Saturday, October 20, 2012

After all the drama - could the state of the race still be "stable?"

Way back in July, I suggested that the state of the presidential race was stable. Watching the poll bouncing and the freak-outs over the last few weeks, it would certainly be understandable if people think I got that one all wrong.

It is interesting, however, to take a look at all this from the perspective of what Nate Silver and David Plouffe said about it the other day. Here's Silver:
It continues to be noteworthy, in my view, that in slow news cycles — as in most of the spring and summer months — the polls have generally converged to show an overall advantage for Mr. Obama of about two percentage points. After his best news cycles, like after the Democratic convention, Mr. Obama pulled ahead in the polls by four to five points, while Mr. Romney remained about tied with Mr. Obama after his best series of events. But some of these effects could be artificial, as a result of nonresponse bias.
Let's take a look at some graphs that demonstrate what Silver is talking about. First of all, here is pollster's graph of the national polling on this race.

If you scroll over the graph until you get to August 31st, you'll see that on that date the race was Obama 46.2 to Romney 45.2. Over the course of the next two weeks you'll notice a big bump for President Obama following the conventions (and the release of the 47% video) followed by a tightening of the race as that bounce receded and then the first debate - after which Romney "bounced" to a one point lead - which is now receding as well.

Now lets check out how that played out in a couple of the battle ground states. First of all - Ohio.

There you see the exact same pattern. On August 31st Obama's lead was 2.6. Then came the bounces and its at 2.9 today.

You'll find this same pattern holds no matter which battleground state you look at - Colorado and Wisconsin are two good examples.

All of this might indicate that it has been the polling that has been bouncing rather than the actual state of the race. In other words, it could be that the best prediction of where we are today is actually what was happening around the end of August before the bounces took place. That's essentially what Silver and Plouffe were saying - which is terrible awful bad news for tv networks, blogs and pundits who depend on the drama for eyeballs and clicks.

But if its right, we're back to the idea that the state of this race is stable. And as I ended that posting back in July...its all about the ground game, baby!

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