Decision 2012 – JMCEL’s October 23 Presidential scorecard

Part 1: Summary Statistics (last 7 days)

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

President Obama job approval: 49-48% approve/disapprove (was 50-47% approve/disapprove)

Generic Congressional Vote: 45-44% Democratic (was 45-43% Democratic)

US Senate Projections: 48 Democrats, 47 Republicans, 1 Independent, 4 Tossups (was 46-45-1 Democrat)

Governor’s Race Projections: 30 Republicans, 16 Democrats, 1 Independent, 3 Tossups (was 30-17-1 Republican)


Part 2: Presidential Scorecard (270 electoral votes required to win): Obama 237, Romney 206, Undecided 95 (prior scorecard: 221-206 Obama)

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

Presidential Election as of October 23








Senate Election as of October 23








Gubernatorial Election as of October 23








While President Obama was on more familiar turf (as the incumbent Commander In Chief) with last night’s debate, the electoral needle hasn’t drastically shifted since Romney’s performance in the first debate. Given recent polling, however, Michigan has moved back to “leans Democratic.” Below are other changes we’ve made to our scorecard:

  • Maine: “Leans Democratic” to “Solid Democratic”
  • Michigan: “Tossup” to “Leans Democratic”
  • Oregon: “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic”
  • Tennessee: “Leans Republican” to “Solid Republican”

(UPDATED 10/23 PM) However, it is worth noting that the lead Mitt Romney established in the race for the first time last week has sustained itself, and President Obama’s job approval has slipped below 50% again. This race is basically a turnout game now. All states are now accepting absentee ballots, while early voting is underway in 26 out of 30 states offering it (early voting started in Louisiana today). Thus far, the official number of votes that have been cast is just over 5 million, although given the time delay for statistics to be reported, it’s not a stretch to assume that over 7 million have voted so far.


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 for Romney to win









If we take the polls in 2008 and 2012 at face value, President Obama has a 237-206 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 Florida, Iowa, and Virginia. In Electoral College terms, that means a 237-206 lead for Obama becomes a 254-237 Romney plurality.

While Romney is currently 24K votes away from getting Colorado’s electoral votes, the epicenter of the election remains in Ohio. Like last week, Obama leads there by a too close to call 48-46%. Depending on what you believe with regards to Democratic intensity (more on that later) and/or how the undecideds will break, we’re either talking about a 52% Romney victory or a 51% Obama victory. Assuming a similar turnout as 2008 (a questionable assumption, but we are making it in the absence of sufficient and timely early voting data), it would take, at a bare minimum, 71K more Romney votes in Ohio (or flipping of 36K Obama votes) for Romney to win with 272 electoral votes (281 if he can take Colorado).


Part 4: Early Voting Updates (as of October 23)

As this article is being written, absentee voting is underway in all 50 states. In person early voting (the vehicle which helped President Obama carry several states) is now underway in 26 states (it has yet to begin in Florida, Maryland, Oklahoma, and West Virginia). So what have we seen so far ?

North Carolina: (UPDATED 10/23 PM) The tempo of early voting changed drastically after in person early voting started last Thursday. Before that, 68K had absentee voted, and 7% of them were black. Even though mail in absentee ballots are still coming in (20K were accepted since last Thursday, and only 8% of those ballots were cast by black voters), the success Democrats had with in person voting in 2008 seems to have repeated itself after only four days of early voting: 559K have early voted, and 35% of the in person voters were black.

Overall, 648K North Carolinians have already cast their ballots, and the racial breakdown is (so far) 64-31% white/black (partisan breakdown 51-30% Democrat/Republican). To put this in perspective, the 2008 early vote (both absentee and in person early voting) was 67-29% white/black and 54/28% Democrat/Republican. Using that yardstick, you have an early voting electorate that is 2% more Democratic than 2008 at this point in time.

Does this mean Obama has a chance at carrying North Carolina again ? Not necessarily: the average of recent polling shows a 51-47% Romney lead, and even in 2008, McCain carried the Election Day vote 57-41% (the early vote went for Obama 56-44%). But the Democrats’ initial success means that they’re likely to keep the state close enough to cause the Romney camp some discomfort.

Iowa: (UPDATED 10/23 PM) 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 has continually eroded over time, and a 50-30% Democratic lead from a week ago is now 47-31% Democratic, and 348K early votes have been cast so far. In other words, the partisan breakdown is roughly equivalent to what it was in 2008, when Democrats had a 46-29% edge with the early votes. Furthermore, Republicans (like with North Carolina) tend to vote more on Election Day. The big question for the Republicans is if they can keep diluting the early advantage Democrats had among early voters.

Ohio: (UPDATED 10/23 PM) While meaningful results remain tough to come by (absentee/early voting data is compiled at the county level, and Ohio has 88 counties), we do know that 813K early votes have been cast. In counties that voted Democratic in 2008 and 2010, 16% of the 2008 vote has already been cast. That figure is 13% in Republican counties and 12% in “swing” counties. Even though the more Republican counties seem to have a time delay in reporting (unlike predominately Democratic Cleveland and Columbus, which is updated on a daily basis), it does seem that there is a small Democratic early voting turnout advantage.

Florida: (UPDATED 10/23 PM) Currently, only absentee ballots are being accepted (in person early voting doesn’t start until Saturday). We know so far that 829K absentee voters have been cast, and that vote is 45-39% Republican by voter registration (statewide voter registration is 41-37% Democratic). This figure is slightly more Republican than last week’s absentees. While the media has made much of the fact that Republicans had a larger voter registration edge with absentee voters in 2008, it’s also true that the Obama campaign is encouraging more of its supporters to vote by mail this time, instead of voting “in person.” We’ll have a better assessment once in person early voting starts.

Nevada: (UPDATED 10/23 PM) It appears that Democrats jumped into an initial lead with early voting (which started this past Saturday): 162K have already voted, and Democrats have a 47-37% lead (October voter registration was 42-34% Democratic).

Looking ahead, the only swing state left to start its early voting is Florida. In the meantime, the balance of the Presidential election is in the hands of party operatives responsible for getting their supporters either to early vote or to vote on Election Day.