Political Animal


November 06, 2012 9:11 AM Game Reset

By Ed Kilgore

As Election Day begins, the political situation is a bit clearer than it’s been in recent weeks. Something reasonably resembling the status quo is likely to be maintained in Congress. And at the presidential level, most signs point to an Obama victory that should be just decisive enough to spare us a 2000-style Overtime, despite considerable Republican eagerness to challenge adverse results legally and politically. The odds of a popular vote/electorate vote split have dropped very significantly. Thanks to media caution over what has been repeatedly described as a razor-close election, and the possibility of slow counts, however, it may be a while tonight before we achieve closure. And it’s always possible I’m wrong, and the polls are wrong, about the whole thing.

But the polls are certainly heading Obama’s way, however slowly and un-emphatically. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight looks at yesterday’s twelve new national polls, and notes the obvious trend-lines:

Among 12 national polls published on Monday, Mr. Obama led by an average of 1.6 percentage points. Perhaps more important is the trend in the surveys. On average, Mr. Obama gained 1.5 percentage points from the prior edition of the same polls, improving his standing in nine of the surveys while losing ground in just one.

The one exception—surprise, surprise—was Rasmussen, though even that firm only has Romney up by one point (along with Gallup).

The national polls now range from showing a 1-point lead for Mr. Romney to slightly more than a 4-point advantage for Mr. Obama. The FiveThirtyEight forecast of the national popular vote is within this range, projecting Mr. Obama’s most likely margin of victory to be two or three percentage points, approximating the margin that George W. Bush achieved in defeating John Kerry in 2004.

Some slightly more mechanical poll-averaging methodologies show a closer popular vote contest. HuffPost’s poll tracking model shows Obama up by 1.4%. And RealClearPolitics, which is a straight average, has it at 0.7%. It’s noteworthy that RCP’s average job approval rating for the president comes in at a flat 50% on Election Day—just above George W. Bush’s in 2004, and right at the number often cited as necessary and sufficient for a presidential re-election.

Battleground state polling is about where it’s been the last week. TNR’s Nate Cohn sums up the evidence:

Obama leads by at least 3 points with 49 percent of the vote in the states won twice by Kerry and Gore, plus New Mexico, Nevada, and Ohio. These states are worth 272 electoral votes, and with the exception of a stray poll in Michigan, Romney doesn’t lead in a single non-partisan survey in any of those states. Despite a close contest and Romney’s brief national advantage following the first presidential debate, Obama has never trailed in a polling average in these states.The polls also show the president with a narrow lead ranging from 1.3 to 2.5 points in four additional states that would bring the president to 303 electoral votes: Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Iowa. Florida is perhaps the closest battleground state, where Romney leads by .4 points and the two candidates have split the polls almost evenly, with Obama ahead in 7, Romney ahead in 8, and three tied….
If the polls are right, Romney has a difficult task: sweep the five states where a non-partisan poll shows both candidates ahead, and then carry one of the states where Romney doesn’t lead in a single non-partisan poll. If the polls are about as accurate as they usually are, this would be tough to pull off. Usually, the averages correctly predict the outcome of all but one or two states, and Obama’s advantage appears broad enough to have a very good chance of withstanding typical polling errors. Instead, much of Romney’s chances depend on the possibility of a broader, systemic polling failure where surveys overestimate the president’s standing across the board.

That last sentence is worth underlining before you go on to read “too-close-to-call” news accounts or scenarios for a Romney win: something unexpected would have to happen to lift Mitt to victory. Yes, there’s a realistic chance that Sandy-related problems could reduce northeastern turnout (particularly in areas that are now preparing for a new nor’easter tomorrow) in a way that makes the national popular vote closer than the polls suggest, or even puts Mitt ahead. But unless such problems create the improbable outcome of a Romney upset in Pennsylvania, they won’t give Romney a much better chance in the electoral college.

A lot of the conservative talk this morning is about the incredible, the irresistible, the unprecedented enthusiasm of conservative voters who have been counting the days to the end of the Obama presidency for at least the last two years. If polling places had scanners that measured enthusiasm and assigned bonus votes for its intensity, that would indeed matter a lot. And the same is true in reverse of all the claims that Democratic voters are unexcited, or disappointed in Obama, or just depressed about life. Again, if they can still drag themselves to the polls, it just doesn’t matter. And remember: all those polls with likely voter screens (all of them in the last two weeks) have already factored in “enthusiasm.” So it’s not some extrinsic factor that will come out of nowhere to blow away previous assumptions. And if the Romney GOTV effort has, without anyone noticing it, far exceeded in efficacy Obama’s billion-dollar GOTV program, then that will indeed be a bolt from a clear blue sky.

Having said all that, it’s close enough that strange things can happen, and definitely close enough to produce some election night and post-election-night controversy. A week ago my own personal prediction was of a presidential election that went into overtime, with aggressive voter suppression efforts by the GOP in states like Ohio and Florida giving way to armies of lawyers struggling to control ballots yet uncounted. Late polling has led me to think that this one won’t be close enough to steal. But having lived through both 2000 and 2004, I’d like to see some good solid returns first.

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.


  • DAY on November 06, 2012 9:27 AM:

    InTrade puts Obama at 70%.
    Money talks, Bullshit walks.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on November 06, 2012 9:33 AM:

    Morning, Ed. Nice to see you so early!

    If polling places had scanners that measured enthusiasm and assigned bonus votes for its intensity, that would indeed matter a lot.

    The last Post/ABC poll shows Obama's supporters with an 8 point enthusiasm advantage over Romney's. So FOX can suck it.

  • c u n d gulag on November 06, 2012 9:37 AM:

    My $0.02:

    For what little it’s worth, I predict that President Obama will win, with north of 300 Electoral College votes – maybe even north of 320.

    The Democrats will hold the Senate, with probably 54 seats, maybe even north of 55.

    The Democrats will make some gains in the House, but fall short of the majority. My thinking is that D’s gain about 10 seats.

    I think what will put President Obama back in the White House, keep the Democrats is a Senate majority, and gains in the House, is women.
    Republicans have some very misogynistic candidates running, and they’ve let their freak fly in the open.
    “Legitimate rape?” REALLY?!?!?!?! WTF is ”illegitimate rape,’ then?

    I have done polling for the Republicans, and I don’t think the polls reflect what’s really out there.

    In my experience, if a Republican woman answers the phone for a poll, she almost universally hands the phone to her husband. I got HIS opinion – not hers.

    Now, I have no evidence to support this, but I think a lot of Republicans wives, sisters, mothers, aunts, will go in the voting booth, and vote for the Democrats. And when they leave, they will dutifully tell their significant others, that, ‘Of course, I voted for Mitt, and ____________ for the Senate, and _______________ for the House!’ And since older couples tend to vote together, even the Exit Polls may not reflect their votes – since they’ll want to carry on the facade of voting for the Republicans.

    Of course, this may be wishful thinking on my part. But I don’t think so.

    And so, if the voter suppression doesn’t work the way the Conservatives intended, and intimidating the voters in certain locations doesn’t work, and the Electronic Voting Machines in certain districts don’t flip faster than Mitt Romney, then Barack Hussein Obama will be reelected as POTUS.

    What we need in this country, is a Voter’s Rights Amendment, so that ALL 50 states have the SAME requirements to vote!
    And if that involves photo ID, then fine – give people the next two years to make sure that they can get it. Right now, some Secretary of State in OH, or Governor of PA, can set up some BS arbitrary voting requirements right before a national election, and make minority voters jump through hoops.

    As bad as today’s Whoreporatist Democrats are, at least they’re inclusive – they want as many people to vote as possible. The Republicans only want older white voters to count – and preferably, males.

    That, and we need shorter election cycles.
    Right now, even before their hands are off the Bible when they’re sworn in, politicians are running for reelection.
    Saner countries have shorter election cycles.
    But then, no one has ever confused America with a sane country.

    After breakfast, I’ll be taking my Obama-lovin’ Mama to vote.
    And then, I’ve volunteered to drive people to the polls.

    I’ll be home to make us dinner, and then, make myself a large drink, and settle in to watch the results on MSNBC.
    And if VA goes for Obama when the polls close at 7pm, then maybe we’ll have an early night.
    Of course, the voting machines won’t flip until late at night, so I may wake up to find that Romney stole the election. But that’s SOOOOOO 2000/2004!

    Don’t give the Conservatives a close election that they can play havoc with.

    The best revenge, is voting. In large numbers. SO, GO VOTE!!!

  • Bo on November 06, 2012 9:37 AM:

    I am going to vote to re-elect President Obama this morning.

    Then, I will spend the rest of the day thinking good thoughts for Willard. In particular, I will hope that he (1) enjoys his last day of Secret Service protection; (2) is able to get Annie to the hospital before she hurts herself when she finally realizes that she won't be Princess of the White House next year; and (3) is able to quickly un-blind his investments and take advantage of the stock market euphoria that will ensue after Obama's re-election is certain.

  • liam foote on November 06, 2012 9:39 AM:

    11.05.12 InTrade shares review
    Swing states & Senate control

    Swing State (with EV) results

    Colorado (9) results 54.5 - 45.6 Obama
    Florida (29) results 29.7 - 70.4 Romney
    Iowa (6) results 69.8 - 29.9 Obama
    Michigan (16) results 87.1 - 13.0 Obama
    Nevada (6) results 86.6 - 13.2 Obama
    New Hampshire (4) results 67.6 - 32.5 Obama
    North Carolina (15) results 20.6 - 79.5 Romney
    Ohio (18) results 68.7 - 32.3 Obama
    Pennsylvania (20) results 83.6 - 16.5 Obama
    Virginia (13) results 54.2 - 45.0 Obama
    Wisconsin (10) reesults 76.8 - 23.0 Obama

    Total Swing EV = Obama (102) - Romney (44)
    Final EV totals = Obama (303) - Romney (235)

    Presidential win = Obama (68.5%) - Romney (31.8%)

    * * * * *

    Senate Control = Dem (75.1) - GOP (16.5) - Neither (9.9)

    Senate Races (among those expected to be close)
    CT - Chris Murphy (D) = 80.1 - 22.1
    FL - Bill Nelson (D) = 91.2 - 11.3
    IN - Joe Donnelly (D) = 78.2 - 22.0
    Maine - Angus King (I) = 96%
    MA - Elizabeth Warren (D) = 82.9 - 17.2
    MO - Claire McCaskill (D) = 71.0 - 20.3
    Ohio - Sherrod Brown (D) = 83.1 - 17.0
    VA - Tim Kaine (D) = 78.2 - 29.0
    WI - Tammy Baldwin (D) = 56.8 - 43.3

  • Barbara on November 06, 2012 9:46 AM:

    Re the odds in Virginia: when I went to vote in midnight blue Arlington this morning, at around 7:30, the line was 45 minutes long and when I came out 45 minutes later it was just as long.

    The only time I can remember it being quite that long was in 1992. In 2008, a lot of people voted early, because the county actually encouraged anyone who could to cast an absentee ballot, but they didn't send out reminders this year. I did try to vote early but the line for early voting on Friday at 11:00 am was also 45 minutes long and even longer all day Saturday.

    I am always cautious but optimistic about Virginia based on this experience.

  • CharlieM on November 06, 2012 9:46 AM:

    Enthusiasm? Every democrat I know in GA (granted, we are a rarity) is always enthusiastic about poking a stick in the eye of these Republican thugs we have here. Spent 10 minutes in the voting booth this a.m. muttering "F*** Y** too, a**holes" with ever check mark I made beside a Democrat candidate.
    Only disappointment was not one of those "Screw The Vote"...err "True The Vote" guys around. I was sooo in the mood for confrontation.

    Angry old white guy leftist in GA.

  • dr2chase on November 06, 2012 9:52 AM:

    I do not know how it is in other states, and Massachusetts is skewed both by nature and by the Senate-swing-race of Warren vs Brown, but the Democrats here are more organized than I have ever seen. Friends were running phone banks, colleagues at work were driving up to NH to canvas for Obama, and last night I did door hangers, and there was a huge crowd, and it was all incredibly organized -- here's the drill, here's your packet, GO. If other swing state campaigns are run like this I expect it will make a difference.

    And notably, I did not see any Republican door hangers out on any houses at all, and the Senate matters to them, too.

  • Anonymous on November 06, 2012 9:53 AM:

    Florida will be a clusterfuck and possibly Ohio as well. Virginia won't be clear for hours, but as the other battlegrounds begin to rack up in the Obama column, and Colorado is called for him sometime before 10pm PST, it will cease to matter in the EC.

    My prediction: At some point on Fox, the last remaining path to 270 for Mitt Romney will be hoping for recounts in at least three states that Obama appears to be winning by a narrow margin.

  • boatboy_srq on November 06, 2012 10:08 AM:

    @Barbara and CharlieM:

    Here in NoVA, about the only thing I didn't expect was the GOTeahadist, handing out sample ballots, who was shocked, SHOCKED that I didn't take one (presumably because I'm male and pink). No BLEEP the Vote busybodies, no weirdness, and the poll worker who was IDing the queue actually blinked when I handed over my passport (and yes, a passport meets the requirements: it's a federally-issued ID with a photo. So there.)

  • Helen Bedd on November 06, 2012 10:12 AM:

    for what it's worth abc news is reporting:"Obama's supporters are more strongly enthusiastic than Romney’s by an 8-point margin in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. That’s numerically the widest enthusiasm gap since early September.


  • Helen Bedd on November 06, 2012 10:17 AM:

    Apologies to Andthentheresthat who beat me to the ABC poll

  • Barbara on November 06, 2012 10:23 AM:

    boatboy: the precinct captain of my local polling station used to work for the Voting Rights Section of the DOJ. I felt like a ninny when I was assigned to my precinct for voter protection efforts in 2008 -- except for one thing, and that was, one of the poll workers was refusing to honor certain ids (I think she was honestly confused, not malicious) that were on the approved list. When I spoke to him he rolled his eyes and moved her to another job function. He spent a lot of time trying to straighten out voters to make sure they could vote even if it was somewhere else or provisionally. People who had to go back to get id's were guaranteed they would not have to wait in line again, and so on. This is what it should be like, everywhere.

    Mostly, we were there to cross voters off the list so that if someone hadn't voted by noon, the GOTV team would know who to call or text or see if they needed a ride.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on November 06, 2012 10:40 AM:

    My penny's worth:

    If anything, I'm thinking that the polls underestimate Obama's lead, considering the number of Millennials and Gen X'ers who are landline-less, so may not be systematically captured by the polls.

    True, the younger folks tend towards erratic voting turnout, but unlike previous politicians Obama has rock-star status among the young, especially given his celebrity endorsements (Jay-Z, Beyonce, Ricky Martin, Jane Lynch, etc.).

  • BJ smith on November 06, 2012 1:18 PM:

    If Anonymous is right, I envision this scenario, IF dems were Repubs they would be attempting to string Rick Scott up about now, I repeat "IF" Dems were Repubs.

  • BJ smith on November 06, 2012 1:33 PM:

    If Anonymous is right, I envision this scenario, IF dems were Repubs they would be attempting to string Rick Scott up about now, I repeat "IF" Dems were Repubs.

  • Doug on November 06, 2012 1:35 PM:

    I have no idea where these idiots are getting the idea that Democrats aren't as "enthusiastic" in their support for President Obama and the other Democratic candidates!
    Possibly it's because Democrats are more concentrated on actually getting voters to the polls and have less time to, you know, mouth off to cameras about how "swell" the Rombot is?
    Besides re-electing President Obama and Vice President Biden, the Democrats will increase their hold on the Senate and, just possibly, regain the House. If there's any uncertainty tonight, my bet it'll be on various House races.
    PLease, let it be another 1936! (Although it's really not fair to compare Romney to Landon - Landon was a much more honest and nicer human!)