Thursday, May 31, 2012

Romney Ahead in Ohio?

I doubt it but we don't really know. Rasmussen has a poll out of likely voters in Ohio showing Romney up 46-44. The margin of error is +/- 4.5 points on the poll plus Rasmussen typically has a bit of a Republican lean so it is hard to draw much of a conclusion from this one poll.

I still see Obama as modest favorite in Ohio. See the post below for the explanation.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Romney's Ohio Trouble Begins in Michigan

A new poll out from PPP today shows Obama ahead of Romney in Michigan by a whopping 14 points. One of the main reasons Obama is so far ahead is voter perceptions about the auto bailout and the auto industry. PPP's write-up says:
Obama's crushing Romney on what will doubtless be one of the biggest issues in the campaign in Michigan- 55% think that he's been better for the automotive industry in the state to only 31% who say Romney wins out on that front.
The President also leads in Ohio but by a far smaller margin. The latest poll in Ohio, from NBC/Marist, has Obama ahead there by 6. Perhaps more importantly, every public poll since late February has had Obama ahead by numbers ranging from 1 to 12.

Ohio has something important in common with Michigan. In both states, the automotive industry plays a major role. The Council of American States in Europe (a trade group lobbying on behalf of states) points out that:
Ohio is at the center of the motor vehicle industry. Nearly 80 percent of North American light vehicle production is in Ohio or within 500 miles (800 kilometers) of the state's borders. Ohio is the top automotive supplier in the U.S. and second in the nation for motor vehicle production, employing more than 120,000 people in the state.
The poll from Michigan is not terribly surprising and it certainly isn't a state that Romney has to win. But it is a very ominous sign for Romney in a state he DOES have to win - Ohio.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Romney is Toast

I don't mean he's going to lose. He may win.

I mean he's literally a piece of unbuttered Wonder Bread toast. There is nothing in the suit. He says nothing.

On your average day, this is pretty obvious. But pair him up with Mark Halperin, who has to be one of the most vacuous empty suits in journalism (see more on Halperin here and here), and you have a real contest of nothingness.

I defy you to find Romney saying anything here:

Or how about here:

He continues to say nothing at length here:

Here, he indicates that he has a 59-step plan to put people back to work and boldly drive the unemployment rate down to 6% by the end of his first term. He just can't tell you a single one of those 59 steps or how his efforts differ from current policy ... which CBO estimates will have unemployment ... at 6% by 2016-2017. That's right: Romney's central campaign promise is that he can match the unemployment rate that will result from zero policy change over the next 4.5 years. That's like eating water-flavored toast.

Andrew Sullivan critiques the interview well:
Mark Halperin interviews Mitt Romney. If you do not feel the urge to "cut out your own heart with a dull knife" after reading it, there's something wrong with you.

Cell Phones and Polling

Not-so-surprising news that cell-phone only voters are more supportive of Obama than landline voters. It is fair to say that, if Obama wins, it will only be because of cell phone voters.

Facebook Not Friending Romney

I "bought" 100 shares of Facebook on Friday for $38/share. I use the airquotes because I cancelled my order at 11:47AM. Fidelity listed the order, as well as 2 other orders for 100 shares each as "pending cancel" for about 4 hours. One of the orders then executed ... 4 hours after I had cancelled it. The other two orders remained listed as "pending cancel" throughout the weekend.

Like many small investors (I am actually medium-sized physically but I am apparently a "small" investor), I got the short end of the stick in the Facebook chaos because I was trading blind for days. Worse yet, Morgan Stanley appears to have been giving information to its "valued customers" different than the information it was giving to its regular customer base (read: "small" investors).

The Facebook fiasco has been in the news all week now and, while the particulars are not a major campaign issue, they feed into an environment that is certainly better for Obama than Romney. One is arguing for leveling the playing field and common-sense regulation while the other is arguing for getting government out of the way of entrepreneurs and reducing red-tape and regulation. Both of these narratives are attractive to voters in a vacuum. Put another way, either message could work with voters IF the news environment fits the message. This particular news environment fits Obama's message much better than Romney's. Voters paying attention to the Facebook fiasco are going to be much more receptive to a message of government regulation of Wall Street than a message of getting government out of the way so that investors and bankers (read: Bain Capital) can have free rein to do what they want in the market.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Non-Breaking News

A couple of news items that shouldn't surprise you if you read this blog:

Obama leads in Pennsylvania.

Obama's gay marriage stance made no difference.

Everyone repeat after me ... Pennsylvania is not a swing state ... and neither is Tennessee (see below).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

More Bad Polling

The Vanderbilt Poll has Romney ahead of Obama by just 1 in Tennessee among likely voters. Ummmm ... no, sorry:
President Barack Obama has pulled into a virtual tie with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in traditionally conservative Tennessee
Buried later in the article, there's this analysis from John Geer:
“It’s not that close a race,” Geer said, predicting Romney would prevail with little trouble.
I can't tell you for sure exactly where they went wrong here but 55% of likely voters are female (it was 53% in the 2008 exit poll) and Obama was ahead by 6.5 points among women (he lost by 7 among women in 2008). So that's a pretty good starting point for what is wrong. Another problem is that Romney is ahead by 7 among registered voters but ahead by just 1 when the likely voter screen is applied? The Democratic GOTV operation is good ... but not supernatural.

Tennessee is solid Romney territory.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Whatever It Was

Mitt Romney spinning some gold today:
I'm not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was.
Here's the video:

He has no idea what he said but he stands by it anyway ... "whatever it was."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Forays in Bad Polling

A Marquette Law School Poll out today reports that Obama and Romney are tied at 46 among "likely voters."

Now, let me preface this by saying I could be wrong in how I'm interpreting this because the way the methodology of the poll is described is not entirely clear. And perhaps that is the first negative thing we can say about this poll. They are not clear about what they are doing. I'll include more specific caveats along these lines in a bit but, IF I'm reading this poll's methodology properly, it is really, really bad polling technique.

A recent Rasmussen poll of likely voters had Obama up by 4 in Wisconsin and Rasmussen is known to have at least a slight Republican lean. A more recent PPP poll, had Obama up by just 1 among registered voters. So it is possible the race is tied as this Marquette Law School poll indicates. But the methodological problem here has to do with the likely voter screen. As you know, there is a high-profile recall election coming up in just a few weeks and the poll also looked at that race. Just as an aside, the poll found that Scott Walker is up by 6 among likely voters so Obama is running ahead of at least Tom Barrett in the state and Barrett is a good proxy (sort of) for a generic Democrat.

So what's the problem here? The problem is that it seems that the likely voter screen is the same for the recall election as for the presidential race. In discussing the methodology at the bottom of the news release, they say:
The poll interviewed 704 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone May 9-12, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. There are 600 “likely voters,” those who said they were certain to vote, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. Results for vote in the Governor, Lt. Governor and presidential races are reported for likely voters. All other results are for the full sample of 704 registered voters.
While we don't know for sure what the likely voter pool will be in November, I'm quite sure it will not be the same in terms of numbers or makeup as the recall election in a few weeks. Indeed, even if the recall election was going to be held in November on the presidential election day, we would have slightly different voter pools with more voters casting a voter for president. For a mid-year election day with few races on the ballot like the recall, the likely voter pool will be smaller and, more importantly, more Republican than Election Day in November. So I fear what we have here is a "likely voter" screen for the recall election that assumes the mix of voters in November will be the same as the mix of voters in the recall election. I think it is safe to assume that because we've got the same 600 voters in each pool. In addition, the statement indicates these voters said they are "certain" to vote. I have no doubt they will. But there will probably be some other voters voting who are currently "uncertain" they will vote and those voters are not randomly distributed. Good pollsters adjust for this with various methods including weighting sub-samples and other techniques. Here, we seem to have a very tight likely voter screen and that usually (not always) favors the Republican candidate.

In short, I think this may be a decent poll with respect to the Walker recall race but it is very problematic with respect to the presidential race in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Romney's Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Ad

A couple of thoughts on this web video from the Romney campaign:

1) It is depressing as can be. You don't win the presidency by making people feel worse about things and the future than they already do. In 2008, Obama ads frequently told sad stories about bad things happening to people in the Bush economy. But those images were always juxtaposed with some happier music, hopeful images, and uplifting rhetoric from Obama himself. Here, there is only the kind of music you'd hear in the part of a movie where someone dies, there are bleak images throughout, and Romney and his voice are completely absent. As an advertisement for alcohol consumption, it works great. But it is not a good ad for a presidential candidate.

2) There's a fundamental problem with the message of the ad itself. The ad features several people who have fallen on hard times discussing their struggles and how much hope Obama had given them in 2008. They express their disappointment in Obama. Generally a downer (see #1 above) but whatever, it's a negative ad. However, here's the problem. The message from these individuals cuts against Romney's core message. Romney wants government out of the way - less regulation, lower taxes, less wasteful spending. He wants to "unleash" the private sector to create jobs. But these people are all expressing how Obama is a disappointment because he hasn't done enough to help them. In short, they're unhappy because big government hasn't been big enough. Deborah from Webster City, Iowa complains that her unemployment benefits have run out. Jason Clausen of Mason City, Iowa complains that he lost his job and his house a month after his divorce, which would be February 2009. The implication is that a few days after Obama was sworn in, he couldn't save Jason's job and keep him in his house. And Troy from Alton, Iowa (who digs graves on the side - downer alert!) says Obama is "all talk" and "nothin's gettin' done." The ad ends with Deborah laying out her plan: "So we're just gonna sit tight and see how things go and see if the next president turns it around." In other words, Obama's guilty of not getting government to do more. I don't think that's Romney's message ... is it?

Romney is still not well known to many Americans. He is still branding himself. Unless the brand they're building is about extending unemployment benefits and getting government to step in and prop up the economy, this wasn't the right ad. And since I'm giving out unsolicited advice Mitt, this ad is a major bummer. Digging graves on the side??? I actually find those sad Sarah McLachlan SPCA ads uplifting compared to this.

Modeling the Flip-Flop

"Flip flopper" is a regular charge in contemporary presidential campaigns and it goes far back in American politics. John Kerry was attacked mercilessly on this front and, given how close that election was, it is fair to say he lost because of it. Indeed, the signature ad of the 2004 campaign was the "windsurfing" ad criticizing Kerry for going "whichever way the wind blows."

There has been much criticism of Mitt Romney along these same lines. The DNC released a devastating web video highlighting Romney's flip-flopping past:

There are two problems I have with the use of the flip-flopping charge in contemporary campaigns - one tactical and one philosophical. The tactical problem is that, taking Romney as an example, if you accuse Mitt Romney of being a flip-flopper and lacking any ideological core, it is impossible to then turn around and argue that he is "severely conservative," a defender of the 1%, and out of the mainstream. As a flip-flopper, by definition, he doesn't believe in anything other than what is politically expedient at the moment. In short, labeling Romney as a flip-flopper muddles your own narrative. I think the Obama campaign has realized this and has generally backed off the flip-flopping line of attack in favor of labeling him an ideological pariah.

The other problem I have with the flip-flopping charge is philosophical. To some extent at least, we should want elected officials who are willing to think, reconsider, and even change their position on an issue when presented with new facts or when they simply learn over time that their original position was wrong.

And this brings us to Obama's position on gay marriage. A CBS/NYTimes poll released yesterday found that 67% of Americans believe that Obama changed his position on gay marriage "mostly for political reasons" while just 24% said it was "mostly because he thinks it is right." Now, there are several problems with this poll and with the way this question was worded. First Read pointed out this morning that the poll is at least potentially problematic because it has Obama's approval rating at 50% but his head-to-head number at 43%. To me, that suggests a problem with question ordering at a minimum. Additionally, I really don't think this was a reasonable wording for a poll question. What does the choice "mostly for political reasons" mean? Obviously, those writing the question intended for it to mean that respondents should choose this option if they feel Obama was simply making a cynical calculation about what is best for him electorally without much regard for his actual beliefs. Many, if not most, respondents probably took it that way. But some may have also said it was "political" because ... ya know ... he's the President and EVERYTHING he does is "political." He's a ... "politician" engaged in "politics." To put this another way, can the President do anything that isn't "political?"

Putting aside these concerns for a moment, I think Obama's "flip-flop" on gay marriage was revealing in another way. One of the things some people like about Obama is his "cerebral" nature. He seems to model cool, deliberate, rational decisionmaking. The decision process on the bin Laden operation is a good example of this. It is also true that some people do not like this aspect of Obama. Some would prefer he be more decisive and act from his gut like George W. Bush. Others dislike the President's mode of decisionmaking because they find it to be too detached, almost robotic. He is criticized as being aloof and not getting angry enough. Stephen Colbert had a fantastic piece on this a couple of years ago regarding the BP oil spill.

Obama displayed a very similar kind of process in thinking about his position on gay marriage.

What is striking to me in watching Obama talk about gay marriage, or really any other issue, is the cool, deliberate, calculating way in which is approaches the issue. I like this. Others do not. For me, Obama is modeling the flip-flop. He's legitimizing the idea that you can think about an issue over time and come to a different conclusion, even if you're the President whose every word and every bit of body language is parsed and interpreted ad nauseum. Was Obama's decision "political?" Of course it was. It was "political" in ALL the senses of that term. He (and his staff) thought about how to roll it out and that was affected by Biden jumping the gun, etc. But it was also "political" in that it is revealing to us about the way Obama makes decisions, the way he reasons, and ... the fact that he reasons. In this latter sense, he is modeling something very different than George W. Bush. I don't mean this as a cheap shot at Bush's intellect. I mean that Obama is modeling a different kind of decisionmaking process that I like, that others like, but that some don't like. There are downsides to it. It is slow. It can be painful to watch it play out, particularly in a 24-hour news cycle environment. It can make him look cool, aloof, and robotic.

The flip-flop can be a good thing, at least to some. It can be a sign of thinking, open-mindedness, etc. Beyond the electoral effect of it and beyond the moral question which Obama's finally gotten right, Obama's decision on gay marriage is a lesson in the value of deliberation in the public sphere. That he came to the right decision helps. But at least one side message here is "it is okay to think." It is okay to say "I was wrong" or "I made a mistake." That is something that is too uncommon among public (and private-sector) officials today.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Not Much to Say - Obama Still Winning

A few people have asked me why I haven't been blogging much in the past few days. The main reason is that there isn't much to say ... and that's good news for the President.

There have been lots of polls out but they don't tell us very much that is new ... at least it isn't new if you've been reading here for the last couple of months. Here's a new poll. The President is winning in Maine. Here's one that shows Romney winning in Georgia. And here's one that shows Obama winning in Michigan. There are no surprises here.

Obama is winning right now. If you look at the trend estimates by state, you see that Obama is leading by smaller or larger margins in all the "battleground" states. Here's a listing of Obama's lead (or deficit) in's current trend estimates nationally and for all the states for which they have multiple polls:

National - 1.2
AZ - (0.5)
FL - 1.2
IA - 10.0
MI - 4.0
MO - (3.0)
MT - (9.0)
NV - 8.2
NH - 8.8
NC - 2.6
OH - 3.8
PA - 7.6
VA - 4.5
WI - 5.7

The only states Obama is losing in this group are states that Obama lost in 2008. But let's look at this from a more conservative angle. Sean Trende recently pointed out that most of these state polls are looking at registered voters rather than likely voters. There is very good reason for pollsters to do this because it is exceedingly difficult to get an accurate read this far out from the election on what the likely voter pool will be. But Trende correctly points out that likely voter pools are usually more favorable to Republicans than registered voter pools and that, on average, the shift from one to the other means about a 3-4-point shift in the Republican direction. So, let's take state polls above (the national polling does include more likely voter polls) and shift all of them 3.5 points in Romney's direction:

AZ - (4.0)
FL - (2.7)
IA - 6.5
MI - 0.5
MO - (6.5)
MT - (12.5)
NV - 4.7
NH - 5.3
NC - (0.9)
OH - 0.3
PA - 4.1
VA - 1.0
WI - 2.2

So who wins in this scenario? Obama. And he's still got a little bit of room to spare. "Really?" you say. Yes, really. In fact, he's at 303 electoral votes. "Well that Ohio result is so close it scares me. What if we give Ohio to Romney? Does Obama still win?" you say. Yes. Obama still wins. "Well, I've noticed Colorado isn't listed there" you say. "You're just cooking the books by giving Colorado to Obama!" Well, I would predict Obama wins Colorado right now (and I don't think it'd be that close) but okay, let's give Colorado to Romney. What happens now? Obama still wins ... with 276 electoral votes. You can play around with the math on this here but I'm telling you ... Romney's path to 270 is VERY narrow right now.

Recently, my aunt attended a lecture and the lecturer (a political scientist) said the election will come down to "FLOHPA," the key states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and whichever candidate wins 2 of the 3 will win. My aunt was quite alarmed because she thinks Obama is in trouble in Florida. But guess what? The old "FLOHPA is decisive" argument is not necessarily true. 1) I just showed you how Obama can lose Ohio and Florida AND lose Colorado and still win. 2) For the love of all that is holy, let's take Pennsylvania out of the "swing" state column (see my earlier rant on this). Obama is either winning Pennsylvania or he's losing VERY badly. But the election is NOT turning on Pennsylvania.

My broader point for today is this. Take the state polling into account and then shift everything 3.5 points in Romney's direction ... and Obama is still in the driver's seat. I'm not saying the election is over and I'm not saying Obama is running away with it. But Obama is winning right now and nothing happened this week (no, not even the gay marriage stuff) to change that.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Howard Kurtz

A "political earthquake?" Really?
At the risk of resorting to hyperbole, this is a political earthquake that shakes the landscape by putting a divisive culture-war issue front and center.
The effect of this on the election is approximately zero. Obama's position was becoming indefensible and so he abandoned it for the principled (and correct) position. His supporters will forgive that it took too long to get here. His detractors will ... continue to detract. The only important thing we've learned today is not to pay attention to Howard Kurtz's punditry. This is no earthquake.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Minority Voter Registration Redux

The other day, I mentioned the Washington Post's story about the "decline" in minority voter registration and some problems that I saw with the argument being made there. I argued that the Post story should not worry Obama supporters as much as it appears because the Obama campaign has advantages in the ground game, because the data showed registration down across all categories and because the lack of a competitive Democratic primary is one reason Democratic voters (and, by extension, many Black and Hispanic voters) are not yet engaged.

Yesterday, Michael McDonald pointed out a better reason to be skeptical of the Washington Post story. The data they are using treats non-responses or "I don't know" as voters who are not registered. When these responses are excluded from all years, registration among minority voters does not appear to have dropped. Indeed, McDonald finds
The corrected data show that Hispanics are registered at a statistically-indistinguishably slightly higher rate than 2006 and Blacks have experienced a significant registration increase. The Obama campaign appears better situated in terms of registering of Blacks and Hispanics in the wake of the 2010 election than in the wake of the 2006 election. That these minority populations are also growing in size relative to the non-Hispanic White population should give more worry to the Romney campaign than to the Obama campaign.
The bottom line is that the 2012 electorate is likely to look a lot more like the 2008 electorate than the 2010 electorate and that is a problem for the Romney campaign.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How Can Obama Be Doing So Well?

A lot of different pieces from a lot of different angles seem to be making similar arguments and asking a similar question.

The argument: Obama shouldn't be in good shape, yet he seems to be ahead.
The question: Why is Obama ahead?

I've been pointing out for some time that Obama seems to be in better shape than the national horserace polls suggest. For instance, almost two weeks ago, I pointed out that swing state polls seem to be better for Obama than his national polls. About a week ago, I highlighted a couple of electoral models, one put together by Nate Silver and one put together by Ezra Klein, John Sides, Lynn Vavreck, and Seth Hill that each suggested Obama was a favorite to win even with some mildly pessimistic assumptions about job approval and economic performance.

But there's more.

1) Two days ago, Nate Silver wrote a sophisticated piece looking at Obama's "magic number" on jobs. Three months earlier, Silver had written an article arguing that the President needed to average about 150,000 jobs created per month in order to win reelection. Now, Silver argues Obama's "magic number" seems slightly lower, closer to 125,000 jobs created per month. In effect, Obama seems to be doing better with less-than-robust jobs numbers than Silver had anticipated.

2) A couple of days before that, in a guest post by John Sides posted on Silver's blog, Sides asked "Is Obama More Popular Than He Should Be?" Sides finds that Obama is indeed more popular than he "should be" using a model of expected job approval based on a bunch of variables including economic performance, scandals, and other significant events that affect job approval. Sides speculates that Obama is "more popular" than he should be because of personal traits (he is likable) and because more voters continue to blame George W. Bush for the weak economy than Obama.

3) Yesterday, Mark Blumenthal posted an article pointing out that Obama seems to be running stronger in the key swing states of Ohio, Florida, and Virginia today than he was at a similar juncture in 2008 when he ... ya know, won those swing states. This is true despite the fact that he is running behind his 2008 numbers in the national horserace polls.

4) Finally, a number of observers have pointed out that the Electoral College math seems to favor the President. Chris Cillizza made this argument well about a week ago. Today, Michael Cooper of the New York Times wrote about nine swing states deemed "critical" to the presidential race. If you put all 9 of these states in the "tossup" category, Obama would have 217 electoral votes that are fairly solidly his. Romney would have about 170. But, as Cooper points out, all 9 of these states are states Obama won in 2012. More importantly, polls currently show Obama with leads (some significant) in a number of these states including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, Virginia, and even Ohio. The inclusion of Pennsylvania strikes a particular nerve with me. Every four years, everyone talks about Pennsylvania being a "swing state." The problem with this argument is that it doesn't "swing." In 2008, Obama won Pennsylvania by 11 points while winning nationally by about 6.5 points.'s current polling aggregator shows Obama ahead there by 7.6 points. The last Republican to win Pennsylvania was George H. W. Bush ... 24 years ago and he only beat Mike Dukakis by 2.3 points. So, if we just take Pennsylvania off the list of "swing" states and give it to Obama, he's just 33 electoral votes away from victory with a lot of different paths through the remaining 8 "swing" states to get to 270. Then, add in a couple of other states that are very competitive that Cooper doesn't mention (Arizona, North Carolina) and you see that ...

... Obama seems to be doing surprisingly well for someone with job approval numbers under 50%. Why is this?

One big reason was hit upon by John Sides in pointing out that the President seems more empathetic, etc. than Mitt Romney. While the President's job approval numbers are borderline for an incumbent, people seem to "like" the President, at least more than they "like" Mitt Romney. The President's favorability rating is 47.8%. Romney's is 37.0%. Here's an interesting mental exercise to demonstrate the importance of these numbers. Run back through the last 10 presidential elections and the two major party nominees in each one. Which seemed like the more likable personality? My answers would be Obama, Bush, Bush, Clinton, Clinton, 1988???, Reagan, Reagan, Carter, 1972??? I put question marks for 1988 and 1972 since both candidates "seem" equally unlikable to me in those elections but the winner in every other case is the more likable personality. The one who you can imagine smiling more, the one who you can bear having on your television screen for the next four years, the one you can stand. That's who tends to win. Is that Obama or Romney? I think it is Obama.

Another reason Obama is doing well is that he has paid a lot of attention to key swing states like Ohio since he was elected in 2008. Last November, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that Obama has visited swing states more than any of his predecessors did as president. Yesterday, the President kicked off his campaign officially with stops in two states - Ohio and Virginia. From this perspective, the 2008 campaign never ended for Obama in these states.

Whatever the reason, the President is currently ahead by a variety of measures. Political pundits and journalists appear baffled by this for two reasons: 1) They want it to be a close race and 2) It makes no sense to them that the President could be ahead given that the economy is as weak as it is and given that the 2010 election was as bad as it was for the President and his party.

The election will be close. At a minimum, it will be close in the national horserace numbers. But it is also the case that the President has some built-in advantages described above and I'd rather be holding his cards than Governor Romney's. My one plea to everyone is just this ... can we stop calling Pennsylvania a swing state? Please?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Minority Voter Registration

The Washington Post reports that voter registration is down among minorities and it is particularly the case among Latinos. The story speculates that a big part of the reason is the weak economy which leads many poor voters to move and thus, no longer be registered at their new address. Indeed, registration rates are down significantly among whites as well but the problem is greater among minority voters since the poor are disproportionately Black and Latino.

Compounding the problem is new strict voter registration and voting laws in many states including Florida and Ohio. So the Obama campaign's efforts to identify, register, and get these voters to the polls may be less effective than in 2008.

Obviously, this presents an important challenge to the Obama campaign in a tight race. How big of a problem is it? Here's a few thoughts:

1) I have said many times that I think the ground game is less important than most people believe and I've specifically said I think the ground game is least important in a high-profile election (like a presidential) with high levels of voter turnout (like a presidential). See here for a recent post on this subject. One reason I think the ground game is not so important is that both sides employ a ground game so unless there is a significant asymetry of resources, they cancel each other out. If either side has an advantage in 2012, it is clearly Obama's campaign. So, Obama will likely make up some ground (pardon the pun) in the ground game.

2) The article points out that voter registration is down among whites as well. The Obama campaign does not have to get minority registration exactly where it was in 2012. They just have to get it to the point where it is not off by more than registration among whites.

3) It's early May and most voters, particularly Democratic voters, have not had a reason to engage in the campaign yet. Obama himself has done very little official campaigning. Since minority voters are disproportionately Democratic, it is not surprising we see lower voter registration rates. There was no competitive primary to get registered to vote in in most states. These voters will engage when there is a close race in which to participate. The Fall will provide that opportunity.

In short, I wouldn't panic about all this just yet. If the numbers are the same on October 1, I'd get a little more worried then but that's 5 months off.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Bachmann Bump

Michele Bachmann is set to endorse Mitt Romney today which should help Romney in courting all those Bachmann supporters out there that are still on the fence.

Seriously. That's what CBS News says anyway:
The endorsement from the House member from Minnesota could help him attract the staunch conservatives who shunned him during the primaries, preferring Bachmann and other more ideological candidates.
If you're waiting for Michele Bachmann to weigh in and give her stamp of approval, you're in a tough spot.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cell Phones

By the way, in the recent SurveyUSA poll of North Carolina, the pollster called cell phones and landlines. They found that, in North Carolina, Obama is ahead by 15 points among cell phone respondents (52-37) and it is basically a tossup (Obama leads 46-45) among landline respondents.

Those Swing State Polls

I said the other day that swing state polls seem to be better for Obama than his national average. Yesterday, a couple more polls came out building on this trend.

PPP has Obama up 51-43 in Virginia on the same day they released a national poll showing Obama up 49-44.
SurveyUSA has Obama up 47-43 in North Carolina.
Rasmussen (which has a Republican lean) sees a tossup in Floria (Romney leads 46-45). In the same timeframe, Rasmussen released a national poll showing Romney up 48-46 though a more recent national poll from Rasmussen has Obama up 47-44.

The reason the national media does not comment much on these state level polls is twofold:

1) It is early. Much will change.
2) Most of these early polls are of registered voters, not likely voters. The reason for this is that it is impossible to get a very good read on the likely voter pool this far out from the election. Indeed, Rasmussen is the one pollster that regularly goes with a likely voter screen this early and that is one big reason why their polls have more of a Republican lean.

Those are fair caveats. But the bottom line is that this is 51 separate races, most of which (like California, New York, Kansas, and Utah) are already decided, not a national race. In the states that are not decided, Romney is in worse position than he appears to be in the national polls.

UPDATE: A Rasmussen poll in Nevada has Obama ahead 52-44.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Forecasting the Election

John Sides, Lynn Vavreck, Seth Hill, and Ezra Klein created a model for Klein's Washington Post blog to forecast the election outcome based on just 3 variables - incumbency, economic growth, and presidential approval. Since incumbency won't really "vary" for the 2012 election, there's effectively only 2 variables here. The model is similar to others like the one put together by Alan Abramowitz in advance of the 2008 election and the one put together by Nate Silver last November.

This new model is a bit more simple than Silver's model (the main difference is that it leaves Romney's ideology out of the equation) and it is quite a bit more simple than Abramowitz's model (insert math here).

The other interesting difference is the conclusions to be drawn from the Klein model. To put it most simply, Klein's model yields some pretty happy results from the Obama campaign's perspective. This is because Klein's model seems to count incumbency as more of an advantage than the other two. Just to give a sense of this, if we plug in some conservative (or even pessimistic) assumptions about the state of the economy (say 1.6% growth) and the President's job approval (say 46%), the President is a 78.4% bet to be reelected. Even at 0% growth and a 44% approval rating, the President has a 45.6% shot at re-election in the Klein model. The comparable numbers from Silver's model are 40% and 19%. Obviously, more optimistic scenarios (say, 3% growth and a 51% approval rating) make the President a very solid bet to win in either model (95.3% in Klein's model and 71% in Silver's model).

Are these models useful and, if so, which is likely more accurate? If you're having trouble sleeping at night because you have to know the outcome of the November election right now, these models are not going to help you. Even if they are done perfectly, they are only probabilities. And as someone who drafted Albert Pujols with the second overall pick in my fantasy baseball draft because he was a "very good bet" to be a fantasy monster, I would like to remind everyone that an event that has a 5% likelihood of happening like say, Albert Pujols hitting no homers in April, does happen ... roughly 5% of the time. But these models can tell us something useful. One useful piece of information is that, even though the models don't totally agree on the absolute likelihood of Obama being reelected under various circumstances, they do vary in roughly the same way. In other words, presidential approval and economic growth seem to have the same effect across these models as they move up and down.

As for which of them is most accurate, we really won't even know that after the election because (as these models demonstrate by providing probabilities) there are other variables that can and will affect the outcome. But I will say that Klein's model seems slightly closer to reality to me. One reason Klein's model seems like a better forecast is that Obama has some built in advantages in some of the key swing states like Ohio. I discussed this in more detail a couple of weeks ago and Chris Cillizza wrote about the problems Romney faces in the electoral math just yesterday. In addition, the incumbency effect that seems to be weighted more heavily in Klein's model really does matter. The President is, after all, the President. He has a really cool backdrop (the White House, the presidential seal, Air Force One, etc.) everywhere he goes and he has real presidential kind of accomplishments he can point to. As Mel Brooks would say, it's good to be the king.

Right now, Obama is ahead and Romney needs something to change whether it is the economy, some other intervening variable, or maybe a "game changing" VP pick. And since I have yet to see a single historical example of a VP pick delivering victory to a presidential candidate, I'm gonna rule that third option out.