Sunday, October 7, 2012

State of the Race: Romney gains with Republicans

Everyone is looking deeply into the tea leaves of recent polling to see if Romney got a bounce in them following the debate...me included. One way to describe what I'm seeing is to suggest that the Republicans are coming home.

As you know by now, I don't tend to pay much attention to the national numbers. But there are some signs in a few state polls that indicate the race has tightened there. For the most part though, I take them with a grain of salt.

First of all, most of the swing state polls we've seen come out since the debate are from Rasmussen and We Ask America - both firms with a pretty heavy Republican bias. Unlike conservatives, I don't think its wise to discount these results. But its also important to avoid crafting a narrative about what's going on in the election simply based on them.

The other thing to take into account is something Nate Silver warns us about.
Polling trends can sometimes be odd in reaction to news events. One factor is that supporters of a particular candidate may be more enthusiastic, and more inclined to respond to surveys, after he gets a favorable development in the news cycle...

There is another type of polling bias, however, which is potentially more relevant when there is polling after a major development in the news cycle. Namely, polls are very probably biased toward high-information voters who take more interest in the news and are more likely to respond to political surveys.
So what we may be seeing from these immediate polls is an increased response by enthusiastic high-information Republicans who were excited about the debate. Nate Cohn points out that Obama got a similarly elevated response when polling immediately after the convention showed a 7-8 point bounce in his direction. Later that leveled off to 3-4 points.

There is one poll that just came out yesterday that is worth looking at a little more closely. Public Policy Polling suggests that the race has tightened in Wisconsin since the debate. But the specific shift they describe is important to keep in mind.
The main shift compared to 2 weeks ago in Wisconsin is an increase in Republican enthusiasm about Romney and the election in general. He's gone from leading Obama by 79 points with Republicans (89-10) to an 85 point advantage (92-7). One thing that might be reassuring for Democrats is that Obama's held steady with independents in the state, continuing to hold a 9 point lead.
That's completely consistent with what we saw in the national Ipsos/Reuters poll released just after the debate.

So if you take all that together - its clearly NOT time to light our hair on fire about the state of this race. Romney may have assured Republicans with his about-face lies. But he can't win this thing with only Republican support. Independents aren't buying what he's trying to sell and Democrats clearly have his number.

1 comment:

  1. Well, things were looking so bad for Romney before the debate that people were talking about retaking the House like it was a done deal. It's a possible deal, and the jobs report will certainly help because it's a tangible indicator that the broad trend is positive, not negative. There is a big deficit in the House, though, and it will be a struggle.

    Republicans, many of them anyway, seem to be inordinately dazzled by someone labeled a "winner." Romney was so-labeled, and that's a big deal for them. If he's seen as a loser, he'll convince a lot of GOP voters to stay home. A part of me feels that this vague sense of winnerness is behind a lot of the bellicosity of the right, the idea of "kicking-ass" etc. Brutal, but there.

    So, Romney will not win the Presidency by motivating self-identified Republicans, but it would have a stimulative effect on downticket races. If you get a GOP voter to the polls, they'll vote straight-ticket more than likely, and more likely than Democratic voters.

    On the other hand, it's clear that Obama's strategy was to hang back and give Romney enough rope to hang himself. We don't know yet how well it worked, but I also don't know how much a go for the jugular strategy would have helped, particularly with undecided voters possibly uncomfortable with a Black man going for a white man's jugular.

    I've been thinking also about Obama's much-discussed eloquence. I've read piece after piece about how debates are not his strong suit, partially out of preference. A lot of people talk about his speeches, but then I'll read things saying that his last great speech was x years ago, etc.

    Anyway, it's becoming fairly clear to me that Obama is at his most eloquent on paper. From what I've read about his process, it's clear that putting pen to paper is where he really fleshes things out for himself. I imagine that after his second term he will spend more of his time writing than most ex-presidents.

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