Tag Archives: North Carolina

Bono Mack Loses; West in Recount; Other Election Updates

We’re learning more about the eight outstanding House races, and one thing is clear: The trends that so favored the Democrats on Election Day are continuing in political overtime.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-45)

Rep. Mary Bono Mack
Congresswoman Bono Mack who succeeded her late husband in Congress, Rep. Sonny Bono upon his untimely death in early 1998, conceded her re-election contest to physician Raul Ruiz on Saturday in California’s Riverside County/Palm Desert region. The current results, which continue to evolve because California non-Election Day votes are still being counted, put the eight-term congresswoman 7,336 votes behind Ruiz. Such a deficit is too large to overcome considering the number of outstanding votes, hence her decision to concede.

The new 36th District contains 75% of the territory from Ms. Bono Mack’s current 45th District and actually became two points more Republican in redistricting, but this year’s Democratic political tide was too much for her to overcome.

Reps. Dan Lungren & Brian Bilbray
In northern California, at the end of counting on Friday, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-7) had fallen further behind his challenger, physician Ami Bera (D). Trailing by just 184 votes on Election Day, Lungren now faces a 1,779 vote deficit with still more than 70,000 ballots remaining.

In the San Diego area, we find a similar trend. There, San Diego Port Commission chairman and ex-City Councilman Scott Peters has extended his lead over Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA-52) to 1,334 votes. Approximately 80,000 ballots remain to be counted. With such large pools of ballots still remaining, anything can still happen in both of these districts, but clearly the first reported non-Election Day counts favor the Democrats in both districts.

Rep. Allen West
Turning to southeast Florida, Rep. Allen West (R-FL-18) is encountering a different problem than awaiting a long ballot counting process, but he appears to be having at least a modicum of success in waging his voting irregularity argument. Virtually all of the ballots have been counted here — only those from the military and overseas remain — and West trails attorney Patrick Murphy (D) by 2,442 votes. The congressman’s claim concerns the tabulation of early votes in St. Lucie County. The original election night count gave West about a 1,700 vote lead. When St. Lucie County election officials decided to recount the early votes, based upon a reported technical glitch, the margin shifted by more than 4,000 votes in Murphy’s favor. On Friday, a local judge ordered the 37,000+ St. Lucie County early votes to be recounted. The crux of the West argument is that some of the early votes were double-counted with those cast on Election Day.

Arizona
Counting continues in two undecided Arizona congressional districts. In the tight 2nd District, Rep. Ron Barber (D), who won his seat in a June special election, for the first time leads former Gulf War veteran Martha McSally (R). When counting ended Friday, Barber had taken a 289-vote lead. There could still be as many as 40,000 ballots to count. In the new 9th District, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema continues to lead Republican Vernon Parker, as she has virtually from the beginning. With tens of thousands of ballots remaining, Sinema’s lead has now increased to a substantial 4,710 votes.

Rep. Mike McIntyre
In North Carolina’s 7th District, the re-count trend has favored Republican David Rouzer in his quest to unseat Rep. Mike McIntyre (D). With the counting process continuing, McIntyre’s lead is now down to 394 votes. The final tally is due to be reported on Nov. 16th. Since it is almost a certainty that the end result will fall within a 1% margin, a full recount will be ordered in compliance with state election law. This result will likely hang in limbo for several more weeks.

Rep. Jim Matheson
Counting also continues in Utah’s close 4th Congressional District race even though Republican challenger Mia Love has already conceded to Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-4). The congressman’s margin in 2,646 votes, and an eventual Matheson victory will be the final official result.

Florida
Turning to the one outstanding state in the presidential contest, Florida election officials have declared Pres. Barack Obama the winner of the Sunshine State vote, meaning the final Electoral College margin is 332-206 in the president’s favor.

Washington
The one remaining Governor’s race has also been decided. Former Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-1) has been declared the winner of the Washington gubernatorial race, defeating Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) 51-49%.

Undecided Race Update

Jay Inslee (D)

All of the Senate races have now been determined, and the Democrats will lead a 55-45 majority in the next Congress, assuming Senator-Elect Angus King (I-ME) joins their caucus, as expected.

One governor’s race remains uncalled. In Washington, former Rep. Jay Inslee (D) has a 51.1-48.9% lead over Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) with still one-quarter of the vote remaining. Inslee has a 54,398 vote advantage with approximately 600,000 votes remaining. To win, McKenna would have to score a bit over 54% of the uncounted ballots. Mathematically this is certainly possible, but the trend suggests otherwise. Even if Inslee holds, the GOP gains one gubernatorial seat nationally, bringing their advantage to 30-19-1 over the Democrats and Rhode Island Independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Here are the latest in the outstanding House races:

  • AZ-1: The race has been called in favor of former Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.
  • AZ-2: Rep. Ron Barber (D) vs. Martha McSally (R) – The Republican challenger leads by a scant 81 votes with as many as 65,000 votes left to count. This one, obviously, can go either way as the remaining ballots will determine the winner.
  • AZ-9: Kyrsten Sinema (D) vs. Vernon Parker (R) – About 70,000 ballots remain here, and Sinema’s lead has increased to 3,842 votes. To overtake the Democrat, Republican Parker would need just over 52% of the remaining ballots. This is a reasonable percentage, but Parker has yet to lead the race. Therefore, the trend favors Sinema.
  • CA-7: Rep. Dan Lungren (R) vs. Ami Bera (D) – Approximately 100,000 ballots still must be counted, and the challenger’s lead is a mere 184 votes. Both men have an equal chance of winning.
  • CA-36: Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) vs. Raul Ruiz (D) – Challenger Ruiz has increased his advantage to 4,679 votes, though more than 50,000 ballots remain uncounted. To win, Rep. Bono Mack needs 55% of the remaining pool of votes. It is unlikely that she will reverse the trend.
  • CA-52: Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) vs. Scott Peters (D) – In a very similar situation to that of Rep. Lungren, it’s possible that as many as 100,000 ballots are still outstanding. Peters leads by 814 votes, meaning that Bilbray needs at least 50.5% of the remainder to pull out the victory.
  • FL-18: Rep. Allen West (R) vs. Patrick Murphy (D) – The congressman trails challenger Murphy by 2,456 votes with all precincts reporting. West is challenging voting irregularities in St. Lucie County, and several thousand provisional ballots remain. Unless West wins his challenge – claiming that certain precincts have been double counted – Murphy is likely to prevail.
  • NC-7: Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) vs. David Rouzer (R) – The congressman leads by 533 votes, with more than 5,000 to count. Many of those are from the challenger’s home county of Johnston, where he performed strongly. There is an outside chance that this election could turn around.
  • UT-4: Rep. Jim Matheson (D) vs. Mia Love (R) – Though challenger Love has already conceded, counting of the remaining 50,000 votes continues. Matheson leads with a 2,646 vote margin, meaning Love needs at least 53% of the remainder, which is unlikely to happen based upon the already known voting pattern.

Obama and Senate Ds; House Rs

The question as to which of the two party’s polling methodology and turnout model projection was correct was answered in the this morning’s early hours, as the Democratic projections proved to be spot on.

As they predicted, Pres. Barack Obama was re-elected with what could be as many as 332 Electoral Votes, should he carry still-outstanding Florida. The absentee ballots will determine the winner at a later date, but the outcome from what was formerly challenger Mitt Romney’s most important state is now irrelevant in determining the victor.

The race was as close as forecast, with the president taking the popular vote, preliminarily, by some 2.5 million ballots, an approximate margin of 51.1 percent. The individual core states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio were just as close as the national popular vote but, in the end, the president captured at least two of the four places, and possibly three, that Romney was virtually forced to win.

As has been the case since 2006, inclusive, the Senate races ended in a run. And, as in two of the three immediately previous elections, it was the Democrats who scored big. Despite having to defend 23 of 33 Senate seats, the Democrats will fare no worse than breaking even and quite possibly will see a net gain of two seats. Both Montana and North Dakota remain outstanding at this writing, going to political overtime. In the Big Sky Country, it will be the final counting plus the absentee ballots in both states that will determine the winner. But, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (MT) and former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (ND) lead in both races. If the two hold their leads, the final Senate margin will increase to 55D-45R.

At the beginning of the election cycle, considering Republicans needed to win only 14 of 33 Senate races to capture the majority, such an outcome was only remotely considered. Again, the polling proved to be spot on, and did correctly forecast the Democratic surge at the end for all of the competitive races. Only in Arizona (senator-elect Jeff Flake) and Nevada (Sen. Dean Heller) did the Republican candidates prevail.

In the House, Republicans held their majority but Democrats cut into their advantage. With 12 races remaining uncalled, the Republicans have 232 seats compared to the Democrats’ 191. Since the LA-3 contest ended in two Republican candidates headed to a post-election run-off (Dec. 1 – Reps. Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry), the minimum GOP number for the ensuing Congress will be 233. Of the remaining 11 races, they have the pre-absentee ballot counting edge in only two, so if trends hold constant in all results, the party division will be 235R-200D, or a gain of seven seats for the Democrats.

Most of the outstanding elections are in Arizona and California, and they are razor-thin. The margins are as follows:

  • AZ-1: The result here could mark the return of former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D). She has a 6,716 vote margin over former state Sen. Jonathan Paton (R). About 1% of the total vote remains to be counted before absentee ballot tabulation.
  • AZ-2: In a real surprise, Republican challenger Martha McSally has a very slight 386 vote lead over just-elected Rep. Ron Barber (D) in the Tucson region seat. This is the former district of ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D). Barber, her former staff member, won a similar district in a June special election. Absentee ballots will be the determining factor here.
  • AZ-9: The absentees will help decide this marginal race, too, as former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) has a small 2,101 vote edge over Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker (R). This race never veered from a small Sinema lead all night.
  • CA-7: Challenger Ami Bera (D) leads Rep. Dan Lungren (R) by just 184 votes, but thousands of absentee ballots remain.
  • CA-26: Democrat Julia Brownley has a 7,099 vote lead over state Sen. Tony Strickland (R), but again the thousands of absentee ballots will make the final call.
  • CA-36: Challenger Raul Ruiz (D) leads Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) by 3,451 votes, but only 57.4% of total universe of ballots has been counted. There could be as many as 50,000 ballots left here and in CA-7.
  • CA-52: Absentees will also determine the winner in this San Diego district, as challenger Scott Peters (D) leads Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) by just 685 votes.
  • FL-18: Freshman Rep. Allen West (R) finds himself trailing newcomer Patrick Murphy by 2,456 votes, and absentees will also determine the final victor here, too.
  • LA-3: As mentioned above, the 3rd District race will move to a Dec. 1 run-off election between two Republican incumbents. Rep. Charles Boustany has a 45-30% lead over Rep. Jeff Landry heading to a secondary election that is sure to produce a Republican winner.
  • MI-1: Freshman Rep. Dan Benishek (R) is holding a small 2,297 vote advantage over former state Rep. Gary McDowell (D). The absentee ballots could still change the outcome here, as well.
  • NC-7: Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre is holding a mere 378 vote lead over state Sen. David Rouzer (R), with thousands of absentee ballots remaining.

Analysis of all these and other results and trends coming later today.

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.

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