Friday, October 26, 2012

What a Fool Believes

You know that is flat-out the best Michael McDonald song.

Now that you're in a Michael McDonald mood, let's get to his latest work. The "other" Michael McDonald is the foremost expert on early voting and posted this fantastic review of early voting around the country.

There is a lot of discussion of early voting and its impact among pundits and media folks, not to mention pollsters. A lot of the polling, particularly in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio, has found that early-vote respondents are telling pollsters that they are voting very heavily for Obama. This has led some to think the President is running away with the election. It isn't that simple. If you're one of those Obama supporters who thinks early voting is going to singlehandedly crush Romney, McDonald's data is going to disappoint you. But, there is a lot of good news in what McDonald has to say.

His work is worth a full, careful read. But, the summary is this:
Everyone wants to know who is winning. In my commentary below I explain why I conclude Obama has narrow leads in Iowa and Nevada, Romney has a narrow lead in North Carolina, and in the remainder the early vote is not providing a clear direction yet. There is still ample time for conditions to change, but it will be increasingly difficult to do so as more votes pour in.

There are instructive patterns other than the horse race. The patterns of early voting in Florida and Ohio suggest that Obama supporters are successfully overcoming limitations in early voting enacted by those states' Republican governments.
To translate that, there just isn't any clear evidence yet that early voting is helping the Obama campaign in Ohio. BUT, there is clear evidence that the early voting is really hurting Romney in Iowa and Nevada. It is frankly very hard for me to see how Romney wins Nevada at this point and Iowa is looking like a very difficult state for him.

What that means is that, while Romney CANNOT win without Ohio, there are paths to victory for Obama that don't include Ohio. Wisconsin is likely going for the President if the polls are to be believed. On cue, the Romney campaign is trying to make a play in Wisconsin ... which is brilliant because, ya know, Mike Dukakis won Wisconsin so why couldn't another Massachusetts Governor do it? Adding Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nevada to the President's "solid" 237 electoral votes means he's at 259 with Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and New Hampshire still in play (we'll assume North Carolina is going for Romney for simplicity's sake). At that point, Obama would only need Florida OR Ohio OR Virginia OR the combination of Colorado and New Hampshire. The only state in that list where Obama is not currently ahead in the average is Florida.

Polls can be wrong. But, as we get closer to the election, the Romney campaign's hopes are increasingly pinned on that thin thread - hoping the state polls are wrong.

Take us home Michael McDonald ...