Monthly Archives: October 2012

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.

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.

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.