I believe the short answer is probably yes. Right now most of the major polling organizations (with the exception of Rasmussen Reports) are using a party identification model that favors Democrats when the best info we have shows that the GOP has a 2-4 point lead in self-identification. This explains why with political independents favoring Romney by around ten points he's still behind in many polls because of the skew to the Democrats.
In 2004 Democrats lead in party identification by about 1.5% and George W. Bush won the election by about 2%, sealing the victory with a 118,000 vote victory in Ohio. If the GOP have overtaken the Democrats in party ID I strongly suspect that the models that have Obama up 2-5 in Ohio are probably wrong and the race is too close to call in the Buckeye State.
The GOP has successfully narrowed party registration in most of the swing states but are still behind in places like Florida but have made gains throughout the country. It will certainly help in Colorado, Iowa, Florida and Virginia but, again, we'll have to see about Ohio.
Checking polls this early is like trying to follow who is Number #1 in College Football this time of year; it just doesn't say all that much. The first debate is next Wednesday, October 3 and I would seriously look at the polls the next Monday, October 8 to get a good idea of the trend lines.
Anyone who thinks Mitt Romney is somehow lost this race has lost their mind or simply doesn't know what they are talking about. Let's wait until after the debate to make some good guesses.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
In the two very close elections in 2000 and 2004 only three states, New Hampshire, Iowa and New Mexico switched from one political ticket to the other. 47 other states and the District of Columbia kept their electoral allegiance in both contests. This remarkable consistency is uncommon from cycle to cycle and changed dramatically in 2008 when Barack Obama carried all three states as well as several other generally red states. As of this writing it looks as if the election in 2012 will look a lot like 2004 so small states will become very important and could make the difference between winning and losing
George Bush beat Al Gore in New Hampshire by about 7,000 votes and then lost the state to John Kerry by about 9,000 votes in 2004. Needless to say, had Gore overcome Bush in the Granite State he would have become president. Al Gore carried Iowa in 2000 by about 4,000 votes and George Bush carried the state by about 10,000 votes in 2004. In 2000, nobody knew who won New Mexico for a couple of weeks until Al Gore was declared the winner by about 350 votes among loud calls of massive voter irregularities in the Land of Enchantment. In 2004, George Bush was able to carry the state by about 6,000 votes. It is clear that any number of factors could have changed the result of any of these states in 2000 and 2004.
In 2012 New Hampshire has been (until today) trending a bit Democratic but the latest Rasmussen poll has Mitt Romney up by 3 (48-45). He’s spent a lot of time in the state, vacations in the state and was governor of nearby Massachusetts. Up until the 1990s the Granite State was reliably Republican but Bill Clinton carried the state twice and Democrats have done well ever since at every electoral level. The state’s two political machines will be locked in a tough death match in the last two months of this contest. There’s only four Electoral Votes in the state but Obama and Romney will work hard for them.
Iowa is close but has been the most likely to be a Romney state. He’s been marginally ahead in several polls this summer and, of course, spent a ton of time there getting ready for the January caucus. Iowa is ground zero for small state political battle and both candidates have visited and will be traveling there a lot before November. It will be interesting to see how effective the GOTV effort is as I believe that will make all the difference in the quest for those 6 Electoral Votes.
While New Mexico was close in 2000 and 2004, Barack Obama carried the state by 15% in 2008, crushing John McCain from nearby Arizona. With one of the highest Hispanic populations in the country, Democrats have done well at all levels. In 2010, the GOP did elect a Republican governor (she’s a Hispanic female) and it is hard to know if Mitt Romney can convince voters in the state to abandon the President. Obama has led in the state for most of the year, sometimes by as much as 10%. Lately his lead has deteriorated somewhat but he’s still ahead. If Romney does win here, he’ll probably win the other two states in question as well. If he does win all three states, he’ll gain 15 valuable Electoral Votes in his quest for the Presidency.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Ohio is the key to this Presidential election. Certainly Florida and Virginia are important (especially to Mitt Romney) but Ohio is the bellwether. For the last generation of Presidential elections Ohio has generally been very close to the national average. Quite simply, whoever wins Ohio will almost certainly win the Presidential election.
For the GOP, Ohio is vitally important. No Republican Presidential candidate has won the election without the Buckeye State in the last one hundred years and both candidates know it. Barack Obama has a distinct edge in that he only has to pick off one of the bigger swing states (Florida, Virginia or Ohio) to win. Mitt will probably have to win all three. If he does win the swings (plus one more, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado or Nevada) he’ll have enough Electoral Votes to become President.
Ohio has been within 1-2% of the national vote tally in 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1996, 2004 and 2008. Each of those years the Buckeye State has voted for the winner. The most recent Rasmussen Reports poll of likely voters (released 9-12-12) showed the race to be almost a tie with Obama leading 47-46%, which closely reflects the national average. In 2004, George Bush beat John Kerry by 2% (118,000 votes out of approximately 2.6 million cast), a margin close enough that a recount was taken and several Democrats complained of fraud. However, the 1976 election was much closer, with Jimmy Carter winning by 11,000 votes out of approximately 4.1 million cast, (.27%), a margin so close that any number of factors could have changed the outcome. Had Ford won Ohio and one other state (Hawaii, along with several other states were one by an eyelash) Gerald Ford would have beaten Carter.
In 2000, Bush got 50.0% of the vote in Ohio to Al Gore’s 46.5%, which is only one of two elections in the last generation in which the national total wasn’t within 1-2%. However, if you add in Ralph Nader’s total in Ohio to Gore’s the Democrat would have probably ended up with over 49% of the vote and finished with 50,000 votes of George Bush. Local Democrats had begged the Gore campaign to put more time and effort into Ohio as they sensed a victory there, but Gore decided to spend more of his resources elsewhere and probably missed a decent chance at victory. John Kerry was determined not to make the same mistake and spent a lot of resources in the state, and increased the Democratic total by about 560,000 votes but George Bush increased his own share by 500,000 votes which proved to be the margin of victory in the state that had really proved to be ground zero for the election. Ohio was so close that George Bush actually campaigned there on Election Day, 2004, making his last stop there before the ballots were counted. Had Kerry won the state he would have won the Electoral College 272-266.
Obama has spent tons of cash in Ohio and has his team ready on the ground to contest the state, repeating his strategy that allowed him to finish 4.5% ahead of John McCain in 2008. He’s had a big head start as he’s been the certain Democratic nominee for months while Mitt Romney has been playing catch up for weeks now. Romney is only a couple points behind in a state that is slightly red. Independents who voted for Obama in 2008 are ready to turn against him but Romney still hasn’t made the case to them why they should, a trait that is shared by many non-partisan voters nationwide. Look for numerous campaign stops and blanket advertising by both camps as they prepare for the last 50 days of the race. The debates will make a huge difference and the GOTV effort by both sides will, in the end, probably help put the winner over the top.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Most Likely Republican Gains (four seats needed for majority)
1) Nebraska-This election is over. Deb Fisher is destroying former governor and senator Bob Kerrey for the open seat. This year I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins by 20 points.
2) Wisconsin-Tommy Thompson should defeat arch-liberal Tammy Baldwin by at least 8 points. Of the four Democratic seats that should fall to the GOP, this is really the only state that is going to be contested on the Presidential level but that should not affect the Senate race.
3) North Dakota-Rick Berg should beat the popular former attorney general of North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp in a year in which Mitt Romney should carry the state by 12-18 points. Even though Dakotans have been splitting tickets for years, Heitkamp’s support of Obamacare in a state almost uniformly opposed to the mandate should be enough for Berg to ascend the Senate. Berg wins by 7.
4) Montana-Democratic Senator Jon Tester is keeping it close but he’s got some tough disadvantages in the Big Sky State. He barely won in the heavily Democratic year 2006 and he’ll have a hard time in a state that should go to Mitt Romney by about 15 points. His opponent, Denny Rehberg, is a popular Republican who is universally known and will hammer Tester, who was elected as a “conservative Democrat” on his support of all of the President’s initiatives. While I predict it will be reasonably close, I believe Rehberg will win by 6 points.
Most Likely Democratic Gains:
1) Maine-Former Governor Angus King is running as an Independent but he’ll end up caucusing with the Democrats. While Republican Charlie Summers is keeping it close enough to watch King should win the three-way race by 8 points.
2) Massachusetts-Republican Scott Brown should win this race against the terrible liberal Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, he’s going to have to win in the face of a possible 25 point Obama win on the top of the ticket in the Bay State. I think he will (actually I believe he’ll win by 5, 52-47) but any little thing can change this race.
3) Nevada-Dean Heller was appointed to replace ethically challenged John Ensign and is now running for a regular six-year term. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley from Las Vegas is running about 5 points behind and has had some significant ethical challenges and Heller should win even if Obama wins the state his coattails won’t extend to Berkley.
4) Indiana-It is possible but not probable that the Dems can pick up this open seat but Mitt Romney is going to run away with the state and Democratic farther down the ticket will suffer.
True Toss Ups: (Tonight I’m simply going to list them and I’ll describe them in a later post)
3) Connecticut * (A new addition from “leaning Democrat”)
1)Florida * (This has come down from “toss up”)
2)Hawaii (This may be the biggest surprise of the election-more later)
3)Missouri *(The now infamous Todd Akin has taken this seat from a probable Republican gain to a Democratic hold)
Possible for Republicans But Not Likely
Conclusions: If anyone ends up having coattails it would be Mitt Romney but he has yet to break ahead of Obama in the polls. The debates should have some effect but it really is too early to see. Many times Senate races are determined in the last two weeks (as most people are watching the Presidential race instead) and I suspect that many (especially in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Connecticut) will come down to the last couple of days and the GOTV efforts of the respective campaigns.
If the GOP runs the table and wins all of the toss ups they’ll have 53 seats but they could max out at about 56. Then again, if the tied turns against the GOP they may end up at about 49 with the Democrats keeping the Senate and the Presidency. There is almost no chance the Democrats will win the House (in fact I expect them to lose 5 seats) so we could end up with split government again or, if Mitt Romney does win, full GOP control of the two branches.
Ironically, the ten or so people that most need Obama to lose are the vulnerable Democratic Senators who will be up in 2014. If Obama does wins, Senators in Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Michigan, South Dakota and Louisiana (just to name a few) will be in deep trouble. I strongly suspect that if Obama does win several of these Democrats will retire instead of facing the prospect of defeat.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
With the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin has changed from “leaning Democratic” to a pure “toss up” in this year’s Presidential election. From January through August most polls in Wisconsin had President Obama up anywhere between three and eight points and his campaign felt strongly that they would carry the Badger State in November. Now, however, it is clear that the fight to win the state’s ten valuable Electoral Votes will go down to the wire and those votes may well provide the difference in a close race.
Iowa has been seen as more of a “toss up” all year with the President and Mitt Romney going back and forth, each leading by one to three points, statistically a tie. For Romney, Iowa’s six Electoral Votes are vital. If he wins Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana along with Iowa that will give him a 276-262 Electoral College Victory, a very slim margin. If you add Wisconsin and Iowa to the mix, however, Romney wins 286-252; a bit more of a cushion in which Romney could lose Virginia or North Carolina (but not Ohio) and still win the election. While Iowa is a bit more red than Wisconsin the two states are electorally quite similar and I believe that where one goes the other will follow in November 2012 and the winner of both will be inaugurated President of the United States on January 20, 2013.
For over one hundred years Iowa and Wisconsin have (with the exception of four elections) followed each other when voting for President. In 1924, Wisconsin voted for favorite son Robert LaFollette on the Progressive ticket while Iowa voted for Republican Calvin Coolidge. Had LaFollete not run, Wisconsin almost certainly would have voted for Coolidge as well. In 1940, Republican Wendell Willkie carried Iowa by 4.5% while Wisconsin chose Franklin Roosevelt by 2%. In 1976, in a very close race between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, Ford carried Iowa by 1% while Carter carried Wisconsin by 2%. In 2004, President George Bush carried Iowa by .7% (about 10,000 votes) while John Kerry carried Wisconsin by .4% (about 11,000) votes. In 1988, while most of the rest of the country voted for George Herbert Walker Bush, Iowa and Wisconsin both bucked the trend by voting for Dukakis. And, in 2000, in the closest Presidential race in a generation, Al Gore carried Iowa by .3% (about 4,000 votes) and Wisconsin by .2% (about 5,000 votes). In 2000 and 2004 both states basically were tied, reflecting the basic outcome in the national election. In 2008, Iowa voted for Barack Obama by 10% and Wisconsin was a complete blowout as the Democrat won the state by 14%, the biggest Presidential win in the Badger State since 1964.
Quite simply, these states don’t disagree a lot. They both elect conservatives and liberals; Iowa has sent the unreconstructed FDR throwback Tom Harkin to the Senate five times and, at the same time, voted for the conservative GOP Senator Chuck Grassley by overwhelming margins since 1980. Republican Terry Branstad returned to the governor’s mansion in Des Moines after an absence of twelve years, during which liberal Democrats Tom Vilsack (now Barack Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture) and Chet Culver held the office. And, in Wisconsin in 2010, conservative Republican Ron Johnson beat the very liberal three-term Senator Russ Feingold and elected the now famous governor Scott Walker to succeed the very liberal two-term governor Jim Doyle. Paul Ryan holds the congressional seat that Democrat Les Aspin (former Democratic Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and Bill Clinton’s first Secretary of Defense) held from 1971-1993. Both states have overwhelming GOP majorities in their state assemblies (as a result of the 2010 elections) and a slim Democratic majority in their state senates. Demographically, Wisconsin has a larger non-white population (about 14%) than Iowa (about 9%) but they haven’t been as effected by the large changes (especially in Hispanic growth) that have happened in other states in the last generation which has radically changed states like California, New Mexico and Nevada, and, to a lesser extent, their Midwestern neighbor, Illinois. Democrats try to roll up large margins in Iowa cities like Cedar Rapids, and, to a lesser extent, Des Moines and Dubuque, while the Republicans do much better in the countryside, especially in the western part of the state. In Wisconsin, Democrats rely on large majorities from the very liberal Dane County (Madison) and the largest county (Milwaukee), which offsets Republican advantages in the suburbs and exurbs in the populous southeastern part of the state.
President Obama has been a frequent visitor to Iowa but not Wisconsin. Up until early August he probably felt he didn’t have to spend too much time and money in the Badger State to win a small victory there. Moreover, before the June recall, it is clear he wanted to stay away from what he thought would be a losing effort (and he was right). No Republican since Ronald Reagan has carried the state in a national election. Barack Obama can afford to lose Iowa with its six electoral votes, but he probably can’t lose Wisconsin and Iowa and the sixteen combined Electoral Votes. If this was 2004 and George Bush had actually carried Wisconsin he wouldn’t have needed to win Ohio to carry the election. Had Bush lost Ohio along with Wisconsin he would have lost the Electoral College 272-266.
Wisconsin Republicans are fired up after Scott Walker survived a recall election by 7% in June. While Mitt Romney’s ground operation in many states lags behind President Obama’s, the Badger State GOP is convinced that they can maximize their turnout as they did in June (the special election’s turnout was extremely high) and carry the state for Romney. While Mitt really can’t afford to lose Florida, Virginia and Ohio (assuming Indiana and North Carolina return to their conservative roots), the President probably can’t be reelected if he loses both Wisconsin and Iowa. And I think it is quite likely that where one state goes another will follow. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will make several stops in the Wisconsin and Iowa, we’ll see if the President does the same.