Part 1: Summary Statistics
- President Obama job approval – last 30 days: 47-49% approve/disapprove (was 47-49% approve/disapprove)
- Generic Congressional Vote – last 30 days: 44-42% Republican (was 44-42% Republican)
- Congressional retirements (including defeats): 65 (54 in the House and 11 in the Senate)
- Congressional Primary defeats: 11 (10 in the House and 1 in the Senate)
Part 2: Projections (based on average of last 30 days of polling where states have held their primaries)
US Senate: 49 Democrats, 47 Republicans, 1 Independent, 3 Tossups (was 49-47-1 Democrat in last scorecard)
- Projected Republican gains in Nebraska and North Dakota
- Republican held seat in Indiana too close to call
- Democratic held seats in Montana and Virginia too close to call
- Republican held seat in Maine has an Independent in the race who is staying above 55% in polling
- (Note: 11 out of 33 Senate contests have not yet had their party primaries, so we are not in a position to call those races).
Governor: 30 Republicans, 19 Democrats, 1 Independent (was 30-19 Republican in last scorecard)
- Projected Republican gain in North Carolina
- (Note: 3 out of 11 Governor’s races do not have the party nominees selected yet, so we are not in a position to call those races).
Part 3: How we call a state – President, Governor, Senate
We believe that the best way to make our state by state calls in the Presidential race is to look at the actual percentage President Obama is receiving in the polls (and NOT the margin by which President Obama leads (or trails) Mitt Romney in any poll). There is a simple reason for this: when you’re talking about a controversial incumbent, those who are not explicitly supporting him in the polls will almost certainly end up voting for Romney on Election Day. Therefore, we have been compiling poll results by state and taking the average of that state’s poll results for the last 30 days. In the process of doing so, we have also considered Obama’s 2008 showing as a yardstick. Here are our criteria (which will be similar for statewide races for Governor or Senator):
(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;
(4) Senate/gubernatorial primary has not been held yet (or, no polls have been publicly released) (gray)
(5) No Senate/gubernatorial race in 2012 for this state (black)
Part 4: Presidential Scorecard (270 electoral votes required to win): Obama 271, Romney 191, Undecided 76 (prior scorecard: 271-206 Obama)
Political season is about to return with a vengeance. Not that it ever went away, of course, but the Olympics and the end of summer vacation distracted voters. In fact, the level of polling over the past week reflected this distraction – in the past week, 34 polls were conducted, compared to the 49 polls which were conducted the week before that.
Accordingly, there was little change in President Obama’s approval ratings and the Generic Congressional vote, although we are making two changes to our state by state projections: we are moving Indiana from “leans Republican” to “solid Republican”, and we are moving North Carolina from “leans Republican” to “tossup.”
The Indiana reclassification was no big surprise; since there are fairly restrictive laws (which, incidentally, are being challenged in court) about polling there, it was merely a case of there being a poll conducted to confirm what political operatives universally know and believe: Indiana is not fertile territory for the Democrats like it was in 2008. In the case of North Carolina, available polling is consistently showing a tight race there.
As political season resumes, Mitt Romney has a 4-6 week window to make an impression in the minds of voters. Specifically, voters (especially the “soft” voters and the undecideds) are wondering about the quality of his VP pick and the content of his August 30 acceptance speech (the Democrats hold their convention September 3-6). While it’s also important that Romney do well in the first debate, that event isn’t scheduled until October 3 – about the time early voting commences in several states.
The heavy shelling from the Obama campaign hasn’t moved the numbers very much, which presents Romney with an opportunity to establish himself as an alternative, particularly since the Obama numbers aren’t that impressive at a statewide level if you consider the context of his 2008 showing.
In the “solid Obama” (dark blue) states that have conducted polling, Obama’s average share of the vote relative to 2008 has dropped from 60 to 52% – an 8% “plunge.” This drop in support won’t affect Obama’s chances in these states (which collectively cast 195 electoral votes), but this amount of “plunge” is deadly in more marginal states. Not to mention that from a popular vote perspective, he can ill afford to lose votes – even if somehow he were in a situation where he lost the popular vote while winning the Electoral College, his Presidency would be denied a mandate that he thought he had in 2008.
It’s also worth noting that while the “solid Obama” states are a formidable bloc of electoral votes, his average poll number is between 49-51% in 8 out of the 17 states in this category. When voters begin to pay attention to the race, he certainly can’t take all of these states (which for now include Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin) for granted.
Curiously, this “Obama plunge” is about the same in the “lean Obama” (light blue) states (worth 76 electoral votes), where President Obama’s showing in the polls relative to 2008 has plunged from 55 to 48%. To put this in its proper context, the continued heavy shelling from the Obama campaign has not really hurt Mitt Romney – he is only 7 points behind an incumbent President in these states. That is not an insurmountable poll deficit for Romney.
The situation is similarly dire for President Obama in the “tossup states”: his “plunge” in these states is from 53 to 47%, and Romney is averaging 45%. Obviously, some of these states (worth 76 electoral votes) will move into the “leans Republican” category at some point.
Finally, in the states that are leaning or solidly Republican, the “Obama plunge” for states conducting polling is from 43 to 37%. From the Romney campaign’s perspective, he can limit the amount of time and money he has to spend in these 23 states.
Since we believe that most of those not explicitly for Obama will likely break towards Mitt Romney in the end, if we were to assume that the states where Obama is not polling at least 50% are Romney states, he (Romney) could receive up to 349 electoral votes (270 required to win). There is an apparent contradiction here: our analysis above showed Obama with more than 270 electoral votes, while we are showing Romney with a 1988 level electoral vote win. However, it’s worth reiterating that the media only focuses on the point spread between the two candidates. Part of that limited analysis implicitly assumes that undecideds would be evenly distributed come Election Day. We believe, however, that a large portion of the undecided vote will vote Republican this fall, given that you’re talking about an incumbent President who arouses strong feelings (both pro and con) among the voters.
Part 5: Primary Results/Upcoming Events
We are in the midst of a “primary marathon” right now that will continue well into September (Louisiana has a primary, but it is being held on Election Day). This past Tuesday, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington state held their primaries. What did they tell us ?
Restless Republican primary voters: While Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Sarah Steelman in the Missouri Senate race didn’t carry the day like it did for Ted Cruz in Texas last week, Steelman did receive 29% in a closely fought three way race. What was noteworthy was that in Kansas, at least eight Republican moderates were defeated in Republican legislative primaries – Kansas is a state where moderate Republicans are essentially a “third party.”
Primary defeats: Two more House incumbents were defeated in their primaries in Michigan and Missouri, although it’s more accurate to describe these defeats as being driven by redistricting. We did notice in Michigan that a white incumbent defeated a black incumbent in a redrawn black majority district – a result which typically doesn’t happen.
Washington Primary: Washington is one of those states which holds a nonpartisan primary, and the top vote getters from either party advance to the general election, even if one of them received more than 50% of the vote. This unusual system also tends to be a good predictor of the eventual winner in November. (UPDATED 8/22 PM) Here’s what we see happening in November:
Governor (UPDATED 8/22PM) – Democrats have continuously held onto the Governor’s chair ever since 1984. At this stage in the game, the race is a tossup. Former Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee (he resigned his U.S. House seat) starts off with a 47-43% lead over his Republican opponent, Rob McKenna. Since there were other partisan candidates in the race, Democratic candidates received 50% of the vote, while Republicans received 47% of the vote. We therefore classify this race as “leans Democratic.”
Senator (UPDATED 8/22 PM) – Two term Incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell has a 56-30% lead over her Republican opponent. If you add in the votes from the Democratic/Republican “also rans”, you’re looking at a 58-41% Democratic vote, and we are therefore classifying this as “safe Democratic” (Incidentally, Sen. Cantwell defeated her Republican opponent 57-40% in November 2006).
House (UPDATED 8/11 PM) – Washington gained a House seat, and its current configuration is 5-4 Democratic. Given the results this past Tuesday, we foresee a 6-4 Democratic delegation, with one caveat: the Democratic vote in 3 of those 6 seats was less than 54% (and in one seat was 51%), so it’s not impossible for the Republicans to win those seats with the election less than 90 days away.
So what’s next ? This Saturday, Hawaii is holding its primaries, while next Tuesday, Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are holding primaries. Wisconsin will be another one of those “establishment versus insurgent” primaries for the Republicans, as former Governor (and former HHS Secretary) Tommy Thompson (who is the “establishment”) faces stiff competition from wealthy businessman Eric Hovde and former Congressman Mark Neumann.