As of this morning, 12 states have held their primaries (note: Arkansas and Kentucky are holding primaries today), while Congressional filing has concluded in 34 states. Since the Presidential election is barely more than five months away, we thought this was a good time to start keeping score for the fall elections.
Part I – Criteria
Because of the sheer volume of polls that will be released between now and Election Day, it’s difficult to get a handle on how Election 2012 is progressing. We will therefore summarize and report this data for you using the following criteria:
We believe that in the Presidential race, those who are not explicitly for President Obama will vote for Mitt Romney. Our analysis is therefore based on the average Obama percentage for polls taken for the last 30 days. This number, as well as the 2008 Obama percentages, will be the “yardsticks” we use. Given that, here’s how we will call a state:
(1) Safe Democratic/Obama or safe Republican/Romney (dark blue/red) – if no polls have been conducted within the last 30 days for that state, a 2008 Obama (or McCain) percentage of 60% or above gets this rating. If polls have been conducted, an Obama (or Romney) average of 50% or more gets this classification;
(2) Lean Democratic/Obama or lean Republican/Romney (light blue/red) – if no polls have been conducted within the last 30 days for that state, a 2008 Obama (or McCain) percentage between 53-59% gets this rating. If polls have been conducted, an Obama (or Romney) average percentage of 49% or less with a lead of 3 or more points will get this classification;
(3) Tossup (yellow) – if there was polling done, a candidate leads by less than 3 points or the 2008 election results had the winning candidate (Obama or McCain) receiving 52% or less;
Statewide (Senate and Governor) races:
Similar criteria to the Presidential races (of course, we have no 2008 data to use as a comparison). We also have the following additional classifications:
(4) No data available/primary has not been held (gray) - until the party nominees have been selected for competitive primaries, we will not be analyzing polls for that race. In other words, we will not be assessing the races in 38 states until (in some cases) September;
(5) No Senate/gubernatorial race in 2012 for this state (black);
Part II – Dashboard statistics
President Obama job approval – last 30 days: 48-49% approve/disapprove
Generic Congressional Vote – last 30 days: 45-41.8% Republican
Senate Races: 52 Democrats, 48 Republicans (Republican gain of +1) (Note: it’s very early in the primary season – 26 out of 33 Senate races do not have the party nominees selected yet).
Governor’s Races: 30 Republicans, 19 Democrats, 1 Independent, (Republican gain of +1) (Note: it’s very early in the primary season – 8 out of 11 Governor’s races do not have the party nominees selected yet).
Part III – The Electoral Map: Obama 303, Romney 170, Undecided 65
There is a very big caveat here: the detailed numbers beneath this “score” are much more ominous for the President than the “topline” numbers, for several reasons: (1) 25 states have not conducted any polling on the Presidential race in the last 30 days, so we’re basing our projections on 2008 results in those states – it’s possible there may be a “surprise” or two, (2) For those states that have conducted polling in the last 30 days, there is a noticeable “Obama plunge” (i.e., a drop in support relative to 2008) in state after state.
Let’s further analyze what we just said regarding the “Obama plunge”: in the “solid Obama” (dark blue) states that have conducted polling, Obama’s average share of the vote relative to 2008 has dropped from 57 to 52% – a 5% “plunge”, in other words. Since we believe (and history has generally shown) that the vast majority of undecideds in a Presidential campaign break against the incumbent, Obama can not be assured of the 101 electoral votes from this bloc of states.
The news is even bleaker in the “lean Obama” (light blue) states that conducted polling: Obama’s average share of the vote has dropped from 55 to 47% – an 8% “plunge.” Given what we believe about how the undecideds will break, the President is in serious trouble in these states that collectively have 84 electoral votes.
In the “undecided” states (which are colored yellow), Obama’s support for those states where polling has been conducted has dropped from 50 to 45%. These states (Florida and North Carolina) collectively have 44 electoral votes, and are fairly likely to vote for Romney.
In the states that are leaning or solidly Republican, the “Obama plunge” for states conducting polling is from 43 to 39%. Of course, these states are not likely to be contested anyway, and pollsters by and large are not interested in polling these states very much.
In conclusion, if you assume that undecideds’ breaking for Romney costs Obama those states where he is polling less than 50% of the vote, Romney could potentially receive between 298 and 319 electoral votes (no recent polling has been conducted in Indiana or Missouri, but it’s unlikely those states would vote Democratic this year).
Part IV – Upcoming events
May 22 – Arkansas and Kentucky primaries (President and statewide). The Arkansas Democratic Presidential primary will be worth watching (President Obama is running against “uncommitted” in Kentucky), because President Obama has a named Democratic opponent, and we have noted in the past that the Obama primary percentage falls whenever he has named opponents on the ballot. In fact, in a recent primary in West Virginia, a convicted felon received 41% of the vote against President Obama.
May 29 – Texas primary (President and statewide) – President Obama has three named Democratic opponents, so the results from this contest will be just as interesting as Arkansas’