Category Archives: Presidential campaign

Presidential Mathematics

In the past few days, developments have occurred that help define the Republican presidential field of candidates. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, after giving every indication he was beginning to build a bona-fide presidential campaign apparatus, now says he won’t run. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is forming a presidential exploratory committee, meaning his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), will not become a candidate. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now traveling to New Hampshire on a regular basis, says he will run if he doesn’t believe that another Republican candidate could actually defeat Pres. Barack Obama in a general election.

We still must hear definitively from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, ex-VP nominee Sarah Palin, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, all of whom may not enter the race, and Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, all of whom either will, or probably will, run.

Looking at the delegate counts and apportionment systems that each state employs uncovers a road map to victory for one of the eventual candidates. Eleven states are winner-take-all (of Republican delegates) and another nine are winner-take-all by congressional district. These states proved key to Sen. John McCain’s come-from-behind victory in 2008. Remember, the McCain candidacy had been given up for dead until the actual voting began. His close wins in South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, and Arizona (though the margin between McCain and the other candidates wasn’t particularly close in his home state, he still managed to garner only 47 percent of the vote within his own Arizona party base) gave him such a commanding lead in the delegate count that it soon became obvious no one could catch him.

Interestingly, despite his under-the-radar approach to the 2012 campaign, the delegate-rich states stack up pretty well in former Mayor Giuliani’s favor, considering his home base of New York (101 delegates) and New Jersey (53), are in the winner-take-all category. Connecticut (28), the District of Columbia (19), Delaware (17), and Vermont (17) are all other places the ex-NYC chief executive could win. Maryland (37 delegates), another Giuliani potential, is in the winner-take-all by congressional district category. The big states of California (172) and Florida (93) are also there, as are Ohio (72) and Wisconsin (42).

All totaled, the winner-take-all and the winner-take-all by congressional district states contain 1,096 delegates of the grand total of 2,422 that form the Republican National Convention. This means 45.2 percent of all delegates will be chosen in either winner-take-all or winner-take-all by CD states. The remainder are in caucus, proportional systems, or hybrids like Louisiana (48 delegates) where both a primary and caucus are used.

The winner-take-all by congressional district awards a candidate a certain number of delegates for winning the statewide vote (usually their base 10 delegates that all states receive, and whatever extra and bonus votes they earn for electing Republican candidates to office) and another three delegates for every congressional district won. This system is interesting because some congressional districts in places like Los Angeles, where Republicans routinely receive well less than 30 percent of the vote are of equal stature to the strongest of GOP districts in terms of delegate allocation for the Republican presidential primary. While it is unlikely that any one candidate would win all of the delegates in a winner-take-all by CD state, it is possible for an individual to snare the vast majority, which matters greatly in the national vote count.

Whether Rudy Giuliani comes back from political oblivion to stake his comeback on a winner-take-all state strategy is unclear right now. What is evident, however, is that the person carrying the preponderance of these winner-take-all states and districts will almost assuredly win the 2012 Republican nomination and become Obama’s future general election opponent.

Winner-Take-All States
• Arizona – 54 delegates
• Connecticut – 28
• Delaware – 17
• District of Columbia – 19
• Missouri – 56
• Montana – 26
• New Jersey – 53
• New York – 101
• Utah – 36
• Vermont – 17
• Virginia – 49

Winner Take All by Congressional District
• California – 172 delegates
• Florida – 93
• Georgia – 72
• Maryland – 37
• Michigan – 62
• Ohio – 72
• Oklahoma – 43
• South Carolina – 47
• Wisconsin – 42

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Giuliani in New Hampshire?

The Manchester, New Hampshire-based American Research Group (ARG) just released the results of their new Granite State poll (April 11-16; 600 likely NH Republican primary voters) and it includes a name not commonly mentioned when discussing 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Tied for third place with 8 percent of the vote is New York City former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been spending much quality time in New Hampshire during the past couple of weeks. When asked if he is considering running again, he basically says “yes,” qualified with a statement that he would support someone else if he believed such person could defeat Pres. Barack Obama.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney captures first place in this new poll, with 32 percent of the respondents. Real estate magnate Donald Trump, who has been receiving a great deal of media attention recently for his proposed presidential run, is second with 17 percent. Tied with Giuliani are ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), who will officially form a presidential exploratory committee. Sarah Palin only scores a 2 percent preference rating, tied with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and businessman Herman Cain. Now that Ron Paul is making moves to get into the race, it is likely that his son, Sen. Paul, will cease his potential presidential activities.

Should Giuliani decide to run and attacks New Hampshire with a grassroots, no frills campaign, and finishes at least a close second, he could again become a serious candidate, particularly within this current field of GOP candidates. It appears that anything can happen in the 2012 Republican presidential contest, so Giuliani entering the fray and doing well is certainly within the realm of possibility.
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The (Way Too) Early Line – Vulnerable or Not?

While it’s far too early to place any value on hypothetical match-ups in a presidential election that’s 18 months away, some preliminary polling numbers are starting to raise eyebrows and interest in the 2012 Presidential sweepstakes.

Some polls released into the public domain do little to enlighten or inform about public opinions because of small or meaningless sampling methodologies or survey techniques. Others, however, provide a snapshot of informed opinion that can influence future outcomes.

A question on the minds of Democrats and Republicans alike is: “Is President Obama vulnerable in 2012?” Since the 1932 Great Depression era election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, only two incumbent presidents have been beaten by opposing candidates in a general election. Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H.W. Bush’s 1992 defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton stand out as the only two examples of incumbent presidents losing a November election during that time span. (Lyndon Johnson’s withdrawal ended his 1968 re-election candidacy during the primary campaign.)

While Pres. Barack Obama continues to enjoy fairly high personal approval ratings from likely 2012 voters, his policy agenda doesn’t command the same level of support. In fact, looking at the trend line from the Rasmussen Reports tracking polls, conducted daily since the presidential inauguration, one sees that Mr. Obama’s overall approval rating has been under 50 percent every day since Feb. 18, while his disapproval score has consistently exceeded 50 percent post-Feb. 10.

These numbers might not mean much taken in and of themselves because Obama won’t be facing a “stay or go” plebiscite in November 2012. Instead, he will square off with a Republican challenger and, perhaps, an independent entry with a stark ideological bent.

During the month of March, Rasmussen conducted a series of presidential ballot test studies that included 10 different hypothetical GOP nominees. The comparison surveys all sampled at least 1,000 (and in some cases 2,000) likely voters and were conducted during the March 6-31 period. The sampling margin of error for surveys of 2,000 is +/- 2 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence; the error rate for surveys of 1,000 is +/- 3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Interestingly, regardless of who becomes Obama’s Republican opponent, the data shows he garners support between 49 and 42 percent of the respondents. The match-ups project Arkansas former Gov. Mike Huckabee to be running dead even with the president (43-43 percent), while Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney trails 40-45 percent. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is down 34-42 percent and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour lags behind by exactly that same percentage. As you have seen, all of the aforementioned Republicans trail by single-digit margins. GOP potential candidates down double-digits include: former vice-presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (38-48 percent), Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (35-45 percent), Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (31-41 percent), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (37-49 percent), Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (32-45 percent), and businessman, newspaper columnist and Tea Party activist Herman Cain (25-43 percent).

At this early point in the election cycle, there are few definitive conclusions to draw from the president’s middling approval ratings and his less than dominant showing in these hypothetical horse races. However, there is also little to suggest that Mr. Obama will have the luxury of running a relaxed, Rose Garden re-election strategy either.
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Questionable Polls Dot Political Surface

There seems to be a spate of recently released flawed surveys gaining media attention. Three methodologically deficient polls involve the Republican race for president, while another covers the Virginia US Senate campaign. All should be looked at with a skeptical eye.

Last week we covered the Wall Street Journal/NBC national poll that showed real estate magnate Donald Trump tied for second place with Mike Huckabee and only one point behind leader Mitt Romney. But this study is seriously inadequate. The survey sample included 1,000 adults without even screening for registered voters, and the self-identified number of Republicans answering the presidential preference question totaled only 238. This number is seriously below a proper national sample cell size, which should exceed 1,000 respondents.

Yesterday, CNN/Opinion Research released a new survey that places Trump and Huckabee tied for the lead with 19 percent apiece, followed by Sarah Palin at 12 percent, and Newt Gingrich and Romney closely trailing with an 11 percent tally. Though the sample size is 864 likely voters, the number of self-identified Republicans responding to the presidential ballot test that produced the aforementioned results was only 385 people. The methodology of this poll is better than the WSJ/NBC effort but is still not in the range of reliability for a national survey of likely Republican primary voters.

Also last week, Fox News released their national poll of 914 registered voters yielding similar results, though Trump and Gingrich did not show nearly as well. According to Fox, in data produced jointly by the Democratic firm of Anderson/Robbins Research and the Republicans’ Shaw & Company Research, Huckabee (15 percent) and Romney (14 percent) are virtually tied, with Palin following at 12 percent and Trump scoring 11 percent. Gingrich falls all the way to 7 percent. But here, too, the number of self-identified Republicans actually answering the questions is only 344.

The fact that all polling shows the race to be close with no clear leader and is verified by both methodologically sound and unsound studies does provide sufficient support for the supposition that the race is already extremely close, and that no candidate has a particular advantage. But, even if these conclusions prove to be spot-on, they are of little consequence. National polls for a political campaign decided by individual state contests are not very useful. The data helps to paint a simple story for the media to tell, but the findings are largely irrelevant in relation to the actual presidential horse race.

Roanoke College just released another questionable poll, but this one pertains to the Virginia Senate race. It shows former senator and governor George Allen (R) jumping out to a large lead over ex-Democratic National Committee chair and governor Tim Kaine (47-32 percent). This poll conflicts with every other piece of data showing the race to be in toss-up range. The results are even more curious when considering that Kaine just officially announced his candidacy, which normally provides a polling bump, not a decline.

The flaw in this poll concerns not so much the sample size (though 437 registered voters is low for a state the size of Virginia), but rather the length of the interview period, not screening for registered voters, and excluding respondents using cell phones.

The questions were asked from March 17-30, a 14-day period, when three days is usually considered the norm. Using only residents of Virginia who maintain land lines and not asking if they are registered voters badly under-represents the actual universe of people who will be casting votes in November of 2012.

Considering the aforementioned factors, the Roanoke College poll provides conclusions about the upcoming Senate campaign that are highly questionable and should not be considered as reliable information.
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Florida Looking Shaky for Obama

Quinnipiac University just completed one of their large-sample polls for Florida (March 29 – April 4; 1,499 registered Florida voters) and it shows that even an unnamed Republican candidate could beat the president here if the election were today. As we know, since the turn of the 21st century, Florida has become the quintessential swing state. Candidates from either party can win and the elections are always close.

Though the 2008 national presidential election result of 365-173 electoral votes in favor of Barack Obama was a landslide by any analysis, by factoring the new reapportionment into the Electoral College calculations, we see that it will now take a swing of just six states to change the outcome of the 2012 contest. Florida, naturally with its inflated 29 electoral votes, is one of the six. The others are, in order of importance from a Republican challenger perspective, Indiana (11 votes), North Carolina (15 votes), Virginia (13 votes), Ohio (18 votes), and any other state the president previously carried.

This model also assumes that the one electoral vote Pres. Obama won in Nebraska returns to the Republican column. The Cornhusker State is one of two places, Maine being the other, that allows a split in their electoral vote distribution. Obama won the 2nd congressional district in 2008, meaning one vote in the Electoral College. There is a move in Nebraska to change their system to winner-take-all, like 48 other states, and with redistricting added to the mix, NE-2 is likely to become more Republican. Either way, it should be considered a virtual given that Nebraska will unify its vote in 2012, and most probably in the Republican candidate’s favor.

According to this latest Q-Poll, Pres. Obama is upside down on his job approval ratings in Florida. By a margin of 44-52 percent, respondents disapprove of the job he is doing as the nation’s chief executive. While the surveyed Democrats and Republicans answered as one would expect, the president scores poorly among Florida Independents. The subset only scored him 39:55 percent positive to negative on the job performance scale. The president also has quite a gender gap. Men disapprove of his job performance by a full 20 points, 38:58 percent, while women actually approve of his work, 49:46 percent.

The re-elect questions are likely more disconcerting to the Obama camp than the aforementioned data. Asked whether the individuals comprising the polling sample would vote for the president in the next election or whomever the Republicans eventually choose as their nominee, the respondents preferred the unknown GOP candidate by a margin of 41-38 percent. In response to the question of whether or not the polling universe felt Mr. Obama deserves re-election, by a margin of 42-51 percent, those questioned believe he does not.

The Q-Poll study does not reveal uniformly positive Republican results, however. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, also facing voters in 2012, scores a respectable 47:26 percent job approval rating. Newly elected Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has an almost identical 47:23 percent rating. Nelson versus an unnamed Republican Senatorial candidate gets a 43-39 percent favorable nod. His “deserves re-election” score is 43-35 percent.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who won a razor-thin 49-48 percent victory last November, is not popular after three months in office. By a margin of 34-48 percent, the sampled individuals disapprove of his job performance.

Maybe the most surprising finding is the acceptance of increased off-shore oil drilling, which is a change from historical polls. By a strong 60-35 percent majority, the respondents favor expanding the level of off-shore drilling on Florida’s coast. This is led by an 82 percent favorable response from the Republicans polled and 58 percent of Independents. Conversely, the entire sampling universe’s support for building new nuclear power plants is only a tepid 48-47 percent.

Expect Florida to be another hotbed of political activity during the 2012 election cycle.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.