Political Animal


September 25, 2012 9:25 AM When Time Runs Out

By Ed Kilgore

An awful lot of the political chatter this week revolves around clock-watching: (1) At what point should we conclude that a relatively steady Obama lead nationally and in the battleground states in a race that has been incredibly steady all year represents an existential threat to Romney? (2) At what point to the increasingly distant prospect of a late “game change” in Romney’s favor run up against the realities of early voting and votes “banked” under current political conditions?

TNR’s Nate Cohn has been regularly addressing the first question, and has this answer today:

Every day that goes by without a shift in Romney’s direction or an event that could plausibly induce such a shift is a lost day for the Romney campaign. This isn’t about who wins the news cycle; whether Obama refers to Middle Eastern violence as a bump in the road doesn’t matter. It’s about events that could reshape one of the most stable races in modern electoral history.
The race is likely [to] tighten, if for no other reason than because Romney’s still short of 47 percent, which, in my view, is probably his floor given the president’s disapproval rating. But the margin is somewhat less important than whether Obama falls beneath his reelect number. If likely voter surveys show Obama around 49 percent with Romney behind by a discernible margin heading into early voting, the president is going to get reelected whether Romney’s at 43, 45, or 47 percent. If Obama does fall clearly beneath 49 percent, then we’re looking for Romney to exceed 47 percent, which to date has looked like his floor based on Obama’s disapproval rating, but also his ceiling in national polls.

In other words, Obama leads any way you slice it, and Romney has yet to show he can actually achieve the levels of popularity that Obama’s approval/disapproval ratio suggests he should achieve—but which would still leave him a bit short.

The second question is a little tricker. Every day we hear that another state is beginning early voting, creating the sense that Obama’s current lead in the polls could soon begin dictating the final results, particularly given Team Obama’s generally-conceded advantage in GOTV resources.

But if you look at the battleground states, they are not for the most part among the states with early early voting. Only Virginia has begun in-person early voting, and the Old Dominion is one of the states that still requires a “valid excuse,” sworn to by oath, for one’s inability to vote on Election Day. Iowa begins later this week, and New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin have already mailed out absentee ballots. But in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Ohio, no form of early voting occurs before October.

So while in an abstract sense “time may be running out” for Mitt Romney, no one should take that too literally just yet.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • BillFromPA on September 25, 2012 9:48 AM:

    The claim is made, 'The race is likely [to] tighten, if for no other reason than because Romney’s still short of 47 percent, which, in my view, is probably his floor given the president’s disapproval rating.'

    That may be so, but the race will certainly seem to tighten because the legacy print and electronic media need it to tighten. Only the die hard political junkies will stay tuned into the 4th quarter of a blowout Pres. election. With advertising dollars on the line, one will have to come to sites like this one to get a sense of how the election is actually going. We already see it in articles declaring a 5 pt Obama lead a 'tie', it will get much worse before the Fat Lady sings.

  • Anonymous on September 25, 2012 9:50 AM:

    Using Rasmussen's numbers, and Rovian arithmetic, they have polls that PROVE Romney's winning!!!


    The GOP – a party of Blanche DuBois':
    “I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic. I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don’t tell truths. I tell what ought to be truth."

    With Reagan as kindly old Mitch.

    And Barack Obama as that savage brute, Stanley.

    Look out, Nooner’s! Stanley Obama’s coming for you, next!

  • Ron Byers on September 25, 2012 9:51 AM:

    Summarizing what I just read, Obama wins unless he does something stupid.

  • DRF on September 25, 2012 9:52 AM:

    I think that there are potentially four big variables here:

    1. Will anything happen in the debates to significantly affect the vote?

    2. Will the Republican SuperPacs pour a huge amount of advertising into the Presidential campaign near the end, running misleading ads and, if so, will this affect the outcome?

    3. Will voters actually vote in the proportions used in polling? How effective will the parties' get out the vote efforts be?

    4. Finally, will some external event take place that affects the outcome?

  • acallidryas on September 25, 2012 9:56 AM:

    Only Virginia has begun in-person early voting, and the Old Dominion is one of the states that still requires a “valid excuse,” sworn to by oath, for one’s inability to vote on Election Day.

    Sorry to be nitpicky, but I've been a VA resident for several elections now. And lots of people do early voting. One of the valid excuses is that you'll be at work, or that you'll be away from the city/county that day. Which covers a lot of people.

  • Anonymous on September 25, 2012 10:02 AM:

    "But if you look at the battleground states, they are not for the most part among the states with early early voting....But in Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Ohio, no form of early voting occurs before October."

    i don't know how the calendar works in your neck of the woods. Here in Ohio, October is this Monday and that's a full month before election day, so "they are not for the most part among the states with early early voting" is pretty much a statement in search of a fact.

  • J on September 25, 2012 10:02 AM:

    I wonder about the claim that 47% is Romney's floor because of Obama's approval rating.

    That would seem to assume that all of those 47% who disapprove of Obama would prefer Romney. But presumably there are at least some people out there who "disapprove of Obama" from the left -- i.e., they're complaining that he's too centrist or insufficiently progressive or whatever.

    Whether or not they end up pulling the lever for Obama in November, those people are unlikely to support Romney. So at least conceptually it would seem possible for Romney to go below 47%.

    I doubt he will, though. I think this is going to be a 51-49 vote.

  • c u n d gulag on September 25, 2012 10:04 AM:

    Anonymous @ 9:50 was me, gulag.

  • stormskies on September 25, 2012 10:14 AM:

    Charlie Gibson: Barack Obama is Going to Win

    Some fairly astute analysis from the former ABC News anchor, of the kind he wasn't permitted to make when he was involved in network news, when the be-all and end-all was the promotion of a horserace election, no matter what the polling indicated.

    On September 20, 2012, Charles Gibson, former "ABC World News" anchor, delivered the lecture, "The (Im)Balance of Power in Washington: How Things Went Off the Rails and How They Can Be Fixed," at Quinnipiac University.

    The event was sponsored by Quinnipiac University's School of Communications.

    Gibson's full remarks continue below the fold.

    Who do I think is going to win the White House? There are 46 days until we vote. Predictions are perilous and my track record is not particularly good in making predictions.

    But folks, Barack Obama is going to win.

    And I don't say that-- (Applause.) I don't say that just because Mitt Romney is running an inept campaign, which he is.

    He made a very maladroit statement on the Middle East; his 47% on the dole, et cetera.

    You now hear backstage rumblings from prominent Republicans that have basically written him off.

    But I say it because Barack Obama won 365 electoral votes in 2008. So he can lose--he only needs... That's 95 more than he needs for election.

    He can lose states like Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina, all of which he won four years ago, and still be elected comfortably.

    Every electoral map that I have seen puts 237 electoral votes pretty solidly in the Obama column this year. That means he only needs to pick up 33 more.

    There are nine states that are considered toss-ups. They are Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.

    Obama now leads in the polls, including the Quinnipac polls, in eight of those states and his lead is significant in some of them.

    In six of the nine, the economy has rebounded significantly and unemployment is well below the national average. In Iowa, New Hampshire and Virginia it's under 6%

    Most people focus on the national polls to try to measure the national vote but other polls I think are far more revealing.

    More people blame Bush--54%--this is an ABC poll. More people blame Bush, 54% than Obama, 32% for the bad economy.

    Which candidate is more likeable and friendly? Obama--a 34 percent advantage.

    Who will do more to help the middle class? Obama--a 15 percentage point lead.

    And who would you like to have dinner with? Which I think is always a key poll. Obama--a 19 point lead.

    And while I'm a skeptic about TV ratings and I don't like them much, five and a half million more people watched Obama's acceptance speech than watched Mitt Romney's.

    And then there's the issues. Funny, we talk about issues.

    The Republican party has done Romney no favors by forcing him so far to the right that he may not be able to scramble back by November 6.

    Polls show Obama with a solid lead among women. Is Romney's position on reproductive rights really what he had to claim in the primaries?

    Polls show Obama with a solid lead among Hispanics. Is Romney truly anti
    -immigration? Does he really oppose the Dream Act?

    And seniors, many who now oppose Obamacare, but no one wants politicians meddling with their Medicare.

    To me that all adds up to an Obama win.

  • burro on September 25, 2012 10:16 AM:

    Can't wait for the debates to get started. They provide a tantalizing vision for the crappy r's of an opportunity for an unknown, and previously unseen, FUBARRomney to show up and make an impressive showing that changes the game.

    It's as fantastical and self deluding as everything else they believe in, but it's giving FUBARRomney's prospects more viability than they deserve, both because the crappy r's haven't got anything else to hang on to, and because the crappy media want to keep the magic pony alive as long as possible.

    As Mr. Petty says, "The waiting is the hardest part". Soon it will all be clear.

  • Ronald on September 25, 2012 10:27 AM:

    I think it is too early for any form of back-slapping, but this has been a good summer and early fall for us Democrats.
    I agree with J- it is a similar story to 'Obamacare'- there was a large percentage of people that didn't like it, but the Media assumed it was all 'people who didn't like Obama', when actually a lot of the down side were Democrats who didn't think O'care went far enough.
    Same thing with approval rating- there are a lot of Lefties who think that our President is too centrist and has given too much away in an attempt to be 'bi-partisan', hence sinking his approval ratings...but that in now way means that all those who don't approve of Obama are Republicans.
    That's the same logical error as Mr. Romney's '47%' comment.

    What this all means is that the real story for the rest of the year is the down-ticket races and the GOTV efforts.

  • jjm on September 25, 2012 10:33 AM:

    To @ DRF: You said, "2. Will the Republican SuperPacs pour a huge amount of advertising into the Presidential campaign near the end, running misleading ads and, if so, will this affect the outcome?"

    The NYT front page today shows 4 such ads currently running. One glaring misrepresentation in one of them: "oil production has fallen by 14% under Obama."

    How is that going to play with people who by now have heard again and again that oil production has risen considerably under Obama? Maybe they can Goebbels it up at this point, but it may be too late (hopefully).

  • max on September 25, 2012 10:47 AM:

    Cohn: which, in my view, is probably his floor given the president’s disapproval rating.

    But TPM has Mitt's approval rating at 44.3 while Obama's disapproval is 47.6. Why would that 3.3% vote for Mitt? Lots of ways for those to divide.

    ['I'd also expect further changes in Obama's approval rating, trending up.']

  • karen marie on September 25, 2012 11:31 AM:

    I don't see how Romney can change what defines him -- his lying about everything. He's working on it though. Apparently he wants voters to think he's stupid as well (airplane windows, emergency rooms and the timing of his comments about Libya).

    There is nothing Romney can do. It would take an act of unbelievable stupidity from Obama to change what is now an inevitable result, and that is highly unlikely.

  • rfb99 on September 25, 2012 12:50 PM:

    Republicans are by and large people of strong faith. Faith by definition is the belief in something without evidence or even belief contrary to evidence. So its easy for Republicans to believe that Obama will lose in spite of contrary polling data. Reality of course has a nasty habit of intruding.

  • BillFromPA on September 25, 2012 1:51 PM:

    OK, here's another example of the MSM mis-analyzing the data to Mitt's favor, to them an 8 pt lead for Obama in Ohio means Ohio 'leans Obama':

    In the wake of a new Washington Post poll that shows President Obama opening up an eight-point lead among likely voters in Ohio, along with a slew of other survey data — public and private — that shows the incumbent with a clear edge, we are moving the Buckeye State from “toss up” to “Lean Obama.”

    Nuff said

  • Cookie on September 25, 2012 3:32 PM:

    To add to acallidryas comment on early voting in Virginia -- which in a great oxymoron is called "in-person absentee" voting -- another excuse is that your combined work and commuting time totals 11 or more hours during the 13 hours the polls are open, which is 6 AM to 7 PM. Full list is here:

  • kgs on September 25, 2012 3:49 PM:

    One point about VA's version of early voting, which it calls "in person absentee voting."

    While VA law requires an excuse, one of the excuses is relatively easy for many working class stiffs like me to meet legitimately. Namely, that the voter "will be working and commuting for 11 or more hours between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m." If you plan to leave for work before 8am and not get home until after 7, you are covered. This is an average day for many a person, and would apply to virtually everyone who commutes from the northern VA burbs into DC for work. The best part is that it is a particularly big boon to democrats because vote-rich dem stongholds of Alexandria and Falls Church cities and Fairfax and Arlington counties just outside of DC cannot be thwarted by gamesmanship by a R legislature or statewide office (like in OH) as each county can set up its own days/hours/locations for early voting.

    No more rolling out of work at 5, battling traffic, and standing in line for 3 hours to vote (or alternatively waking up at the crack of dawn and still waiting 3 hours).

  • Mitch on September 25, 2012 4:44 PM:

    Yes, Obama seems to have this election in the bag. Yes, the Electoral votes are lined up in such a way that it should seem impossible for Romney to win. Yes, the American people seem much more fond of Obama than Romney (or pretty much any GOP figure). And, yes, Obama is going to KO Romney in the debates like Mike Tyson thrashed his opponents back in the day.

    BUT, we must be careful to not count our chickens just yet. We must vote, and get everyone we know to vote. We must work to make this election such a landslide that there is no question as to the choice of the American people. Bush claimed his squeak-by victory in '04 was a "mandate" ... well, let's give Obama a madate that cannot be denied.

    And, perhaps more importantly, we must do everything to win back Congress for real. The Dems never really had a lock on it, with schemers like Lieberman (FSM, I was mad at the way the Dems kissed up to him after he had proven himself a craven political opportunist) and the "Blue Dogs" constantly stabbing other Dems in the back. We need Congress to be functional once again, at least as much as we need to keep Obama in the Oval Office.

  • Doug on September 25, 2012 8:16 PM:

    What Mitch said.

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