15 July 2012

Electoral Landscape and Predictions: July 2012

Bonncaruso's Electoral Landscape: Obama vs. Romney
Mid-July, 2012

Obama 281 / Romney 191 / pure Tossups 66

This is my first major electoral landscape prediction-output in a while. For those who know my analyses, they know that while I am a Democrat, my electoral analyses are non-partisan and brutally fair. I simply let the numbers speak for themselves.

There were a good number of polls in 2010-2011, you can see them all HERE (national), HERE (Alabama through New Hampshire) and HERE (New Jersey through Wyoming).

As of 2012, here are the stats on all 2012 polls, all of which are in one EXCEL-document HERE:

State Polls through 2012-07-015
Alabama 1
Alaska 0
Arizona 10
Arkansas 1
California 11
Colorado 9
Connecticut 3
Delaware 0
District of Columbia 0
Florida 25
Georgia 5
Hawaii 0
Idaho 0
Illinois 1
Indiana 2
Iowa 5
Kansas 0
Kentucky 0
Louisiana 0
Maine 5
Maryland 1
Massachusetts 11
Michigan 13
Minnesota 4
Mississippi 0
Missouri 6
Montana 4
Nebraska 4
Nevada 6
New Hampshire 8
New Jersey 9
New Mexico 6
New York 11
North Carolina 17
North Dakota 2
Ohio 20
Oklahoma 1
Oregon 3
Pennsylvania 17
Rhode Island 0
South Carolina 0
South Dakota 1
Tennessee 3
Texas 4
Utah 1
Vermont 2
Virginia 22
Washington (State) 7
West Virginia 1
Wisconsin 19
Wyoming 0
National 277
National – specialty polls 14
Total – without specialty polls 558
Total – with specialty polls 572

So, there were 281 state polls since the beginning of 2012 up through July 15th.

There were roughly 277 national polls, but sometimes the Gallup and Rasmussen poll values over a weekend did not change and I did not input them until a change occurred.

The specialty polls (ACA, latino vote, swing state votes) are not per-se directly involved in the state calculations, but worth a look nonetheless.

As of July 15, 2012, the following „states“ have not been polled at all in 2012:

Alaska, Delaware, DC, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wyoming. (12 states). The other 39 „states“ have been polled. It is pretty safe to assume that these 12 states will vote in 2012 in the same direction as they did in 2008. None of them are likely to be competitive.

Most of the states that have been polled the most are logically those considered the most competitive in the GE:

Florida (25), Virginia (22), Ohio (20), Wisconsin (19), North Carolina (17), Pennsylvania (17), Michigan (13), California (11), Massachusetts (11), New York (11), Arizona (10), Colorado (9), New Hampshire (8).

Alone from these 13 states in the Union we have received data on 193 of those 281 state polls.

Now, not all of these thirteen states are considered battlegrounds in 2012: California, Massachusetts and New York are all very safe DEM states, but CA and NY have a lot of CDs and therefore many electors, so the polling for CD primaries brought with it presidential match-up numbers as well. For this reason, so many polls of three rock-solid DEM states. Nonetheless, these values can also be very informative. More on this later.

Of the thirteen states listed above, 12 were Obama wins in 2008. Arizona is the lone „McCain“ state from 2008 on this list of most polled states.

Based on the polling results, which, as mentioned above, you can find all HERE in one excel table, I come up with exactly the same EC predictions as the polling tracker from TPM and for this reason, I will use their graphic for this electoral landscape:

I also come up with Obama 281, Romney 191, tossups 66. To-date, there are no special predictions for the congressional districts in either ME or NE, both of which do elector-splitting.

My methodology is similar. I take the average of all the last polls, no more than the last 7 to 9 polls within one month's time, no repeater pollsters. Closer to election day, this time-frame will be reduced to two-weeks and for the battleground states, one week. Any average at +2% or less is pure tossup. Otherwise, I designate a prediction.

What to make of this and the current polling data?

First, at the national level, we are seeing -essentially- a dead heat between President Obama and Governor Romney, but the national polling does not predict elections very well: state polling does, for the electors are decided on a state to state basis. Also, we have had extremely close National Popular Vote elections where the victor still came close to or over 300 EV in the electoral college (see: 1948, 1960, 1968 and 1976). Furthermore, the national results are not really manifesting themselves at the state level – yet.

Second, at the state level, the current tossups make a very interesting mix and present good and bad news for both teams:

-bad news for Romney and good news for Obama that at this time there are only four real statistical tossups. If Governor Romney were to win them all, it would still not be enough to get to 270. Also, Florida looks like it will be a tossup all the way until election day. Of the 25 Florida polls, Obama has won 15, Romney has won 9 and there has been 1 absolute tie. In the last 30 days, Obama has won 5 of the last 6 polls, but all of the margins are very small and all within the MoE. Florida is a MUST-WIN state in the GOP column. Currently, Obama's average in the Sunshine State is +1.80%. He won Florida by +2.81% in 2008.

-bad news for Obama and good news for Romney that a landslide-win state like Michigan is such a tossup this time around. Obama won MI by +16.44% in 2008, one of the massive UNSUNG landslides of that year, and yet, Obama is having a hard time getting a firm lead over Romney in the Wolverine state. The current average is: Obama +2.20. That being said, MI is a 5-for-5 Democratic state and incumbent Bush 43 was unable to peel this state away from the Democrats in 2004. Wait and see, but the probability is actually very high that at the end of the day, Michigan will vote Democratic. However, at this time, it is the only core Democratic state in play.

Also bad news for Obama is that Iowa, which is a 5-for-6 Democratic state since 1988, is such a tossup. A Romney win in MI would put a real juggernaut in Obama's electoral map and would probably indicate an impending Romney win nationally. Not so for Iowa, which Obama could lose and still come out ahead nationally, depending on Virginia.

If polling holds, then North Carolina looks once again to be the nail-biter of 2012, just as it was one of the two nail-biters of 2008 (alongside Missouri): currently, Governor Romney holds a +1.2% lead over the president in a state that Obama won by +0.29% in 2008. We are talking about micro-numbers here in relation to the nation and we are talking about GOTV on Election Day. Of all the states polled, North Carolina is without a doubt the closest one and I expect this will remain so. I believe that from the flurry of activity on the ground in North Carolina, we will learn alot about the race: if President Obama feels confident that his lead in VA is holding, then he will sink lots of resources into North Carolina.VA gets really shaky for the President, then I bet he will pull out of NC and concentrate his energies on Virginia.

Moving one category away from the tossups into the states with a lean but stabile margin for one candidate or another, this is the category that brings Obama much good news:

Ohio: the „quintessential quadrennial battleground-deluxe“, a must-win state for the GOP, a pretty much must-win state for Obama. Of 20 polls, Obama has won 17, Romney has won 3. But the margins for Obama are generally larger than the Florida polling and Obama's polling average is outside of the MoE and larger than his +4.58% win in the Buckeye State in 2008, currently at +6.67% over Governor Romney. Since Ohio and Nevada are the two most reliable bellwethers in the nation at this time, impending Obama wins in both of those states would pretty much assure a national victory. Likewise for Governor Romney: if end polling shows him ahead in BOTH states, then most likely Governor Romney will be the next President of these United States. The fact that Ohio is not at the top of the tossups pile is in and of itself bad news for Governor Romney at this time. And though it is statistically possible, it is highly improbable for President Obama to win Ohio, but lose Michigan and/or Pennsylvania at the same time.

Virginia: a must-win state for the GOP, which Obama won by +6.30% in 2008. Of 22 polls in 2012, Obama has won 16, Romney has won 5 and there was 1 absolute tie. His current margin average is +3.25%, just at the edge of the MoE but outside of the tossup zone. In a very large analysis of Virginia from January 2009 (which you can read in full starting HERE), I wrote the following conclusion:


However, in VIRGINIA, there was real resistance to Obama, but in counties that are „emptying out“, so to speak. We see a large poli-demographic shift in VA, with the north and the SE gaining greatly in political strength for the Democratic party. Here there were obviously far fewer GOP defections, if at all (McCain scored more raw votes in VA than Bush from 2004), but far more newly registered and Democratic dedicated voters. This poses a far larger problem for the GOP than either Indiana or Ohio, for Obama's +1.03% margin in Indiana can be overcome and Ohio is expected to be a battleground state in virtually every cycle, but the addition of more than 500,000 voters to the Democratic rolls in just one cycle is much harder for the opposition to overcome. The best case scenario for the GOP is that Virginia becomes a bitter battleground state. However, +6.30% is hardly a battleground margin. It is a better margin than Obama scored in OHIOFLORIDA, INDIANA and NORTH CAROLINA. It is a lean winning margin, but a comfortable one and will require a minimum 12.60% shift back in order for the GOP to regain the state, and I doubt that this shift will come from those 500,000 new voters. The worst case scenario for the GOP is that Obama cements Virginia into the Democratic column in his first term, adding the state to core Democratic territory and thus making the electoral math for the GOP more difficult. „


And I believe this is exactly what the Obama team has been doing: working to „cement“ Virginia into the Democratic column as a new blue state. The fact that, in spite of a bad economy, Obama has been able to maintain the upper hand until now - and I expect he will visit the Old Dominion quite often- backs up my argument. Look what Virginia does for the electoral math. If Obama retains all the Western states and cements Virginia into the Democratic column, then were we to consider OH, MI, FL, NC and IA as pure tossups, Obama would have 263, Romney would still still at 191. Obama would only need to win one of the five to get over 270.

Pennsylvania was a state that was looking very iffy and dangerous for the President in 2011, but statistically looks more solid right now. President Obama is holding a +7.33% average over Governor Romney. The problem with this is that Pennsylvania has a new voter ID law that may really make things rough for about 800,000 voters, which could indeed swing those electors to Romney. So, for now, Pennsylvania looks safe, especially in consideration of its narrow-margin electoral history. But this can change, and is a major warning sign for the Obama team, no doubt.

For most of 2011, New Hampshire was looking like a very solid GOP pick-up in 2012, but since then, President Obama has overtaken a narrow lead in the Granite State (average: +2.67%). In the case of a very close election, it is very conceivable that Governor Romney can overtake the lead in New Hampshire once again.

With its very turbulent recall elections, Wisconsin has become a hotbed of partisan activity, but in reality, President Obama is still holding an average lead of +6.67% over Governor Romney in the Badger State, IDENTICAL to his current lead in Ohio. Obama won Wisconsin by a landslide +13.90% in 2008, the largest presidential winning margin for any candidate since 1964. Therefore, Obama has lost a lot of ground here. However, Wisconsin is a 6-for-6 Democratic state with enough of a solid Democratic base to pretty much insure an incumbent Democratic win in 2012, even if just a narrow win. The only Democratic incumbent to not win WI in the last 64 years is Jimmy Carter, who lost the Badger State to Ronald Reagan by 4.72% in 1980, far under Reagan's +9.72% national average. This means that most likely, if Romney is winning in WI, then he is winning by close to a landslide nationally, which the national numbers are currently not predicting.

Colorado is a bright spot for President Obama, who is maintaining an average +6 point lead over Governor Romney. Interestingly enough, the results of this state could very well hang from an issue not really on the national radar: medical marijuana is a big issue in CO and is expected to affect GOTV in the Fall.

The polling from Nevada is not fresh enough for my taste, but President Obama still maintains a lead over Governor Romney. The last poll is just over one month old and showed the President at +6 over Romney. The poll before: Obama +2. More importantly, Obama has been ahead in all of the last five polls. What sets Nevada apart from the rest of the nation is a high percentage of two voter groups in the state: Latinos (who are undoubtedly going to vote overwhelmingly Democratic) and Mormons (who are undoubtedly going to vote overwhelmingly Republican). Considering the very faulty polling from 2010 that showed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid losing when in reality, he won by over +5 – it is just as possible that pollsters in states like NV and AZ are once again not calculating correctly the Hispanic voter turnout, which was the factor that put Reid over the top in 2010.

What about some other battlegrounds from 2008?

Missouri was the closest race of the night in 2008 and it took 15 days to finally declare a winner: John McCain, by +0.13%. However, the sparse polling from MO shows it moving father away from it's former almost perfect bellwether status. MO is moving most definitely more to the Right. The last Rasmussen poll showed Romney up by 7, the last PPP poll showed Obama up by 1, but both of those polls are older than one month. We need fresh data on Missouri to get a better picture, but all indicators are that this state will be a lean Romney win in the fall.

Likewise, Indiana, which Obama won by +1.03%, is polling in upper single-digits for Romney. Both polls are older than one month now, and both are from very right-wing leaning pollsters, but they show Romney at about +7.5 over Obama in the Hoosier State, which would indicate that the state is not really competitive. However, this kind of margin is not even close to the margins that the GOP once enjoyed in the absolute RED bastion. I did a massive analysis of Indiana in 2009 (which cuts through a lot of propaganda), which you can read starting HERE.

One state that is very noticeably NOT on the battleground radar this time around is NEW MEXICO, which is -as a minority-majority state - firmly in President Obama's column. He won NM by +15.13% in 2008 and current polling shows him between +11 and +14. Also to note is that NM is one of the states from 2008 where Obama vastly exceeded the final polling average, again a sign that the Latino vote in many states in 2008 was not correctly weighted into the polling results.

How about the rock solid states?

Well, one would think that there should not be much ado about the rock-solid core states for both parties, but they would be wrong. The margins coming from polling of those states can indeed tell us a lot about the direction of the race. For instance, Obama won New York by +26.86% in 2008: he is at an average of +24.5 from June (no fresh polling for July – yet), This shows no real erosion of his base in such a large blue state. In California, there is some statistical erosion, not enough to make the state even close to competitive, but enough to affect the national margin in a possibly close race. In California, where Obama won by +24.03% in 2008, the current average shows Obama at +18.3 from June (no fresh polling for July – yet), around 5 points under his average from 08. That is definitely some erosion and means a good 700,000 votes in the largest state in the nation. Kerry won California by „only“ +9.95%, so President Obama is still double Kerry's margin, but his win in '08 was triple Kerry's margin.

On the Republican side, in Utah, the only poll thus far for 2012 shows Governor Romney ahead by a whalloping +42 over the President. This is not a big surprise, as Utah has the largest Mormon population in the Union and before 2008 for 8 cycles in a row, it was the most conservative state in the Union. John McCain won UT by „only“ +28.08% (still a massive margin, ala Obama in New York), but Bush 43 won UT by +45.45% in 2004. The chances are very strong that Governor Romney will smash all records in UTAH in 2012. To date, there has been no polling from either Wyoming or Idaho (both states with sizeable Mormon population), but as Utah goes, so goes Wyoming and Idaho, to be sure.

In Arkansas, a state the Bill Clinton won easily in both 1992 and 1996, the one poll for 2012 shows Governor Romney up on President Obama by +24. This is important as data, for Arkansas was one of the five states in the Union to buck the Democratic trend in 2008 – and of the five, Arkansas bucked the trend the hardest. McCain won AR by +19.85%, and a +24 for Romney shows that the state is moving even more to the Right.

However, in neigboring Tennessee, which also bucked the Democratic trend in 2008, polling shows a leaner race between Governor Romney and President Obama. The last two polls showed Governor Romney up by +6 and +7, respectively, far under McCain's +15.06% win in 2008.

So, on both sides, in the so-called „safe“ states, we are seeing some growth and some erosion.

What would this mean in the case of an impending landslide win for either Obama or Romney?

It would surely mean that the margins for the losing side would be DRASTICALLY reduced, and that is simply not happening right now. Most of the Obama double-digit states from 2008 are still double-digit states in 2012. Most of the McCain double-digit states from 2008 are still double-digit states for Romney in 2012. And the subtle changes we are seeing in many polling values is more evidence of the theory of slow electoral shift than of an impending change in 2012.

FACIT: a lot of things can happen until election day, but in the Electoral College in July, it is without a doubt advantage Obama.

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