Decision 2012 – JMCEL’s October 11 Presidential scorecard

Part 1: Summary Statistics (last 7 days)

Obama vs Romney: 48-47% Obama (was 49-46% Obama)

President Obama job approval: 51-47% approve/disapprove (was 49-48% approve/disapprove)

Generic Congressional Vote: 45-44% Democratic (was 45-45% Democratic)

US Senate Projections: 47 Democrats, 44 Republicans, 1 Independent, 8 Tossups (was 50-45-1 Democrat)

Governor’s Race Projections: 30 Republicans, 17 Democrats, 1 Independent, 2 Tossups (was 30-17-1 Republican)


Part 2: Presidential Scorecard (270 electoral votes required to win): Obama 221, Romney 206, Undecided 111 (prior scorecard: 275-191 Obama)

(Note: blue = safe Democratic, light blue = leans Democratic, yellow = tossup, light red = leans Republicans, red =solid Republican)

Presidential Election as of October 11








Senate Election as of October 11








Gubernatorial Election as of October 11








The Presidential race has become competitive again in the eyes of the news media, thanks to Mitt Romney’s performance in last Wednesday night’s debate. Almost overnight, polling taken showed Romney closing the gap in multiple (particularly the “swing”) states. Furthermore, there was a surge of Republican enthusiasm that immediately manifested itself in early/absentee voting presently being conducted on in Iowa and North Carolina. Here are the changes to our scorecard:

  • Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin: “Solid Democratic” to “Tossup”
  • Ohio: “Leans Democratic” to “Tossup”
  • North Carolina: “Leans Republican” to “Solid Republican”

It’s almost as if the Romney performance released a pent up wave of Republican enthusiasm, because several Senate contests similarly tightened up. Now that Romney is on firmer footing, can he maintain this momentum? The vice Presidential debate tonight, and the second Presidential debate (next Tuesday night) will certainly play a part in that momentum (or lack thereof).

(UPDATED 10/12 AM) With less than a month to go to the election, early and absentee balloting have accelerated. While by and large, the swing states have not started their in person early voting (early voting was what put President Obama over the top in several swing states in 2008), it is worth noticing that as this article is being written, 714K early votes/absentees have already been cast (more than triple last week’s volume). Since there is typically a time delay for these results to be reported, it’s not a stretch to assume that over a million voters have already cast their ballot.


Part 3: What does it take for Romney to win?

We would like to independently analyze the Presidential election by using actual polling data from 2008 to provide the proper context for what we are seeing now. In other words, the last 7 days of polling at the statewide level don’t mean much in isolation unless you compare it against polling from the last week of the 2008 campaign. When that analysis is performed, here’s what we see:

What it takes to win by state









If we take the polls in 2008 and 2012 at face value, it is apparent that President Obama has a 221-206 electoral vote lead. However, inclusion of 2008 polling data shows that he is running behind his 2008 poll showings by enough of a margin that we do not believe that this point that he could/would ultimately carry Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and New Hampshire. In Electoral College terms, that means a 221-206 lead for Obama becomes a 254-221 Romney plurality.

Furthermore, if you examine President Obama’s current poll showings against his 2008 polling numbers, you will immediately notice that (in the “Obama 2012 % projected” column) in three states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia), President Obama would get about 50% of the vote. Assuming a similar turnout as 2008 (a questionable assumption, but we are making it in the absence of sufficient early voting data), it would take, at a bare minimum, 65K more Romney votes in Ohio (or flipping of 33K Obama votes) for Romney to win with 272 electoral votes

In addition to Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania are similarly on the cusp of flipping to Romney, but (1) Virginia’s electoral votes by themselves would not put Romney over the top, and (2) Pennsylvania has not voted Republican since 1988; even then, it was by a mere 105K votes out of more than 4 million votes cast.


Part 4: Early Voting Updates (as of October 11)

As this article is being written, absentee voting is underway in 41 states (including all swing states except Colorado and Nevada), while in person early voting is underway in 10 states. Thus far, available early voting data shows little evidence of  2008 level Democratic intensity, and here’s what we are seeing in several key states:

North Carolina: 40K absentee ballots have been returned and accepted (since October started, it looks like about 3K returned ballots are counted per day). From those accepted ballots, the racial breakdown is 89-7% white/black and 54-28% Republican/Democratic. This is identical to the 2008 racial breakdown of 89-7% white/black and 54-28% Republican/Democrat. The real indication of how North Carolina will go, however, will come from in person early voting (which starts October 18). To illustrate, Obama carried that vote (in person + absentees) 56-44% in 2008, while McCain carried the Election Day vote 57-41%.

Iowa: (UPDATED 10/12 AM)  Iowa has traditionally had a strong Democratic early vote. In fact, McCain carried the state 50-48% if you were to look only at Election Day voters; early voters supported Obama 60-38%. This time, Democrats got off to a strong start (nearly 70% of the first day’s voters were Democrats). This advantage slowly eroded over time, and after the debate, the Republican numbers spiked (overnight, the daily early vote went from 64-17% Democratic to 54-26%). So far, 187K early votes have been cast, and the Democratic lead has whittled down to 55-27%. While this is still above the 46-29% Democratic edge from 2008, there are also three more weeks (and then some) for the early vote to be cast, and if the Republicans maintain their early voting momentum, they can close the gap even further.

Ohio: Getting meaningful results is a challenge in Ohio, since the data is being compiled at the county level, and Ohio has 88 counties. We do know that about 120K early votes have been cast, and in both the McCain and the Obama counties, about 2% of the 2008 vote has already been cast. However, in 38 of Ohio’s counties, the data we have is nearly a week out of date, and those counties supported McCain 54-45% (in other words, we are unable to measure Republican intensity in those counties from available data). We can say, however, that in Cuyahoga County (heavily Democratic Cleveland), voter intensity is about 70% of the statewide average, while in the Democratic urban core of Franklin County (Columbus), voter intensity is more than twice the statewide average.

Florida: (UPDATED 10/12 AM) Currently, only absentee ballots are being accepted (in person early voting doesn’t start until October 27) – this type of voting has traditionally a Republican stronghold, We know that about 150K votes have been cast, and in a handful of counties where party registration statistics are being provided to the public, Republican intensity has been somewhat higher.

Of the 9 states that have not started accepting mail in absentee ballots, all but one will commence absentee voting next week – Pennsylvania doesn’t start accepting absentee ballots until October 23. On the “in person early voting front”, it will be a relatively calm week. Only four states (Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee) will start to conduct in person early voting – North Carolina will be worth watching, since in person early voting enabled President Obama to carry the state (“In person” voting in Louisiana commences on October 23).