Friday, May 4, 2012

Why the Virginia polls are so important

I admitted the other day that I'm powerless over my addiction to analyzing the polls. So here I am at it again.

Yesterday much hay was made about the release of polls in the presidential race from Virginia by both Public Policy Polling and the Washington Post. They show President Obama leading Mitt Romney by 7-8%. While nothing is definitive this early, it indicates that Virginia might be out of reach for Romney.

If we take a look at conservative-leaning Real Clear Politic's electoral map and add Virginia to the states they list as either likely or lean Obama, the President would be at 266 electoral votes - just 4 shy of winning. What that means is that picking up any one of the swing states (including New Hampshire) would put him over the top.

Looking at this from Romney's point of view, he'd have to run the table by winning every single swing state in order to win. That would include both Ohio AND Florida in addition to North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado and Arizona. Right now President Obama has the lead in Ohio, North Carolina and Colorado. New Hampshire and Iowa haven't been polled enough to give much of an indication. Romney has the lead in Missouri and Arizona, with Florida basically tied.

Its true that that's simply a snapshot of how things look today - six months away from the election. But there are a couple of things to consider.

  1. This is the time during the election when the media develops the memes they'll stick to throughout. As I said earlier this week, the Obama campaign has taken control of that one for now and Romney is finding himself on the defensive.
  2. Romney basically secured the nomination a few weeks ago but we haven't seen any real momentum in his direction when it comes to gaining electoral votes. That suggests that his improvement in the popular vote totals is coming from solidification of traditional red states rather than gaining ground in the swing states. The Virginia polls are a good example of that. But so is a state like Nevada - which is now listed as lean Obama. And of course there's the issue of a state like Arizona going from red to swing. 
All of this suggests that the status quo in the race clearly favors President Obama. If things continue as they are now, the only question is whether he wins in a sqeaker or a landslide (hint: we want to see the later). As I said before, the only thing Romney can count on is a game-changer. That's still not outside the realm of possibility. But with each passing day, it becomes more of a stretch.


  1. I'm by no means the only one to say it, but the trick will be to not lose focus on the immediate--winning the Presidency and as many down-ticket races, more of a challenge, as possible. The GOP will likely be around for a while while, and at the same time shows no sign of an ability to do the things it needs to broaden it's coalition, largely because it can't. Racist misogyny doesn't broaden itself to include people of color and women. Can't be done on a large scale.

    1. You read my mind. That's exactly where I went next in talking about what the GOP strategy looks like with the Hispanic vote.

    2. The big concern I have is that at some level the most important work facing the country needs to be done inside the GOP. While I would note--speaking here as a white person--that it is not possible for white people to grow up in this country without at some level internalizing racist thought (and its resulting actions) there are degrees, for sure. People of color of course have always known this as a tool for survival. In any event, we have a two-party system, and while I might prefer local, communal control and, as national gov'ts go proportional representation with governing coalitions, the health of the second party is a big deal in a two-party system.

      There really are conservatives. The shrinking percentage of the GOP's hold on the electorate may open the door for the changing of people's minds, but it more immediately represents institutional problems the GOP created for itself, i.e., its inability to form an electoral coalition in a system with large, barely ideological parties.

      I am certain that most of the people the GOP loses have not all of a sudden come to realize that a single-payer health care system would be an unmitigated good, for everyone, or that a federal high-speed rail project would make everyone happier. The two just mentioned are not, to me, radical proposals. On the contrary, they are normal features of modern, complex economies, because they keep those systems functioning relatively smoothly. The GOP may dwindle and snuff itself out, but we need a second party that, having ideological differences, shares some understanding of how things actually work in a modern, complex, society. The President is actually very aware of this needs and his rhetorical tone reflects it, but a lot of people in our electoral coalition imagine that simply being right is enough. Not in our system, I'm afraid.

    3. My brain jumped ahead at one point in my last note. I noted that there are degrees of white racism, to point out that the GOP has ceded its rhetoric to the most virulent 25% (not the most virulent 5%--it does get worse as we know), and that this is a real problem.