspect Flake has a small edge here. The Intrade markets are still confident about Flake; he’s at 70 percent (down six from last week) to Carmona’s 40 (up five).
- Montana: No new polls this week, but the recent trend had Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester effectively tied with at-large Representative Denny Rehberg. Unsurprisingly, Montana is still a “Tossup”. Intraders are still inclined to believe Rehberg will win here, though not as much as last week; he is given a 60 percent likelihood (down ten from last week), with Democratic incumbent Senator Jon Tester at 40 percent (up seven).
- North Dakota: No new polls in this race. Polls have been highly bimodal, either showing Republican at-large Representative Rick Berg well ahead of state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, or showing the race tied. The modes have been based on the polling firms, not the dates, so it’s nigh impossible to determine which mode is the correct one. For this reason, I’m calling North Dakota a “Tossup”, but it’s either going to be really close or Heitkamp will find that she has been sunk by a Berg. Intrade has Berg at 83 percent (down two from last week) to Heitkamp’s 19 percent (up four).
- Missouri: One new poll from Post Dispatch/Mason-Dixon has Incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill leading Representative Todd Akin (R-Wildwood) by two points. There hasn’t been a single poll in October showing Akin ahead, and the only one since late August was from Gravis, at a time when they were especially right-leaning. Missouri remains “Likely Democrat”, though RealClearPolitics seems to believe that it’s a tossup. Intraders agree with me, giving McCaskill a 79 percent chance (up seven from last week) to Akin’s 21 percent (up six).
- Wisconsin: One new poll this week from Rasmussen shows Republican former Governor Tommy Thompson ahead of Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) by a mere one point. This is a left shift of a point for Rasmussen from last week. With no evidence of a rightward shift, I’m keeping Wisconsin at “Leans Democrat”, but it’s still fairly close to the border with “Tossup”. Intrade has Thompson at a 36 percent chance (unchanged from last week) to Baldwin’s 60 percent (down five).
- Indiana: No new polls this week, but Republican candidate Richard Mourdock created an interesting story. His suggestion that a child conceived from rape should be considered a gift from God echoes a comment made by Representative Todd Akin (R-Wildwood, MO). Akin’s statement effectively destroyed his candidacy; he hasn’t led in a poll since then (aside from an obvious Gravis outlier). In Missouri, Akin dropped around 15 points overnight, though there was some reversion to the mean about a week later. Even so, the final shift in Missouri was about ten points. If we extrapolate that behavior to the similar Indiana, and even discount the effects relative to Missouri, this should still give Representative Joe Donnelly (D-Granger) the edge now. For this reason, I’m shifting Indiana from “Tossup” to “Leans Democrat”. Intrade markets agree, with Donnelly leading with a 53 percent chance (up a whopping 27 from last week), and Mourdock now with a 41 percent chance (down an astonishing 39 from last week).
- Ohio: Four new polls were published in the past week. SurveyUSA, Rasmussen, Public Policy Polling, and Gravis saw Democratic incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown five points ahead of Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel by one, four, 11, and one point, respectively. Accounting for house bias, Ohio stays “Likely Democrat”. Intraders give Brown an 80 percent chance (down seven from last week) to Mandel’s 20 percent (up five).
- Florida: Three new polls this week, from Sunshine State News/VSS, Rasmussen, and Public Policy Polling, show Democratic incumbent Senator Ben Nelson ahead of Representative Connie Mack, IV (R-Fort Meyers) by five, three, and eight points, respectively. This close to the election, those numbers mean Florida remains “Likely Democrat”. Intraders agree, giving Nelson a 85 percent chance of winning (up one from last week) to Mack’s 17 percent (up three).
- Virginia: Three new polls were published this past week. Rasmussen and Washington Post found Democratic former Governor Tim Kaine leading Republican former Governor George Allen by one point and seven points, respectively. Gravis, on the other hand, sees Allen up by two. Accounting for house bias it’s just enough of a margin to move the Old Dominion into “Leans Democrat”. Intraders are still confident in a Kaine victory, giving him a 75 percent chance of winning (up three from a week ago), to Allen’s 26 percent (down eight).
- Pennsylvania: Three new polls this week. Morning Call, Rasmussen, and Philadelphia Inquirer show Democratic incumbent Senator Bob Casey, Jr., leading coal mine CEO Tom Smith by eight, one, and seven points, respectively. Momentum is no longer in Smith’s favor, and the short remaining window of time means Pennsylvania moves back “Likely Democrat”. Intraders still have high expectations of Casey, though muted somewhat, giving him a 75 percent chance of winning (down 15 from last week), to Smith’s 15 percent (down ten).
- Connecticut: Three new polls were published this week. SurveyUSA, Quinnipiac, and Rasmussen have Representative Chris Murphy (D-Cheshire) leading WWE executive Linda McMahon by four, six, and six points, respectively. With so little time left to move, and that size margin, Connecticut moves to “Likely Democrat”. Intraders agree, giving Murphy the edge with a 79 percent chance (up 13 from last week), to McMahon’s 25 percent (down eight).
- Massachusetts: Three new polls were published this week. WBUR/MassINC and Rasmussen show Democrat Elizabeth Warren ahead of Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown by six and five points, respectively. On the other hand, the Boston Globe has the race tied. There’s been some noise, but the overall bell curve is in Warren’s favor; Massachusetts stays “Leans Democrat”. Intrade is less confident than last week; Warren is given a 77 percent chance (up five points in the past week) to Brown’s 24 (down three from a week ago).
- Maine: No new polls, but Intraders are still bullish on independent Angus King, who is expected to caucus with the Democrats should he win. They give King a 97 percent chance of winning (up five from last week), to five percent for Republican Charlie Summers (down one) and four percent for Democrat Cynthia Dill (unchanged). It’s still “Likely Independent”.
Four states shifted one column to the left this week. Indiana and Virginia moved to “Leans Democrat”, though the former is the one shift without corroborating polling data. Pennsylvania moved back to “Likely Democrat”, after a week in the “Leans Democrat” column. And Connecticut moved into “Likely Democrat” at an auspicious time. Our five tossups from last week have whittled down to three: Arizona, Montana, and North Dakota. Republicans have varying edges in all three. The Republicans’ likelihood of taking over the Senate was unchanged this week in my model, but was essentially unchanged in markets this week; Intrade markets give Republicans about an 19 percent chance of holding at least 51 Senate seats (down six from last week), with a 70 percent chance of Democrats holding at least 50 seats (up four), and an 11 percent chance of either 48 or 49 seats (unchanged). In the individual number markets, Intraders remain confident that Republicans will hold 48 seats, which would be a net gain of one.
We’re now in the home stretch. Both candidates have essentially used all of their ammunition. However, Hurricane Sandy has the potential to shift voting on Election Day. Typically, if disaster management is handled well by the incumbent President, it shifts votes in his direction. Conversely, a poorly-handled response (e.g., the response to Hurricane Katrina) shifts votes away from the incumbent. Obama has one opportunity to make a last push, then; the ball is in his court.
Beyond Sandy, it’s hard to imagine anything happening between now and next week to significantly impact the election.
Now, let’s dive into the numbers.
Since October 15, in the national popular vote matchup of President Barack Obama versus Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the Republican has led in more polls than he has trailed, though by a 2:1 ratio, which has converged to a national lead of just under a point. As I’ve noted before, and continue to observe, the national polls are to the right of the state polls, and state polls have historically been more accurate than their national counterparts. Nonetheless, the President’s national poll position is now 2.5 points behind President George W. Bush’s on this date eight years ago, and nine points below his position four years ago.
Since the first Presidential debate, Obama and Romney have been effectively tied in their favorability polls. Romney has smaller unfavorables than does Obama, though.
As of yesterday, Intrade had Obama at 62, down a point from last week.
Overall, for the past month, things on the national level have been sketchy for the President.
The Electoral College
Here’s what the Electoral College looks like:
Here are the key states, from reddest to bluest:
- Indiana has had no new polls in a long time. Were we to stay strictly with the polling model, Indiana would remain “Leans Romney”. But it’s highly unlikely that Hoosiers will go for Obama this time around, given the broader picture. For this reason, I’m abandoning the Presidential model for Indiana, just as I did the Senate model above. Indiana moves to “Likely Romney”.
- North Carolina had no new polls in the past three days. North Carolina remains “Leans Romney”. Intraders give Romney an 75 percent chance of carrying the Tarheel State, down five from Friday. Nate Silver gives Romney an 82 percent chance here, up one from Friday. I have Romney at 80.
- Florida got polled twice in the past three days. Mellman saw the race tied, while Public Policy Polling found a one point lead for Obama. House bias pushes this slightly to the right of center, and the three other polls I mentioned on Saturday (which overlapped with these two), push the Sunshine State a touch further to the right. Florida stays “Likely Romney”, based on the overall right lean to the poll results and the roughly two point systemic advantage Romney already enjoys. Floridians have been able to vote for a month. Intraders give Romney a 72 percent chance of picking up Florida’s 29 electoral votes, unchanged from Friday. Nate’s model is less confident, giving Romney “only” a 62 percent chance, down three from Friday. Were it not for the systemic advantage, I’d agree with Nate’s number. With that advantage, the Intrade market looks closer to the truth to me; I have Romney at 70.
- Virginia was polled three times in the past three days. Purple Strategies and Gravis, both of whom have had a right lean, show a tied race. The Washington Post sees a four point lead for Obama. All in all, it’s still close enough to keep Virginia a “Tossup”, though it looks a little better for Obama this week than it did Friday. Virginians have been able to vote for quite a while now. The Intrade market has Romney at 53 percent, down five from Friday. Nate’s model disagrees, giving Obama a 60 percent chance, up six. I agree with Nate here.
- Colorado had two polls published since Friday. Purple Strategies and Public Policy Polling have Obama ahead by one point and three points, respectively. The house effects cancel each other out, making the most recent batch a two point Obama lead. Colorado stays a “Tossup”, though tinged blue. Intraders disagree with me; the Colorado market has Romney at 52 percent, up three from Friday. Nate’s model is more bullish on the President, pegging him at 58 percent, up one. I think reality lies somewhere between the two numbers, with Obama at 55, up one.
- New Hampshire had three polls published in the past three days. Grove, New England College, and Public Policy Polling show Obama ahead by three, three, and two points, respectively. New Hampshire still “Leans Obama”. On Intrade, Obama has the lead at 60 percent, up three from Friday. Nate’s model has Obama at 72 percent, up three. I’m not quite as bullish as Nate is, but I put New Hampshire at 63 for Obama, up three.
- Iowa had a new poll published by Gravis, who found Obama up by four. That’s probably a bit to the left of reality, but not so far as to move Iowa into “Tossup”, so Iowa remains “Leans Obama”, a position it has held during the entire time ballots have been able to be cast. On Intrade, Obama has the lead here, with a 64 percent chance, down one from Friday. Nate’s model is very optimistic for Obama, putting him at 73 percent, up four. I think they’re both too optimistic; I have Iowa at 60, unchanged from Friday.
- Ohio was polled five times in the past three days. American Research Group, CNN/Opinion Research, Purple Strategies, Gravis, and Public Policy Polling saw Obama leads of two, four, two, one, and four points, respectively. Accounting for house bias, Ohio is as comfortably in “Leans Obama” territory as it was on Saturday. Buckeyes have been able to vote for a month now. The Intrade market gives the edge to Obama, at 63 percent, down one from Friday. Nate’s model says Obama has a 75 percent chance, unchanged from Friday. Mine says 66, right on the border of “Likely Obama”, and also unchanged from Friday.
- Nevada got polled twice since Saturday. Gravis and CallFire saw Obama leads of one and four points, respectively. Neither have particularly good track records, but they are also not far enough from the historical trend to suggest any new information. The Silver State remains “Likely Obama”. Intraders are really bullish for the President this week; he is trading at 82 percent, up two points from Friday. Nate is almost as bullish, at 80 percent, up one. I’m not quite that sanguine, but I have Nevada at 70, where it was on Friday.
- Wisconsin got polled twice this week. Angus Reid and Public Policy Polling show Obama up by five and six points, respectively. Even accounting for house bias, this is still a comfortable lead for the President at this stage of the election cycle. Last time I said we needed to keep an eye out, because polls were somewhat suggestive of a tightening race. With the newest round of polls, the picture looks clearer. I’m moving Wisconsin to “Likely Obama”, given the lack of movement toward Romney and the short time remaining for Romney to pull off a victory here. Intraders remain confident in Obama here, trading him at 73 percent, up four from Friday. Nate considers Wisconsin likely Obama, at 87 percent, up one. I split the two, having Obama at 80, up five.
Wisconsin was the lone mover since Saturday, shifting one column to the left. Based on the model, Obama has a probable 281 electoral votes, the same as last week. It’s now been four consecutive months in which Obama could lose all tossups and still stay in the White House.
On the Senate front, it looks to me as if Republicans will pick up two seats currently held by Democrats (Nebraska and North Dakota), while Democrats appear poised to pick up two seats currently held by Republicans (Indiana and Massachusetts). If so, the new Senate balance will match the old, at least in terms of party affiliation.
In the Presidential race, the national polls still show the race effectively tied, while the state tallies continue to indicate a comfortable Obama lead. Historically, the state-by-state tallies have been more accurate than the national ones, which leads me to believe that Obama still has the edge.
What if I’m wrong, and the national numbers are right? If so, then we should shift the states about two points to the right. Romney would pick up Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Iowa, giving him 267 electoral votes. Romney would then need three more electoral votes. In this scenario, Ohio would still lean to Obama based on the polls, but would be Romney’s most likely pickup. While the systemic forces in Ohio aren’t as strong as they are in Florida, they could be enough to push Ohio to Romney if the national numbers are right. This scenario is less likely today than it was a week ago. Alternatively, Romney could pick up Nevada or Wisconsin, but those appear to be out of reach as well.
If I had to predict an Electoral College result based on the model, which puts more emphasis on the state polls, I’d shift things a hair from last week. Both tossups, which last week were in Romney’s column, would now be Obama’s. This 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?
- Senate Watch: October 23
- Reëlection Watch: October 27, 2012
- Electoral Math Not Adding Up to Republican-Run Senate