Category Archives: Presidential campaign

Election Day Rundown

Eleven national polls were reported at this closing of the election period, and they’re all over the map. Six give Pres. Barack Obama a national lead of one to four points, three have the race tied and two show Republican Mitt Romney with a slight one point edge. The campaign, still, on Election Day, is too close to call.

All of the earliest-closing states are key for tonight. Polls begin to close at 6 pm in parts of Indiana and Kentucky and 7 pm EST in the remaining regions of these two states and Vermont, South Carolina, Georgia, and all-important Virginia and Florida (except for the western panhandle, which is in the Central time zone; normally, results are withheld from release until the entire state closes). Excluding Vermont, Romney needs to sweep these states, and most particularly Florida. Should he fall in the Sunshine State, then the predicted late night election result will conclude early, because he simply cannot compensate elsewhere for failing to capture its 29 Electoral Votes.

With Ohio, which appears to be the decider of this election, continuing to teeter, Virginia becomes that much more important for Romney. Though he could theoretically win the Electoral College vote without either the Buckeye State or Old Dominion, it is clear that he must carry one of the two. Practically, looking at the final trends in other swing states such as Nevada and Iowa, it is becoming apparent that both Ohio and Virginia need to go Romney in order for him to win.

Thirty minutes after the first wave of states close at 7 pm, North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio itself will conclude their election period. Romney must carry both NC and WV, and then we concentrate on the Ohio trend for the rest of the evening.

At 8 pm Eastern, about half of the states will be closed, including everything in the central and eastern portion of the country with the exception of swing state Iowa, which doesn’t close until 10 pm EST.

In the 9 pm EST belt, look at the critical secondary swing states of Wisconsin and Colorado. At that point, with the exception of Nevada, which now looks to be trending definitively toward the president, the election-determining states will be closed and their early trends will have already been released in most of the country.

It is likely to be a long night, and though it is generally a bad sign for an incumbent to have the polling numbers of Obama — that is, still not having a clear winning spread on the morning of Election Day and the late trends favoring the challenger — the race is far from over.

Democrats appear poised to keep control of the Senate. In the early reporting zone, look to the Indiana race between Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. The Republicans need to hold the open seat (Sen. Richard Lugar was defeated in the Republican primary), but trends are clearly favoring a Donnelly upset. Without Indiana, it will be extremely difficult for the GOP to have a realistic chance of capturing the four Democratic seats they need to wrest control away from their opposition. Republican losses in Maine and Massachusetts in the 8 pm hour will seal their fate.

In the House, watch two seats as the polls close at 7 pm. The southwestern IN-8 district of freshman Rep. Larry Bucshon is marginally in play. Bucshon winning early will be a good sign for Republicans. Rep. Donnelly’s open 2nd CD should go Republican in the person of former state Rep. Jackie Walorski. A Democratic victory in either would likely spell doom to the GOP hopes of gaining congressional seats, but still won’t put the majority in danger.

Kentucky, also a 7 pm closer as noted above, is the fastest vote counter of all the states. Here, watch the 6th District re-match campaign between Rep. Ben Chandler (D) and challenger Andy Barr (R). This was the second-closest election in 2010 and figures to be competitive again. If their quick count doesn’t show a Chandler victory, then the Democrats could be in for a longer night than expected in the House races.

Just a thought: you might want to print out this post and keep it handy so you can check off items above as the evening moves on.

It’s been quite a ride throughout the 2012 election cycle and, even as voting is now well underway, the final result is not yet clear.

Predicting the Presidential Outcome

At long last the election is finally here, but we still can’t predict the presidential outcome with any confidence. Recognizing that there have been many conflicting national polling factors present for the past several weeks, now at the end of the campaign it appears that all of the major pollsters are projecting just about the same final national popular vote result – a virtual tie.

Seven polls were released on Thursday through Saturday, and four of them (Ipsos/Reuters, Rasmussen Reports, UPI/C-Voter, and Zogby for the Washington Times) produced a high-40s deadlock between Pres. Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Two (Purple Strategies and Public Policy Polling) forecast a one-point lead for Obama. One, the ABC/Washington Post poll, showed Romney with that same single-point advantage. Simply put, the national election doesn’t get any closer.

Good news actually exists for both candidates in these final surveys. First, bringing the candidates back into a tie is positive for the president, who had been starting to drop behind. On the other hand, and an argument in Romney’s favor, an incumbent tied going into the election is rarely a good sign, because challengers typically under-poll to at least a small degree.

On the state front, Ohio still appears to be the deciding factor. There are some favorable indications that Romney will win close victories in North Carolina and Florida, which are his top priority conversion states. He also is trending upward in Virginia, but the all-important Buckeye State remains a mystery. The president has a slight edge in several polls, but not in others.

Looking at the secondary states, though Nevada and possibly Iowa look to remain in the president’s column, Romney is getting strong positive signs from Colorado. Should he be successful in taking Virginia and Ohio, Colorado would clinch a victory for the challenger.

Polling

There has been a great deal of analyses done about the myriad of polls conducted over the past months, and the conflicting nature between the ones that have projected the 2012 vote using a turnout model based upon 2008 voting patterns. Many have said that using such base data explains the polling discrepancies because the 2012 electorate is much different than that of four years ago. Therefore, using the 2008 model may skew too heavily Democratic.

Mike Barbera, a Washington lobbyist and guest columnist for our reports, has studied this situation, and offers the following perspective: Given all available evidence, the idea that the 2012 electorate will be as Democratic as 2008 is implausible – and the notion that it will be even more Democratic is to be completely rejected.

The 2008 election cycle featured the following:

  • A highly motivated Democratic base, enthused by the historic candidacy of Barack Obama and still seething with animus toward George W. Bush
  • A dispirited Republican base (although the Palin vice presidential selection remedied this to a certain degree)
  • A historically-unpopular outgoing Republican president
  • A huge funding disparity, which allowed the Obama campaign to dramatically outspend the McCain forces on the airwaves and in the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts
  • An economic meltdown a month before Election Day

That is a recipe for what a great Democratic year looks like – and indeed the Democrats in 2008 had a great year. They elected a president as well as super-majorities in both the House and Senate.

To put it mildly, 2012 looks nothing like 2008. By any measure, Republican enthusiasm is much higher than in 2008. Obama’s favorability ratings are significantly lower than they were in 2008. His job approval ratings are dismal. Romney and his GOP allies are at financial parity with the Obama campaign and the Democrats – so the Republican GOTV efforts are vastly improved from the threadbare McCain operation of 2008. Romney is doing very well among independents – John McCain lost them by a substantial margin.

Early Voting

States are reporting the number of ballots already returned through the various early voting processes. While all of the partisan numbers, i.e. the ballots returned from registered Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters, are better for Romney and the Republicans than the ratios from four years ago, it is unclear if they are a precursor to a Romney victory performance.

The Romney camp compares the current early voting trends to that of 2008 GOP nominee John McCain and illustrates what they believe is their candidate’s improvement over his showing. While there seems no doubt that the already returned ballots will yield better results for the Republican, as the Obama campaign points out, Romney must exceed the president’s vote total, not just that of McCain, and in every state but Colorado (that releases early voting partisan registration data) more Democratic ballots have been returned than Republican. All totaled, almost 30 million people have already voted in this election.

The Senate

Democratic trends in the statewide contests are better than for Republicans. It now appears likely that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate and do so with about the same level of strength they currently maintain: a seat up or down from the current 53D-47R margin.

The House

While the Senate races appear to be trending Democratic, the Republicans are pulling away in the House. The GOP majority is secure, and their original majority margin, based upon 242 seats, could even increase by as many as three or four seats when analyzing the final individual race trends.

Conclusion

This election is very close, and could be following one of two election models. The first would be that of 1980, where Ronald Reagan was running close to incumbent President Jimmy Carter, only to catch a wave at the very end and go onto a major landslide victory. The second potential precursor is the 2004 election, where a relatively unpopular incumbent President, George W. Bush, won a close victory that basically came down to the state of Ohio becoming the deciding factor. Determining the actual result is now merely hours away.

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.

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.