Decision 2012 – JMCEL’s August 23 Presidential scorecard

Part 1: Summary Statistics

  • President Obama job approval – last 30 days: 47-50% approve/disapprove (was 47-50% approve/disapprove)
  • Generic Congressional Vote – last 30 days: 44-42% Republican (was 44-42% Republican)
  • Congressional retirements (including defeats): 66 (55 in the House and 11 in the Senate)
  • Congressional Primary defeats: 13 (12 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 Republicans, 47 Democrats, 1 Independent, 3 Tossups (was 48-48-1 Democrat in last scorecard)

  • Projected Republican gains in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota , and Wisconsin
  • Republican held seat in Indiana too close to call
  • Democratic held seats in Connecticut 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: 5 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 231, Romney 191, Undecided 90 (prior scorecard: 257-191 Obama)

Presidential election as of August 23








Senate election as of August 23








Gubernatorial election as of August 23








This has been a good week for Mitt Romney with regards to the state by state polling. Even though we have not moved any states into his column (yet), recent polling taken in Michigan and Wisconsin shows a tightening race there, and we have therefore moved those two states (with 26 electoral votes) into the “tossup” column. We have also seen polling that justifies our moving Nevada from “solid Democrat” to “leans Democrat.” President Obama did build on his leads in New Mexico and Washington, so we have moved those states from “leans Democratic” to “solid Democratic.”

Assuming that Tropical Storm Isaac doesn’t force the postponement of next week’s Republican convention in Tampa (at the time of this writing, the path of the storm is directly towards Tampa), Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have their time to present their case to the voters.

Professor Larry Sabato (who does his weekly “Crystal Ball” blog) has analyzed the “bounce” each party gets after a convention, and he noted that Republicans have always received a “bounce” – in fact, in the aftermath of the 2008 Republican convention, the McCain/Palin ticket received an immediate 6 point improvement in their poll standing.

After that, the Democrats will hold their convention from September 4-6. While the Crystal Ball showed the Democrats got a 4 point “bounce” in 2008 (and no “bounce” in 2004), it’s also worth noting that the August unemployment statistics will be released the morning after President Obama’s acceptance speech. Depending on the unemployment figures, there is the possibility of these statistics canceling out some of that “bounce.”

After that, the campaign will really be in full swing. Since the first debate isn’t until October 3, the conventions and “paid media” (i.e., commercials) will be what are on voters’ minds during the month of September as they are firming up their candidate preferences. In fact, what goes on in September is crucial, because while the bulk of early voting will occur throughout October (Louisiana’s in person early voting is from October 23-30), in person early voting actually starts in South Dakota on September 21. The first “swing state” to see early voting begin will be Iowa – its early voting starts September 27.

While Obama has seen a dilution of his electoral college position (when we started this analysis on May 22, it was 303-170 for President Obama), the numbers look even less favorable if you look at the election through the prism of the undecided voting being, by and large, a hidden “anti Obama vote”, especially if you compare his poll position against his 2008 percentages.

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 53% – an 7% “plunge.” This drop has been remarkably consistent over the past few months, and suggests there is a sort of ceiling here for the Obama campaign. Granted, a 7 point “plunge” in these states would likely not cost Obama any of these states (which cast 167 electoral votes), but it does put him in an “underwater” situation in less Democratic terrain. Furthermore, the fact that Obama’s poll position is only greater than 52% in 3 of these states (Massachusetts. New York, and Vermont) is further evidence that his support is more tentative than it was in 2008.

Once you look at the “lean Obama” states (light blue), you again see a plunge in support relative to 2008 has plunged from 54 to 48%. Furthermore, Mitt Romney’s average in these states (worth 40 electoral votes) is 43%. A 5 point poll deficit in these states is not impossible for Romney to make up over the next 75 days

In the tossup states, the “Obama plunge” is from 53 to 47%, and Romney is averaging 46%. This is where the election will be decided, as 116 electoral votes are at stake here (this includes the recent entry of Michigan and Wisconsin).

Finally, in the “leans Romney” or “solid Romney” states, the plunge is from 43 to 37%. Because of the greater Republican intensity this year, any hopes Obama has for carrying Georgia and/or Arizona are not realistic this time around. Furthermore, there will be very little polling done here, although we polled Louisiana several days ago .

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 361 electoral votes (270 required to win).  

Part 5: Primary Results/Upcoming Events

This week was relatively quiet with regards to primaries: Georgia had a handful of Congressional runoffs, and Wyoming held its primary. Three states are holding primaries next week (Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont), which brings the total to 45 states.  Four of the five remaining primaries will be held in early September (Louisiana has its “primary” in November).

We now know who the Congressional candidates are in all 50 states: Louisiana had its candidate qualifying last week. All incumbents received opposition, although the Democrats only fielded candidates in 3 of the 6 Congressional districts (one of those 3 was an incumbent in an overwhelmingly Democratic district).

Even though Missouri held its primary several weeks ago, that race received national attention this past weekend when, in an interview, Republican nominee Todd Akin used the term “legitimate rape” when discussing his views on abortion. While many Republicans urged him to withdraw (and others withdrew funding for the race), the most immediate impact was in the polls: what was an apparently an easy defeat of Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill has quickly turned into a 10 point lead for her. While Rep. Akin immediately apologized for what he said, it’ll be interesting to see whether the damage to his chances was permanent.