News from the Votemaster
Hurricane or no hurricane, election day is a week from today. People may have to wade to the polls and vote by candlelight, but elections are not called off due to the mere inconvenience of 80 MPH winds, flooded roads, and power outages. Let's take a quick run down of where we are now. There were five national polls released yesterday, from Politico, Pew, WaPo, Rasmussen, and Gallup. The results were Obama+1, tie, tie, Romney+2, and Romney+5, respectively. The straight average puts Romney ahead by 1.2 points. However, both Gallup and Rasmussen have had strong biases in the direction of Romney all year, and Rasmussen does not call cell phones. Gallup does, but there have been persistent issues about whether it is sampling enough minorities. All things considered, it is probably very close to even at this point. The popular vote could be a real nailbiter and we may not know how it turns out until well after election day, when all the absentee and provisional ballots have been counted.
The electoral-vote situation is somewhat different. Here is a quick rundown of the key states.
- Florida. As the most populous swing state, Florida is always crucial. Since the third debate,
Romney has led in three polls and Obama in two. When Romney picked Paul Ryan to be his running mate,
Democrats thought he was giving away Florida. It didn't happen. The state is likely to be very close,
but Romney probably has a small edge right now.
- Ohio. This is the one everybody will be watching. It will probably determine the election.
If we look at the Ohio polls taken entirely after the third debate, Obama has led in four, tied in one
and trailed in one. The two where he was tied or behind are both from Rasmussen.
Even without taking Rasmussen's not calling cell phones into account, Obama has a small, but
consistent lead in Ohio. If the hurricane does not disrupt the election there too much and there aren't
too many fights of who is eligible to vote, Obama is likely to win the state by 1-2%.
- North Carolina. To everyone's surprise, Obama won North Carolina in 2008, but the margin of
victory was a mere 14,000 votes. There have been three polls taken all or mostly after the third debate. Rasmussen
gives Romney a 6-point lead and the other two say it is an exact tie. For demographic and other reasons,
this is going to be a tougher nut for Obama to crack than Virginia. Our best guess is that Romney has
a small lead here.
- Virginia. This is probably the second-most watched state. Since the third debate, Obama
has led in two polls, trailed in two polls, and been tied in two polls. Let's call it a tie. The
hurricane might play a bigger role here than in Ohio, with unknown effects. At present, Virginia looks
like the mother of all tossups. For Obama, a loss in Ohio could be countered with a win here, although
Ohio is worth a bit more (18 vs. 13 EVs). To be competitive, Romney has to win both of these states.
- Colorado. Obama has led in three of the five post-debate polls, trailed in one and was tied in one.
The state has gotten less attention than some of the other swing states, but its 9 EVs could be crucial
if the larger swing states split. Obama won Colorado by 9 points in 2008. At 7.4%, unemployment is lower
than the national average and falling. All in all, Obama has a very slight edge here.
- Nevada. Nothing is in the bag in this election, but Romney has not led in even one of the 26
nonpartisan polls taken since February 1. Even Rasmussen has put Obama ahead seven times and tied once.
A Romney win here would be a major upset. No one is expecting it. The big question in Nevada is whether
Obama's coattails can pull Shelley Berkley over the finish line first in her Senate race with Dean Heller.
- Iowa. There hasn't been much post-debate polling here, but the one poll taken, from PPP,
puts Obama ahead by 2 points. Over the course of the year, Obama has led in 10 polls and Romney in five.
Two were ties. Probably Obama has a slight edge here, but it could be very close.
The influential Des Moines Register endorsed Romney, which might help him a little, but it is
not clear that newspaper endorsements mean much any more.
- New Hampshire. While last and least, in what could be such a close election, even New Hampshire's
four electoral votes could matter. Since the third debate, Obama has led in two polls and trailed by
2 points in a Rasmussen poll. Normally, a state close to one where a candidate had been governor favors him, but
New Hampshire likes to be contrary. Probably Obama has a slight lead here.
So what's the bottom line? With all the usual caveats about hurricanes, voter ID laws, court decisions, balky or hacked voting machines, etc., Obama probably has a very small edge in Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, and New Hampshire on the basis of polls won, rather than their arithmetic averages (which is what the map shows). For example, North Carolina shows a solid Romney lead, but that is on the basis of one Rasmussen poll, whereas two other polls show it is tied. If Obama wins these five swing states and loses the others, he gets 43 electoral votes from them. Added to his base of 242 plus New Mexico, he has 290, which gives him some margin for error. But again, as we all know, in politics a week is a long time. Obama could flub handling Hurricane Sandy or something else unexpected could happen. It would be foolish to make a call at this point.
Another factor to consider for the coming week is that the polling data is going to be sparser and less reliable as both the pollsters and respondents may be under water and lacking power and/or telephone service.
President Obama flew back to Washington to coordinate the federal response to Hurricane Sandy instead of campaigning. He clearly remembers George W. Bush's nonresponse to Hurricane Katrina and what it did to his standing. He also knows that the hurricane is a two-edged sword: if he is seen as putting the lives of people ahead of his campaign, that will surely make him look presidential and win some votes. He said: "The election will take care of itself next week. Right now our number one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives." It is hard for Romney to rebut that. Any criticism Romney has of Obama's behavior will be seen as crass and political, so he has to keep mum for the moment.
Politico has a list of five factors that haven't gotten much coverage but which could turn out to be important.
- Latino enthusiasm in Colorado (or lack thereof) could make or break Obama
- The Des Moines Register endorsed Romney, its first Republican endorsement in four decades
- Romney made a strong pitch to ethnic-Americans in Cuyahoga County, Ohio
- Wisconsin allows nonregistered voters to show up, register, and vote all at once
- Will Minnesota be in play after one poll showing it close?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to issue its jobs report for October on Friday. However, due to Hurricane Sandy, federal offices were closed yesterday and will be closed again today, which could delay the release of the jobs report. A lot is riding on the report. If it shows yet another decrease in unemployment, President Obama will tout it as a sign that his plans are working and the economy is getting better. If it shows that unemployment has risen since the 7.8% reported in September, Mitt Romney will be shouting from the rooftops that it is time for a change. If there is no report due to the Hurricane, the status quo will prevail.
Romney supporters accused the Obama administration of cooking the books with the September drop under 8% and will surely make the same accusation if it drops again. If it goes up, they will cite the BLS' long history of impartiality. In reality, too many economists at the bureau are involved for anyone to fudge the numbers. The word would leak out immediately. But that is unlikely to stop the conspiracy theorists.
If Romney wins, Democrats will tear their hair out, but for the most part they are likely to blame Obama himself for his half-hearted effort at the first debate. Up until that point, he had solid leads everywhere and people were starting to talk about a landslide. That changed instantly the minute the debate was over. Obama lost badly and both sides knew it. Unless there are a lot of machinations in the voting process, Democrats will mope and hope Hillary rides to the rescue in 2016.
If Obama wins, the Republican Party will engage in a full-blown civil war pitting the tea party against the establishment. The establishment (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove, etc.) will blame the tea party for forcing Romney to take crazy stands that put him to the right of Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) at times. If Senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin go down in flames and the Democrats hold the Senate by a tiny margin, the tea party will also be accused of blowing winnable Senate races.
The tea party will shoot back that Romney was not a real conservative and everyone knew it. If only they had nominated a real conservative, they would have won. Unfortunately, all the conservatives who ran in the primaries were buffoons, so they ended up with Romney. There is virtually no chance that a defeat will move the Republicans back to the center. They will try to nominate a "real" conservative in 2016, and be convinced that is the ticket to victory. Certainly Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Chris Christie will be thinking that, in any case. Recall that after Barry Goldwater was crushed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the conservatives in the party took no heed and did not change course, finally electing Ronald Reagan in 1980, although Reagan, who raised taxes several times as President, would probably be unacceptable in today's Republican Party. Probably the only thing that might make the party rethink its position is if Ryan or Rubio wins an early and decisive primary victory, runs a fantastic campaign, and is crushed by Elizabeth Warren in a completely ideological campaign.
|Colorado||47%||48%||Oct 25||Oct 28||ARG|
|Florida||49%||50%||Oct 25||Oct 28||ORC International|
|Massachusetts||56%||39%||Oct 24||Oct 28||U. of New Hampshire|
|Montana||41%||47%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|North Carolina||45%||45%||Oct 21||Oct 26||Elon U.|
|North Dakota||40%||54%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Mason Dixon|
|Ohio||48%||50%||Oct 28||Oct 28||Rasmussen|
|Texas||39%||55%||Oct 15||Oct 21||U. of Texas|
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||I||I %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Connecticut||Chris Murphy||51%||Linda McMahon||45%||Oct 28||Oct 28||Rasmussen|
|Florida||Bill Nelson*||49%||Connie McGillicuddy||46%||Oct 25||Oct 25||Rasmussen|
|Hawaii||Maizie Hirono||57%||Linda Lingle||35%||Oct 15||Oct 22||Ward Research|
|Massachusetts||Elizabeth Warren||47%||Scott Brown*||47%||Oct 24||Oct 28||U. of New Hampshire|
|Maryland||Ben Cardin*||50%||Dan Bongino||24%||Oct 20||Oct 23||OpinionWorks|
|New York||Kirsten Gillibrand*||64%||Wendy Long||22%||Oct 23||Oct 25||SurveyUSA|
|Virginia||Tim Kaine||51%||George Allen||44%||Oct 22||Oct 26||Washington Post|
* Denotes incumbent
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