Maiello: Defeat the Press
Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
October 26 was a good day for President Obama's re-election prospects, though not for the portrayal of his campaign in conservative media. The volume of positive state polls for the President provide very good news for him as the campaign heads to its last full week, though as we discussed yesterday, it can be challenging to reconcile them with national polling that tends to show an even race or a tiny Romney lead. Meanwhile, the Romney campaign and its allies in media are very assertively advancing the argument that Romney is surging. This blog explains the implausibility of that claim, and how President Obama is closing in on re-election, with ten days of campaigning ahead.
Ohio Solidifying Behind Obama, Likely Giving Obama 262 EVs.
The big story of the day is that the biggest domino among the swing states is already falling to President Obama. Today saw three surveys of Ohio, all good for the President: CNN/Opinion Research has the President up 50/46, ARG shows him up 49/47, and Purple Strategies 46/44. The last six polls of Ohio, oldest to newest, are: Obama +3, Obama +5, tie, Obama +2, Obama +4 and Obama +2. The confidence level that Obama leads in Ohio is very high. HuffPo's number cruncher correlates these data and says it's 96% likely. The only poll not showing an Obama lead, the Rasmussen poll, is an oddity, with a sample that is 1 point more Republican than Democratic. Purple, by contrast, is a D+7 sample. Ohio polls have tended to run D+5 to D+8.
The polls show that the cake is largely already baked. Purple says 26% of Ohio has already voted, with Obama leading by a nearly 2-1 margin (58/32). CNN reports that margin as 59/38. Time has it at 60/30. ARG finds that Obama leads 55/44 among early voters, who comprise 28% of its sample. Additionally, the CNN poll seems to indicate that support for Obama is hardening. As compared with its survey of Ohio shortly after the first debate, where registered voters favored Obama over Romney by a much larger margin (53/43) than did likely voters (51/47). At this late date, the registered voter-likely voter gap is narrow: 51/44 (RV) and 50/46 (LV). That shows that at this point, Obama voter intensity is nearing that of Romney's voters.
With ten days left to go, and about 70% of the votes left to be cast, Ohio is looking like Obama country. As I have written in the last several pieces, with Obama's base consisting of the Kerry states + New Mexico and Nevada (a state Obama has now led in nine consecutive polls), less New Hampshire, that is 262 EVs.
Finding the Next 8 EVs -- October 26 Gives the President Many Options.
If President Obama takes Ohio and Nevada, as appears very likely in light of current polling, he will need 8 more EVs to win. October 26 supplies several paths.
First, President Obama's good week of polling in Colorado continues. Since Monday's debate, President Obama has been +3 (Keating), tied (Marist), +3 (Grove), +4 (PPP), and today, +1 (Purple Strategies) in Colorado. Obama leads in early voting by roughly 8 points, averaging two figures I saw. Colorado would allow the President to win while losing Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. It is again worth noting that Colorado was a state in 2010 in which the average of polls (and indeed, all but one late poll) favored Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck, but the Democrat, Michael Bennet, won anyway. Colorado looks good for President Obama right now.
Second, President Obama's polling in Wisconsin remains strong, and tends to predict a victory there. Wisconsin, like Colorado, would give the President re-election when coupled with the above-described base. Today, however, broke a streak of 26 consecutive polls in which the President led Governor Romney in Wisconsin, with Rasmussen's release of a 49-49 result. Please excuse me if I do not take seriously a poll in which the President held his recent vote share among white voters, but in which Mitt Romney surged to 27% of Wisconsin's tiny black vote, without which the result would still show a tiny Obama lead, like other Rasmussen polls. While there is no question that Wisconsin is close, there are no polls showing Romney ahead, which would make a November 6 victory there very unlikely.
Third, President Obama drew good polls in two states which (combined) would form a third path to 270 EVs -- Iowa (a +4 among unreliable Gravis Marketing), and New Hampshire (a +3 from New England College). I was skeptical of a recent poll by UNH showing Obama ahead by 9, but in digging deeper to assess the validity of the poll, found that the same sample of 773 voters who preferred the President 51-42 included subsamples in which two New Hampshire House races that have been running even, indeed ran even. That tends to corroborate the idea that the President is at least modestly ahead, and that the +9, while perhaps a bit high, was not entirely aberrational. Iowa is likewise lightly polled, but it appears that the President is up there from almost all current polling. With Iowa (6 EVs) and New Hampshire (4 EVs), the President could lose Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, and would still win re-election.
Fourth, President Obama pulled a pair of -1's that bode well. One from Republican pollster Civitas showed a 48/47 Romney advantage in North Carolina, where Democrats have a massive advantage in early voting, though not quite what they had in 2008. Obama voter intensity is strong in North Carolina. This result, when paired with yesterday's 48/48 tie in the Tar Heel State from PPP, demonstrates that North Carolina is back in play, and that reports of Obama's demise there (at least in light of this week's strong debate) were premature. Additionally, Purple Strategies showed Obama down 1 in Virginia. That is roughly the consensus of recent numbers, as President Obama has been +5, -2, and -2. Adding a -1 there underscores the possibility of an Obama win in Virginia, especially considered in light of 2010's modest, but universal overstatement of GOP voting in closely contested statewide elections. Needless to say, either North Carolina (15 EVs) or Virginia (13 EVs) would, when paired with Ohio and Virginia, re-elect the President. (Last weekend, based on poor polling, I had written off North Carolina, but apparently should have listened to David Plouffe, who did not.)
Fifth, Governor Romney showed well today in Florida, with a +5 from one source, and a +2 from Rasmussen. The number of narrow Romney leads there in recent polling (the President has pulled a +1 once and trailed in nine of the last ten polls), continues to suggest that among the swing states, it is least likely to tip toward the President.
Romney's Paradox: National Polls and Conservative Media Reject State Polling
There is no question that Governor Romney did surge from a deficit around the time of the Denver debate into a near-tie with the President. National polling, while a bit spread out, generally tells a favorable story for him. Gallup ticked back up 2 points to Romney +5. Rasmussen is steady at +3. ABC/WaPo ticked 2 points toward Obama, and is now Romney +1. RAND moved 2 points toward Obama, and is now Obama +6. And IBD/TIPP moved 0.3% toward Obama, who is now +2.3. Yesterday's piece worked toward explaining how those numbers cannot be squared with state polling, which is unequivocally narrowly favorable to Obama in a combination of states that would elect him, were the election held now. (The contradiction may be a fake one anyway. Throwing out goofy Gallup and also RAND, which has a weird methodology of using the same people continuously throughout the campaign, the remaining polls average +0.6 for Romney, which does not equate to any particular likelihood of electoral victory.)
Where the polls are equivocal though, the pundit class is not. Jonathan Chait has argued that the Romney campaign's incessant incantation of the idea that it is surging is the campaign's leading strategy. Not only is he right, but why not? After the conventions were net-positive for Obama, and after the 47% and Libya statement problems Romney faced, the media spent much of September ratifying the conclusion that President Obama was ahead and thus would win. October has been the flip. Romney did come back, and earned a contrary narrative. It is presently being squeezed dry by its proponents -- just as Chait argues -- because, as the aphorism goes, nothing succeeds like success. We are thus treated to a parade of Op-Eds from the likes of Krauthammer, Douthat, and Rubin, asserting more than arguing that the President is failing or panicking. In making these assertions, they are amplifying the themes of the Romney campaign's press releases.
Conservative news aggregator RealClearPolitics today has even taken the unusual step of posting in its main page a series of rants from undistinguished movement conservative blogs, one of which RealClearPolitics has taken the liberty of retitling in part, "Obama Won't Catch Romney." This is of course true from a certain point of view; we already know 47% of the public will not catch Romney under any circumstances, and to paraphrase the President, Obamacare does provide treatments for conditions of that type.
But the wishfulness remains merely that. The continuing suggestion of the Rubins and Douthats that Romney is "surging" beg the question of why, 23 days into his surge (begun from only 6 points down), he trails. Perhaps Romney's surge is like Zeno's paradox -- the tale of the arrow that never reaches its mark because it is always getting halfway closer again. With 10 days of campaigning remaining (unless you're Paul Ryan, relegated to small markets in safely red states), and with President Obama leading early voting heavily in Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina, and substantially in Colorado, the claimed "surge" reprises the paradox of state polls that differ from national polls. These are paradoxes Governor Romney can ill afford.