Monthly Archives: October 2012

vote

Little Change in Two Years

Less than one week before Election Day 2012, we know little more about the projected outcome than we did when the campaigns began in earnest almost two years ago. At that time there was uncertainty about the presidential election. A feeling persisted that Pres. Barack Obama could certainly win re-election, but enough vulnerability existed that a strong challenger could deny him a second term.

With majority Democrats having to protect 23 of the 33 in-cycle contests, control of the Senate appeared up for grabs. With the 2010 state legislative elections swinging hard toward the Republicans, thus giving them clear control of the redistricting process, it became a foregone conclusion that the House GOP majority would be sustained in a post-reapportionment election year with newly drawn congressional district boundaries.

Two years later and six days away from the people’s decision, we still have no counter-arguments to any of these observations.

According to all of the latest national polls, the presidential race is a virtual tie. Seven national pollsters released popular vote surveys yesterday and the biggest spread among the group was Rasmussen Reports producing a two-point lead for Republican Mitt Romney. Five of the polls were showing one-point margins either way, and one, Public Policy Polling for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), showed a 49-49 percent tie. It simply doesn’t get any closer.

Turning to the states, we find equally close numbers though the Romney position has improved in many key electoral vote havens. Think of the model that stated the Republican needed to convert Indiana, the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska (because the state awards it electoral votes individually for the candidate carrying each congressional district), Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and one other Obama state larger than Vermont or Delaware. Today, Romney looks solid in Indiana and NE-2, and good in Florida and North Carolina, while improving to even footing in Virginia. But this standing, while much better than his Republican predecessor’s of four years ago, does not clinch victory.

The next tier becomes determining. The Romney trends in Ohio are improving, and at least one pollster, Rasmussen Reports, actually has the challenger forging ahead in the Buckeye State by the slimmest of margins. All other survey research firms show either a tie or a slight Obama lead. Trends seem to be moving Romney’s way in Colorado. Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire are all still very much in play, and are virtually deadlocked. Obama has been recently drawing stronger numbers in Nevada. Movement could still occur in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and possibly even Oregon, but it is likely that these states are only flirting with the Republicans and will return to the Democratic fold on Election Day.

Though there are still ways for Romney to win nationally without carrying Ohio, assuming the rest of our analysis rings true, he likely won’t unseat the president without winning what is becoming the deciding state. It is very likely that the way Ohio eventually votes will determine who remains or becomes president. Amazingly, the election is still simply too close to call.

The Senate remains just as tight, though Democrats are in good position to hold at least a bare majority. There are still 14 Senate races projected to be within the margin of error, so anything can still happen. The outcome of the presidential race will likely help decide all of these critically important, and virtually dead even contests.

There are ominous signs on the near horizon for the president, however. As an incumbent, going into an election tied rarely leads to victory. The Obama campaign confirms Romney’s momentum by consistently promoting a negative message. Additionally, aggregate estimates from all of the early voting states suggest that the Democrats are more than 20 percent behind their 2008 pace of returning the ballots to the election officials. They are still responding in greater numbers than Republicans, but the Democratic margin is certainly down. And, finally, we are all basing our predictions on polls showing a zero to two-point difference when their own error factor is 2.5 to 3.5 percent.

It’s clear this election will be very close and it’s possible we could be headed to political overtime, meaning absentee ballot counting could again make the difference, just as it did in 2000.

House: IE Money Flying

The American left and right, including their respective major party organizations, are again spending abundantly in certain House races as we enter the final week of the campaign. In fact, according to new Federal Election Commission independent expenditure (IE) filings just made public, the two sides (House party organizations coupled with outside group spending) have combined to spend $26.4 million during just the Oct. 27-29 period. Of this total, Republican/conservative groups have spent a tick under $14 million, while the Democrats and liberal organizations have spent $12.5 million. Remember, all of these expenditures cover only a three-day period.

The top two races receiving monetary attention in this critical time frame are in New Hampshire, where Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1-R) is defending the seat he won from ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) in 2010. In just the past three days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has laid down $1.037 million on Shea-Porter’s behalf, mostly for media expenditures on negative ads against Rep. Guinta. Countering that number is the American Action Network, which dropped $637,000 to fund either positive Guinta or negative Shea-Porter ads.

The top Republican recipient is Illinois Rep. Judy Biggert who is having a difficult time in a radically redistricted seat that Democratic leaders designed to defeat her. She opposes former Rep. Bill Foster (D), who lost his 14th District seat in 2010. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spent $837,000 on Biggert’s behalf, while the DCCC countered with $743,000 to help Foster.

At least one other incumbent race is seeing combined party and group spending exceed seven figures for this short period. Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8) has witnessed the NRCC and the American Action Network (AAN) combine to spend more than $1 million in his heavily Democratic district. Another such CD is the open IL-13 seat that Rep. Tim Johnson (R) is vacating. Republicans and the AAN dropped more than $850,000 here for Rodney Davis as compared to the DCCC’s $329,000 to help their nominee, Dr. David Gill.

The AAN spent more than $500,000 apiece in California (Rep. Jeff Denham, R-CA-10) and Nevada (Rep. Joe Heck, R-NV-3), in addition to the Guinta and Cravaack races, while the House Majority Fund dropped major six-figure expenditures to help New York Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) hold his Long Island CD and over $400,000 to help Connecticut Democrat Elizabeth Esty fend off a strong challenge from Republican state Sen. Andrew Roraback in the seat that Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) is vacating to run for the Senate.

A couple of surprise protects are popping up late for both sides. Democrats, particularly when seeing almost $1 million go toward independent expenditures in Michigan’s 1st CD that contains the state’s Upper Peninsula, believe they have a strong chance to unseat freshman Rep. Dan Benishek. Another strong sleeper campaign might be found in the Orlando area, as the DCCC is dropping more than $427,000 in order to help elect former police chief Val Demings over freshman Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) in Florida.

Democrats are surprisingly spending copiously in Arizona and New York to fend off what they see are serious threats to freshman Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) and two-term Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-21).

Republicans believe they have a great closing shot to maintain the new 1st District in Arizona, and to defeating Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA-12) who won a brutal primary battle against fellow Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4), only to find himself in a relatively strong Republican seat.

No surprise that the IL-17 contest between freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) and local East Moline official Cheri Bustos (D) is hotly contested, as is the inter-party pairing in Ohio between Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16). Both of these campaigns are considered toss-ups.

Of the top 10 races where Democrats are spending, three are to protect incumbents. On the Republican board, five of their top 10 expenditure races are for individuals already serving in the House.

Source: Gallup

Gallup Shows Likely Voters Skew to Romney

Source: Gallup

The Gallup organization released their likely voter model on Oct. 26, which, along with Rasmussen Reports, has consistently shown much better numbers for Mitt Romney than other national polls. It is important to note that Gallup and Rasmussen are the only two pollsters that have tracked the presidential race every day for the entire election cycle. Both have found consistently similar results, too. The myriad of other pollsters have conducted benchmark or brush fire polls, meaning they are surveying the national electorate for just a short period in time and producing a snapshot of the voters’ intentions rather than a trend.

Right now, all of the polling suggests a Romney lead in the national popular vote among those considering themselves likely to vote, with Pres. Barack Obama doing better in the critical states and among the registered voter universe. The likely voter numbers are producing a very unique and inverted situation because similar situations in the past have always shown the Democratic candidate leading the popular vote, while the Republican fared better in the states.

According to the Gallup analysis, the electorate looks virtually the same as it did in 2008, but the voting intensity model is quite different. There is either no, or only a one-point, difference in the demographic categories when comparing today with four years ago, and as much as a four-point increase among non-white voters when overlaying 2012 data against what was found within the 2004 electorate that re-elected George W. Bush.

Gallup maintains that their likely voter model, culled from a series of seven screening questions (see below), has correctly predicted the final trend in the past two elections. Their 2004 pre-election projection suggested a two-point Bush popular vote win, which is what happened. In 2008, the final data correctly predicted Obama’s win, but over-shot his performance. The Gallup data predicted an 11-point Obama spread; in actuality the final count was +7 points over Republican John McCain.

Today’s model shows virtually no demographic difference between 2008 and 2012, but a major swing in terms of self-identified party registration. Four years ago, 39 percent of the likely voter sample considered themselves Democrats to only 29 percent for Republicans.

According to Gallup’s latest data, the 2012 partisan self-identified likely voter ratio breaks Republican 36-35 percent, a swing of 11 net points for the GOP (+7R; -4D) in comparison to 2008. When the “lean Democrats” and “lean Republicans” are added, the model expands to 49-46 percent Republican (based upon tracking data collected over the Oct. 1-24 period). This is highly significant in detecting electoral intensity. If correct, the 2012 vote will be very different from 2008 and much more Republican. Today, Gallup shows a 50-46 percent spread in Romney’s favor among likely voters. Rasmussen finds Romney’s lead to be a similar 49-47 percent.

But, it all comes down to which of the pollsters’ likely voter model is correct. Gallup has actually posted the seven questions they ask to determine voter participation intent, as reported on Gallup.com.

They are:

  1. Thought given to election (quite a lot, some)
  2. Know where people in neighborhood go to vote (yes)
  3. Voted in election precinct before (yes)
  4. How often vote (always, nearly always)
  5. Plan to vote in 2012 election (yes)
  6. Likelihood of voting on a 10-point scale (7-10)
  7. Voted in last presidential election (yes)

Answers are graded on a scale of 1-7 and the results categorized accordingly. The latest numbers from their registered voter pool gives Obama a 48-47 percent edge, but the likely voter group goes significantly for Romney, as previously mentioned, 50-46 percent.

It’s going to be a very close and interesting election. Next week will determine which of all predictions are correct, but Gallup has already provided the most information to help us understand their support methodology.

Obama Will Not Be Fired

On Wednesday, Republican lobbyist Mike Barbera contributed a guest column that shared his views about the presidential election. Today, we feature a response from Democratic lobbyist Tom Hogan.

By Tom Hogan

Michael Barbera’s insightful piece “What the Polls Are Really Saying,” reveals a frightening proposition for today’s political observers: repeating polling data is insufficient and, to be credible, we may also have to think about and analyze political races using our own brains and original thoughts. Blasphemy. That would be like asking me to voluntarily leave my iPhone at home for a whole day. Just imagine that for a moment, like a boy in a plastic bubble, living in the real world but detached from what is being said or reported on RCP, NYT, RC, CQ, NJ, MSNBC. I could survive in there without any Fox News, but I would be cordoned off from important political babble.

I. REPUBLICANS HESITATED — I put in my notes the header, “Republicans Eat Their Own,” but this morning I softened it. The GOP abandoned McCain and Palin in 2008 and they never heartily embraced Mitt Romney in 2012, until the first debate concluded. Too little, too late. Back in 2008, with some help from Lehman Bros., Katie Couric and Tina Fey, sprinkled with some Bush fatigue, the R’s boat sank early. In 2012, the Rs toyed with B-listers, Newt, Rick and Michele. Mitt did not eat their brand of red meat, but as it has turned out they all miscalculated.

The only reason Mitt is in the game is because of Mitt. The sheer force of his skills, talent, and dogged determination won him the nomination in spite of his party’s true feelings. They finally snapped to attention the night of the first debate. A baseball bat to the head of the GOP one might say.

Most athletes and politicians will tell you that if you hesitate, even slightly, the consequences can be disastrous. Holding back support for Romney also caused Mitt to waste a draft pick. He wasted his VP pick trying to shore up conservative support in his own party. Mitt could have selected a woman, Latino, or someone who would add value in the general election. Failing to embrace Romney forced another tactical error.

The Rs used their resources to attack and demonize Pres. Barack Obama as they could not bring themselves to build Mitt’s profile. Obama boxed out criticism of his foreign policy issues as he dispatched Osama Bin Laden. So the Rs fixated on Obamacare. I can’t defend the entire 2000-plus page bill. I can, however, ask questions of those spewing invectives about it to tell me, for example: 1) What year in the past 10 did your premiums go down under the old system? 2) Which page or section of the bill can you explain is so horrible, or is the entire piece unacceptable, and why specifically? 3) Lastly, if Obama agrees to burn the law at the stake, what brilliant alternative do you have to put in place, or do we go back to old system (see question 1)?

II. PERSONAL CONNECTION — My instincts lead me to conclude that more people connect personally to Obama. I use the example of the socially awkward high school cafeteria where a new student with his tray of food looks around for a place to sit. Obama’s table looks promising. He has a diverse group of people who look and dress in varying styles, and seem laid back and inviting. Mitt’s table has the upper crust, athletic-looking guys comparing sports cars they drive, and discussing which country their families plan to visit on break.

This is simply a personal, not partisan, attribute that is more instinctive than measurable. Recall that fateful Monday in South Philly when Dem candidate John Kerry stepped to the window of the infamous Pat’s King of Steaks and ordered one of their iconic cheesesteaks. He then leaned in and requested Swiss cheese. With cameras rolling, he erred in not knowing that cheese whiz is the widely accepted cheese option (or perhaps provolone or American, but certainly NOT Swiss) in Philadelphia. I suspect Mitt would request Jarlsburg.

III. PEOPLE TEND TO AVOID CHANGE — First, to qualify what I am not talking about in reference to change, the hopey-changey mantra of 2008, was a different notion than I mean in this context. In a tip of the hat to our founding fathers’ foresight, eight years of any president leads us all to yearn for change. In a different respect, people tend to like patterns, habits, familiarity, and traditions. People seem to need a compelling reason to make drastic change, particularly when firing the president of the US is suggested.

While I agree with Mr. Barbera’s assertion that Obama may not be winning today, remember that he does not have to win until Nov. 6. One bad night in 2012 does not etch-a-sketch away all he has accomplished. It is humbling to see that he screws up like the rest of us on occasion. People are not blaming Obama entirely for international unrest, attacks on our foreign service folks, or gridlock in Congress. Speaker John Boehner was more constrained by his rigid, recalcitrant band of Tea Partiers who viewed any compromise as a sign of girly man capitulation. Give Americans more credit than to blame all this and the common cold on Obama. He has not performed well enough to earn a landslide, but he has not performed badly enough to get fired.

Lastly, how can I resist comment on The Donald. The Rs are showing signs of desperation. I first glanced at the TV and thought he was starring in the Blair Witch Project with its grainy, shaky video. Then I thought he was kidnapped by Somali pirates, but alas, he was offering $5 million for Obama’s school transcripts. Please Donald, withdraw your request for the sake of the children, or at least my children.

So, without support of polls to help me think and sound informed, I suggest that Mitt is a competent candidate, but it is not his time. Obama will not get fired, and he will win on Nov. 6.

Tom Hogan is an attorney and lobbyist with F/S Capitol Consulting in Washington, DC.

© Google

Nevada Early Voting

© Google

The Silver State of Nevada has become a key state in this presidential election. Part of the secondary group of states that will have a major impact in determining the eventual winner, its state election officials have released the early voting return numbers relating to party registration. No tabulation has begun, but knowing from whom the ballots come does tell a significant part of the story.

So far, the Democrats have a big lead in returned ballots. That’s not too surprising because the party traditionally tends to do better with this voting medium than Republicans. Additionally, Democrats have the better ground operation in Nevada as was evidenced in the 2010 Senate race when Majority Leader Harry Reid was re-elected in the face of a strong GOP head wind.

According to yesterday morning’s release, 210,484 ballots have been returned, with 48 percent of those coming from registered Democrats versus 35.5 percent from Republicans. In Democratic Clark County, registered Ds have returned 50 percent of the 146,337 early and absentee ballots as compared to 33 percent from Republicans. Despite the lopsided margin, Republicans are returning at a rate of two points above their Clark County registration figure. Democrats are even better at +4 percent.

Though the race here will be tight and many more ballots will be cast, the early numbers tell us that the Nevada Dems’ ground organization is meeting or exceeding their pre-election goals.

What the Polls are Really Saying

Republican lobbyist Mike Barbera contributes a guest column today, sharing his views about the presidential election. On Friday, we will feature a piece reflecting the Democratic perspective.

By Michael Barbera

It doesn’t seem to make any sense …

The American economy is burdened with sustained unemployment at levels never before seen in American history. Gas prices are through the roof. The budget deficit and national debt are both sky-high. Household incomes are down, and the housing market is still decimated all over the country. And that’s just the news here at home. Overseas, our embassies are attacked, our diplomats assassinated and our soldiers in Afghanistan are slaughtered by our so-called “allies.”

And yet according to the polls, until his poor debate performance in the first debate, Barack Obama was winning the race for the White House. In some polls he was ahead narrowly, in others he was ahead comfortably — but he was always ahead. How can that be right?

The simple fact is, it’s not. The president may or may not be ahead, but he is not winning. In fact, anyone who looks at the numbers closely realizes that the president’s electoral standing is perilous at best.

Why is it that so many talking heads have spent much time telling us that the president was winning? Quite simply, most of them read polls in a lazy and simplistic manner. Most observers only focus on the “horse race” — who is ahead and by how much. And for most of 2012, the president was ahead. So pundits simply regurgitate the numbers and pretend they know something.

At this stage of the race, horse race reporting doesn’t tell us very much. It doesn’t matter if Pres. Barack Obama leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by three points in Ohio or by six in Wisconsin, or whether he is ahead by one point in the Gallup poll or by five in the latest poll by the AP.

Here is what matters: how far is Pres. Obama from getting over 50 percent of the vote? And the answer, based on any fair reading of the evidence, is that he has a lot of work to do.

Look at the Real Clear Politics averages in the key battleground states. Even before Romney’s recent surge, the president was stuck between 47.1 percent and 48.8 percent in Florida, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado. Karl Rove reported in the Wall Street Journal the day before the Denver debate that in 91 recent national polls “Mr. Obama was at or above the magic number of 50 percent in just 20. His average was 47.9 percent. Mr. Romney’s was 45.5 percent.”

The polls have now shifted after Romney’s strong debate performance and the president’s weak one in the first debate. The challenger cut into the president’s lead and in some cases erased it altogether.

That brings us to another popular myth about the polls — that they are constantly shifting. In fact, the president’s numbers have remained very steady. With the exception of a slight spike after the Democratic convention, the president is where he has always been — in the mid-to-high 40s. He has a solid base of loyalists, but he has not yet closed the deal with most voters — despite dominating the airwaves. According to the National Journal, as of Oct. 1, the Obama campaign spent a total of $285 million on broadcast and cable television, in addition to radio advertising, while the Romney camp spent just $117 million — and still the president was well-below the magical 50 percent mark. An incumbent stuck below 50 percent in October is an incumbent in trouble.

What has changed throughout the course of the campaign is the level of Romney’s support. This is no surprise. Like it or not, the American people have seen Obama in action. Most voters know whether they like him and whether they think he is doing a good job. Very few voters are truly undecided about him. Until very recently, many voters were very much undecided about Mitt Romney, however. That is why the president spent so much money over the summer on a steady drumbeat of negative advertising. The American people were not convinced by those ads, many of which were powerful. They wanted to decide for themselves about Mitt Romney, and a record 67 million people watched the first debate. Mitt Romney picked a good day to have a good day — and the president picked a bad day to have a bad one. Romney’s strong performance shook up the race, and he is almost certain to win decisively among late-deciding voters.

Many polls are also overstating the president’s support. These polls are using turnout models based on the 2008 election, which means the pollsters are betting that the electorate of 2012 will look a lot like the electorate of 2008. This is likely to be a losing bet.

The 2008 election featured the following: a historically unpopular Republican president, an economic meltdown one month before the election, an incredibly motivated Democratic base, a demoralized Republican base, record turnout of young voters, blacks and Latinos, and a sizable number of Republican crossover votes for Barack Obama. Does that sound like the electorate we have today? Yet many seemingly reputable pollsters construct their polling around 2008 models. I believe the technical polling term for this is “wishful thinking.”

If we look at the polls with a trained eye — and not simply repeat the horse race numbers fed to us by lazy pundits — it is clear that Obama is not winning. And if he isn’t winning now, he’s not likely to be ahead on Nov. 6.
_______________________

Michael Barbera is a lobbyist and consultant with the American Continental Group.

ohio-map

Tracking Ohio

It can be argued that the presidential election is coming down to Ohio. It is very likely that the eventual winner will carry the Buckeye State, and that entity will be enough to put Pres. Barack Obama or Mitt Romney over the top nationally. There are other scenarios — either candidate losing Ohio but carrying Wisconsin and Colorado, for example – but the voting patterns suggest that Ohio will choose the winner.

That being the case, let’s check the latest Ohio polls. Six separate polls measuring the Obama-Romney campaign were just released and these are the results:

• Angus Reid (Oct. 18-20; 550 likely Ohio voters):
  Obama 48%; Romney 48%
• Gravis Marketing (Oct. 18-19; 1,923 likely Ohio voters via automated calls):
  47% Tie
• Public Policy Polling (Oct. 18-20; 523 likely Ohio voters):
  Obama 49%; Romney 48%
• Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring organization (Oct. 15; 1,000 likely Ohio voters):
  Romney 47%; Obama 46%
• Quinnipiac University (Oct. 17-20; 1,548 likely Ohio voters):
  Obama 50%; Romney 45%
• Suffolk University (Oct. 18-21; 600 likely Ohio voters):
  47% Tie

Can it be any closer? For the second time in 12 years, deciding the presidency could come down to just a handful of votes.

A Close Look at Swing State Electoral Votes

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that all of the latest publicly released presidential election state polls are accurate. If so, then the nationwide electoral vote count would post Pres. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to within four votes of each other.

First, from a national popular vote perspective, seven polls have been completed within the past few days (Gallup, Rasmussen Reports, Investors Business Daily TIPP, Gravis Marketing, Ipsos Reuters, Public Policy Polling, and the University of Connecticut) and the president leads in four of them, Romney two, and one is tied. Obama’s largest lead is three points. Romney’s best margin, via Gallup, is six points, 51-45 percent. This tells us that with two weeks remaining, the presidential race is still undecided.

Turning to the all-important swing states, the CNN/ORC Florida poll (Oct. 17-18; 681 likely Florida voters) gives Romney a 49-48 percent lead. Fox News (Oct. 17-18; 1,130 likely Florida voters) posts the Republican to a 48-45 percent advantage. Rasmussen Reports (Oct. 18; 750 likely Florida voters) registers a 51-45 percent spread, also in Romney’s favor.

Turning to Iowa, Public Policy Polling (Oct. 17-19; 869 likely Iowa voters) finds Romney holding a 49-48 percent razor-thin margin over the president.

The Mellman Group, polling for the liberal Americans United for Change organization (Oct. 15-17; 600 likely Nevada voters) finds the president commanding the advantage within the Nevada electorate by a 51-43 percent margin. This is the largest Nevada spread shown for either candidate in quite some time, so the result should be looked at skeptically. For the sake of our model, however, we will place Nevada in the president’s column.

Public Policy Polling, also during the Oct. 17-19 period, surveyed 1,036 likely voters in New Hampshire. There, they found Romney leading Obama 49-48 percent.

In North Carolina, we have split results. Grove Insight, polling for the liberal Project New America (Oct. 17-18; 500 likely North Carolina voters) actually gives Obama a slight lead, 47-44 percent. More in line with all other polls conducted in the Tar Heel State, TelOpinion for the North Carolina Republican Party (Oct. 12-13; 500 likely North Carolina voters) projects Romney with a 49-45 percent advantage. Since the preponderance of recent polling gives Romney the edge here, we will project North Carolina in the Republican column for the purposes of this spot analysis.

Looking at critical Ohio, the Fox News Poll (Oct. 17-18; 1,131 likely Ohio voters) continues to show the president holding a small advantage, 46-43 percent. While other places seem to be leaning toward Romney, Ohio has not fully turned. It is this state that could be the determining factor, as it is one of the few big states that does vote for both parties.

Virginia is another swing state that could be determinative and the new Rasmussen Reports data (Oct. 18; 750 likely Virginia voters) puts Romney ahead of the President 50-47 percent.

And, in Wisconsin, Rasmussen Reports (Oct. 18; 500 likely Wisconsin voters) gives the president the slightest of leads, 50-48 percent.

Understanding that a two- or three-point poll is within the margin of error, the actual vote could go either way; however, we can develop an electoral vote model based upon the above data just presented. Remember, for the sake of our analysis exercise, we are going to presume that all of these polls are exactly accurate, with the one exception of placing North Carolina in the Romney column because more polls favor Romney.

Factoring the aforementioned states as they are currently polling, and using the 2008 results for the ones not recently surveyed, with the exception of adding Indiana and the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska to the Romney column, the national count would give the president 271 electoral votes and Romney 268. This means that any additional Obama state converting to Romney would give the national victory to the challenger.

It will be an interesting two weeks.

Ricky Gill (left) / Rep. Scott DesJarlais

House Surprises

Surprising trends: Ricky Gill (left) / Rep. Scott DesJarlais

With only 18 days remaining in the current election cycle, changing House races are putting strategists and campaign experts in a state of flux. In certain places we have seen significant change and major surges from unexpected candidates. Below we review two Red and Blue examples of potential seat changes that political experts originally did not forecast, but which have suddenly become key races to watch.

Initially considered a long shot, Ricky Gill, the 25-year-old Lodi, Calif., resident challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9), has proven his viability. Gill’s parents, immigrants from India and Uganda, are both obstetricians who also own a vineyard and an RV park in the local community. Gill has raised $2.3 million during the campaign, while Rep. McNerney, who has served almost six years in Congress, raised just under $2 million. Gill has approximately $1.1 million left to run his campaign, which is about $108,000 more than the Democratic incumbent according to campaign disclosure statements for the period ending Sept. 30th.

His impressive fundraising made him a star candidate within the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the party responded by financing a media advertising and robo-call program to help Gill gain the offensive against McNerney.

Given the district’s Democratic tilt (56 percent Obama ’08), Gill was originally not expected to fare particularly well. With a surge of fundraising power, youthful candor, and strong GOP establishment backing, the young challenger has made the battle with McNerney a neck-and neck race.

Moving to a very red district in middle Tennessee, freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais dodged a major redistricting bullet when the state senator who helped design the new seat that spread 65 percent of the congressman’s district into other areas, failed to challenge him. However, DesJarlais now finds himself dealing with another set of problems.

Campaigning as a family values pro-life candidate, DesJarlais has now been accused of having an extra-marital affair and subsequently encouraging his mistress to have an abortion — before discovering that she was not pregnant. Obviously the scandal has caused DesJarlais immediate political problems, and even though Mitt Romney is likely to rack up percentages exceeding 60+ percent in CD-4, DesJarlais is starting to feel pressure from Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart. In fact, a new post-scandal revelation poll just released earlier this week (Myers Research & Strategic Services; Oct. 14-15; 400 TN-4 likely voters) reveals only a five-point spread between the two candidates, with DesJarlais leading 49-44 percent. We can expect to see a quick influx of Democratic money moving into this district as they attempt to steal this strongly Republican seat.

The parties are also likely to trade a pair of scandal-tainted seats on the eastern seaboard. The respective parties appear to have conceded the FL-26 seat to Democrat Joe Garcia as he battles freshman Rep. David Rivera (R). Allegations of financial scandal never materialized, but charges that the Florida congressman attempted to funnel money to a straw man Democratic primary candidate have come to light and, with his associate who was apparently managing this straw man candidate’s campaign who then fled when the FBI wanted to question her, has turned the 26th District race into a circus. All Garcia needs to do his remain quiet and he will claim victory on Nov. 6.

In New England, the tax fraud conviction and jail sentence of Rep. John Tierney’s (D-MA-6) wife will almost assuredly now cost the congressman his seat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has already cancelled more than $600,000 of television advertising, and Tierney himself withdrew over $300,000 of this own ad time. This is a clear signal that Republican
Richard Tisei’s poll showing him leading by a substantial margin (50-33 percent) is likely accurate.

With three weeks to go until Election Day, other races could also develop.

Senate Balance of Power is Murky

The nation’s presidential choice is not the only political decision still undetermined at this late date. It now appears that as many as 13 US Senate races are either in the toss-up category or on their way to being categorized as such. In addition to the mainstay toss-up campaigns, we find that the Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Indiana, Florida and Ohio races are not yet put to bed, either.

Swings and shifts in places like North Dakota, Arizona, Connecticut and Pennsylvania suggests that once perceived clear-cut trends in those places are now less certain.

With the presidential race likely coming down to the votes from a state or two, the Senate majority could as well. The Republicans need a net gain of four states to secure a bare minimum 51-seat majority, while the Democrats need to hold their losses to three in order to maintain chamber control.

A probable Republican loss in Maine and possibly failing to retain Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts means the GOP would have to convert six Democratic seats. Since former Sen. Bob Kerrey does not appear particularly competitive in Nebraska, the real majority number recedes to five. Converting the open Democratic seat in North Dakota is now considered a must-win situation. And, taking at least two of the three pure toss-up campaigns in Virginia, Montana, and Wisconsin now becomes a requirement. Additionally, the Republicans would still have to win at least one long-shot campaign, from a state such as Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Connecticut, and possibly Pennsylvania. The long-term toss-up seat in Missouri appears to be breaking Sen. Claire McCaskill’s way.

But all of the aforementioned presumes the Republicans hold their own seats in Arizona, Indiana and Nevada, none of which are tightly secured at this writing.

Early in the cycle, with the Democrats having to protect 23 seats as compared to the Republicans’ 10, it was assumed that the odds favored forging a new Republican majority. Now, there are fewer people expressing such a sentiment. If Pres. Obama and the Democrats catch a wave going into the election’s final days, Republicans losing seats must also be considered within the realm of possibility.

So, as Election Day draws nearer, the Senate campaign picture is appearing more cloudy.

Pres. Barack Obama in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Everything Hinges on Florida

Pres. Barack Obama in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

We’re now within three weeks of Election Day, and after witnessing the two presidential candidates trading direct and core-striking barbs in Debate #2, the electoral vote map continues to refine itself. As we all know, this election is very close and likely still undecided.

While Republican nominee Mitt Romney still performs well in national polls, and in fact is slightly leading most of them, it is Pres. Barack Obama who continues to hold the superior position in the key states. Though Gallup, Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen Reports all show Romney leading nationally by two to four points, the new YouGov panel back survey still gives the president a similar advantage in all-important Ohio. Returning to again survey 851 voters who answered their Sept. 7-14 polling questions (the new poll was conducted during the Oct. 4-11 period), YouGov found Obama leading among these representative Ohio respondents, 50-46 percent. Interestingly, the Obama statewide margin held despite his numbers falling among Ohio Independent voters.

As the map continues to develop and with Romney showing signs of possibly pulling ahead in three of the four key core states (Florida, North Carolina and Virginia), the trends in Ohio are not following suit. Therefore, can Romney win without carrying Ohio?

The answer is yes, but he must prevail in some non-traditional Republican states in order to do so. Clearly, the GOP nominee must carry Florida first, as this is the most important state on the Romney conversion chart. It is becoming unalterably true that he simply cannot win nationally without carrying the Sunshine State. If he adds North Carolina and Virginia but fails in Ohio, what other states must come his way in order to compensate?

Without the Buckeye State, then Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes become extremely important. But, even with those 10, he would still need another eight votes just to compensate for Ohio, not counting the one extra Obama state he must carry to reach the minimum 270 electoral vote level that clinches national victory.

This could happen by adding Colorado to Wisconsin, which neutralizes Ohio, and then win in either Iowa or Nevada, both of which possess six electoral votes. The combination of 25 electoral votes from the trio of states would allow Romney to reach the 270 mark assuming he holds all of the places John McCain carried in 2008, which does appear likely, and keeps three of the four core states, understanding that Florida must be one of the three.

So, instead of looking at the map from the perspective that the four core states are critical to unseating Obama, the Romney camp now sees two separate viable state clusters, thus adding further victory options.

All of these secondary core states are very much in play, but the president does maintain either a small lead or remains on even footing in each of the four states (Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada).

Though Romney now has alternative victory paths, in order to carry enough states to win the Electoral College he must convert about a half-dozen states where he is trailing slightly or tied (Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Nevada, Iowa), which is no small feat even considering his strong national standing. Though the national numbers are promising for the challenger, the state numbers continue to present more formidable obstacles and the difficulty factor in defeating the President is still quite high.

Is Tierney Done in Mass.?

While a highly publicized scandal appears to be undoing Florida Republican David Rivera’s re-election campaign, a Massachusetts Democrat is apparently feeling similar heat. Early this year, Rep. John Tierney’s (D-MA-6) wife, Patrice, was sentenced to 30 days in prison and another five months of house arrest for her role in falsifying her brother’s tax returns to hide profits from an illegal gambling operation. Though Rep. Tierney himself was not accused of any wrongdoing, he may be coming to the end of his congressional career, nonetheless.

Yesterday, following the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) decision to cancel a $650,000 media buy on his behalf, Tierney’s campaign cancelled $370,000 of television advertising in the Boston market they had previously reserved. This means the congressman’s campaign will have no television airing from Oct. 23rd to the election, unless they purchase new time segments. But, if they were planning such a media re-allocation move as the campaign manager suggests, then why cancel the original purchase carrying lower rates?

The Tierney action follows Republican Richard Tisei releasing a new McLaughlin & Associates poll showing him with a 50-33 percent lead. The Boston Globe, in late September, found Tisei to be holding a 37-31 percent advantage. These moves, plus Tierney’s current ad talking about his wife’s legal woes (and saying he had nothing to do with her admitted illegal actions) suggests that the congressman is effectively conceding the race. Converting a heavily Democratic Massachusetts congressional district such as MA-6 will be a boon to Republican hopes of expanding the size of their current House majority.

STATE-stack

States That Favor Obama or Romney: The Weakest Links

In this presidential election, we’ve spent a lot of time considering and analyzing the swing states, saying that those not now clearly favoring one candidate or another are going to be the ones that determine who wins on election night. While this is largely true, today we are going to analyze if there any states commonly believed to be in each candidates’ camp that still could slip to the other side.

Right now, 11 states routinely appear in the toss-up column, 23 states are safe/likely/lean for Mitt Romney, and 17 are rated safe/likely/lean for Pres. Barack Obama. Of those now believed to be trending toward a particular candidate, are some weak enough that the opponent might make a late run for their electoral vote contingent? Yes. As we get closer to the election and trends become firm, it is possible that one of the candidates will have no other choice but to throw a “Hail Mary pass” in one or more of these places.

In the 23 Romney states, three may be weaker than the remaining 20. They are: Arizona, Missouri and Indiana. In the 17 Obama states, the three potentially less than solid domains are Oregon, Minnesota and New Mexico.

Understanding that the preponderance of polling shows the state as expressing only moderate to weak support for either Obama or Romney, let’s examine each place’s voting history to determine if any could be a prime switch candidate.

    Arizona: Lean Romney

  • Republican governor
  • Two Republican senators
  • 5R-3D congressional delegation
  • Republicans control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Democratic in a presidential race: 1996
  • Times voting Democratic in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: twice (1948, ’96)
    Indiana: Lean Romney

  • Republican governor
  • Two Republican senators
  • 6R-3D congressional delegation
  • Republicans control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Democratic in a presidential race: 2008
  • Times voting Democratic in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: twice (1964, ’08)
    Minnesota: Lean Obama

  • Democratic governor
  • Two Democratic senators
  • 4R-4D congressional delegation
  • Republicans control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Republican in a presidential race: 1988
  • Times voting Republican in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: three (1952, ’56, ’72)
    Missouri: Lean Romney

  • Democratic governor
  • One Republican senator; one Democratic senator
  • 6R-3D congressional delegation
  • Republicans control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Democratic in a presidential race: 1996
  • Times voting Democratic in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: seven (1948, ’56, ’60, ’64, ’76, ’92, ’96)
    New Mexico: Lean Obama

  • Republican governor
  • Two Democratic senators
  • 2D-1R congressional delegation
  • Democrats control both legislative chambers
  • Last time voting Republican in a presidential race: 2004
  • Times voting Republican in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: nine (1952, ’56, ’68, ’72, ’76, ’80, ’84, ’88, ’04)
    Oregon: Lean Obama

  • Democratic governor
  • Two Democratic senators
  • 4D-1R congressional delegation
  • Democrats control the state Senate; the state House is a 30D-30R tie
  • Last time voting Republican in a presidential race: 1984
  • Times voting Republican in a presidential race since 1948, inclusive: nine (1948, ’52, ’56, ’60, ’68, ’72, ’76, ’80, ’84)

As you can see, the states with the most recent history of being in the swing category on multiple occasions are Missouri and New Mexico. Democratic Oregon has actually gone for the other party just as many times as New Mexico, tied for the most among these six, but the last time it strayed to the Republican presidential candidate was all the way back in 1984.

It is probable that these six states will remain right where they are currently forecast, but as the election draws near and patterns begin to formulate in the 11 toss-up states, don’t be surprised if at least one of the candidates begins to look elsewhere in an attempt to expand the political playing field. If so, such a move will likely occur within this universe of six states.

The VP Debate and a Changing Map

The vice presidential candidates took center stage for one night last evening, and at least the in the CNN poll (conducted by Opinion Research Council of 381 debate watchers via post-event telephone interviews), results suggested that Paul Ryan fared better than Vice President Joe Biden.

A 48-44 percent pro-Ryan division relating to winner perception was recorded, though a slight over-sampling of Republicans was present in the CNN respondent universe. Ryan scored more favorably on two critical perception points, being more likable (53-43 percent) and better expressing himself (50-41 percent). Of those sampled, 28 percent said they are now more likely to vote for Mitt Romney because of this debate, versus 21 percent who made similar comments in relation to Pres. Barack Obama.

Thus, the debate ended with neither candidate scoring a knock-out blow or inflicting serious damage upon their own campaign effort. It is likely the after-effects from this forum will be short-lived, which likely helps Romney because he has the current momentum.

Last night, Real Clear Politics also released their version of the new electoral map. According to them, based upon all polling data to which they have access, the president has a safe/likely/lean count of 201 electoral votes from 16 states and the District of Columbia, while Romney’s commensurate total is 181 from 22 states. Curiously, RCP lists Missouri in the Undecided/Uncommitted column. Based upon complete voting history since 2000, inclusive, and the fact that Romney has led in virtually every Show Me State poll, it is more than plausible to add their 10 Electoral Votes to the Romney column. If so, the challenger would pull within 10 votes of the president, leaving 146 votes in 11 states as uncommitted.

Among the states moving into the Undecided/Uncommitted category are two places with a clear Democratic history in presidential elections, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Once the votes are completely counted, it is more than likely that both of these domains will remain in the president’s column but the fact that he is having to fight so hard to keep them is indicative of his weakening national standing.

The remaining nine states: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada are the ones we have been analyzing for some time. It is clear that some combination of these states will make the final electoral determination in early November.

Assuming the moving of Missouri to Romney and Michigan and Pennsylvania to Obama prove correct, then the Republican would need 79 Electoral Votes to win the Presidency and Obama 33. Of the Undecided/Uncommitted states on the current board, the Republican’s easiest path to victory would include Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nevada. This would give Romney a bare 270-268 victory and send him to the White House.

While originally it was thought that a challenger would have to carry Florida, Ohio, and Virginia to defeat Obama, it is now possible to win with taking Florida and only one of the latter two. With more states firmly in play, the Romney campaign now has several options to possibly cobble together a winning coalition of states in order to reach the magic 270 electoral vote plateau.

Getting through last night’s VP debate with both sides intact, means the stakes for the remaining two debates grows even higher. Pressure will continue to mount upon both candidates and what remains true is that the final defining events for this particular presidential election have yet to occur.

paleologos-cropped

Pollster Projects Romney Win in Fla., N.C., & Va.

Suffolk University’s David Paleologos

On Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” Suffolk University polling director David Paleologos rather surprisingly announced that his institution would no longer conduct presidential surveys in the core swing states of Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. He says that Republican challenger Mitt Romney will carry the trio, representing a combined 57 Electoral Votes. If true, this would have a stunning effect on the national election.

Paleologos has several reasons supporting his decision to project the three states, all of which voted for President Obama in 2008. First, he says, in Florida, 12 candidates are on the ballot. When questioning the respondents who say they are supporting someone other than Obama or Romney, the overwhelming majority cited the Republican nominee as their second choice. He reasons that most people pledging for a minor candidate will move to one of the two major party contenders when they actually cast their ballots instead of wasting their vote on someone who cannot win.

Paleologos also cited the absentee ballot request forms in Florida as another fundamental reason that Romney will win the Sunshine State. He argues that of those people officially requesting ballots, 43.4 percent are registered Republicans versus 39 percent who identify as Democrats. Of those already returning their voting envelope, 45.5 percent are Republican as compared to 38 percent Democratic. In North Carolina, 52 percent of the absentee ballot requests are from Republicans with just 27 percent coming from Democrats. He is less specific about his reasoning for including Virginia in this group of states.

Though some of the support points for Suffolk’s decision are sound, it is way too early, and the margins too close, to begin projecting such states for either candidate. Just look at the major swings occurring within the last two weeks, yielding trends that no one predicted. Much will continue to happen in the next month to determine the actual winner. Suffolk’s polling withdrawal decision is quite premature.