Monthly Archives: October 2012

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.

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.

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.