Part 1: Summary Statistics (last 7 days)
Obama vs Romney: 49-47% Romney (was 48-47% Romney)
President Obama job approval: 49-48% approve/disapprove (was 49-48% approve/disapprove)
Generic Congressional Vote: 45-44% Republican (was 45-44% Republican)
US Senate Projections: 48 Democrats, 46 Republicans, 1 Independent, 5 Tossups (was 48-47-1 Democrat)
Governor’s Race Projections: 30 Republicans, 16 Democrats, 1 Independent, 3 Tossups (was 30-16-1 Republican)
Part 2: Presidential Scorecard (270 electoral votes required to win): Romney 235, Obama 221, Undecided 82 (prior scorecard: 237-206 Obama)
(Note: blue = safe Democratic, light blue = leans Democratic, yellow = tossup, light red = leans Republicans, red =solid Republican)
Whether you look at the national polls or the state by state polling, there has been an unmistakable drift towards the Romney campaign. In addition to the fact that the race has tightened again in Michigan, polls in Minnesota and Oregon (as well as Pennsylvania) show President Obama’s once formidable advantage weakening. Given what’s happened since last week, we are making the following changes to our scorecard:
- North Carolina: “Solid Republican” to “Leans Republican”
- Minnesota: “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic”
- Michigan: “Leans Democratic” to “Tossup”
- Florida: “Tossup” to “Leans Republican”
Meanwhile, early voting volume continues to accelerate: all 50 states are accepting absentee ballots, and early voting is underway in 29 out of 30 states offering it (Louisiana will conclude its early voting today). Thus far, the official number of votes that have been cast is officially (as this article is being written) 16.4 million – double the number if was 5 days ago. Given the time delay for statistics to be reported, we think that number is actually 22-23 million votes already cast.
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:
If we take the polls in 2008 and 2012 at face value, Mitt Romney has taken a lead in the Electoral College for the first time. What will it take for him to go from 235 to 270 electoral votes?
To get to 270 electoral votes, there are 5 states too close to call where Romney needs 115K more votes (or 58K Obama votes need to be converted). To illustrate how tight the race is right now, the total vote cast in 2008 in those 5 states (Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Virginia) was 10 million.
You’ll notice that Oregon was included in the list while Ohio was not – this is NOT a typo. True, Oregon has frustrated Republicans for years (Reagan in 1984 was the last Republican to carry the state, and even then, he only got 56%), and the state is an 100% “vote by mail” state. However, a recent poll by the Oregonian shows a 47-41% lead. In 2008, Obama’s poll lead during the last week of the election was 55-41%, and he carried the state with 57%. So we think there is an opportunity, especially with Libertarian Gary Johnson on the ballot there. Incidentally, their Secretary of State noted (via Twitter) that 28% of Republicans and Democrats have returned their ballots. So this race could go down to the wire.
As for Ohio, it’s still a possibility for the Romney campaign, although the average poll numbers now are 49-47% Obama for the last 7 days. It would take Romney 117K votes to carry the state – a figure up from 71K votes last week. 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 – we believe that with 1.1 million votes already cast, the balance of the Presidential election lies in those ballots.
Part 4: Early Voting Updates (as of October 30)
As this article is being written, early voting totals are rapidly changing, and only Oklahoma has not started early voting yet. So what are we seeing so far?
North Carolina: Since early voting started two weeks ago, the voter counts have been rapidly changing. As this article is being written, 1.7 million have early voted (to put this number in perspective, that is already 39% of those who voted in 2008). While Democrats have gotten off to a huge head start (37% of those early voting on the first day were black, and 22% of the registered voters are black), Republicans have begun to play catch up, however, as yesterday’s in person voters were 25% black. Overall, the racial breakdown of early/voters is 67/29% white/black and 49/31% Democrat/Republican (the 2008 early/absentee voters were 67-29% white/black and 54/28% Democrat/Republican). Incidentally, the advent of Hurricane Sandy did have a minor impact: early voting volume briefly dropped 45% on Saturday.
Iowa: 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 46-32% Democratic lead from a week ago is now 44-32% Democratic, and 498K early votes have been cast so far. In other words, the partisan breakdown is now 3% more Republican and 2% less Democratic than the 2008 early voters (who were 46-29% Democratic). Furthermore, Republicans (like with North Carolina) tend to vote more on Election Day. The big question for the Republicans is how much further they can keep diluting the initial advantage Democrats had among early voters.
Ohio: 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 1.1 million early votes have been cast. In counties that voted Democratic in 2008 and 2010, 22% of the 2008 vote has already been cast. That figure is 16% in Republican counties and 18% in “swing” counties. It’s also worth noting, however, that data in predominately Democratic Cleveland and Columbus is updated on a daily basis, while in many Republican counties, we are lucky to get weekly updates. Furthermore, in 37 of the counties (representing 25% of the vote), our data is 11 days old, and McCain got 57% in those counties – 10 points more than his statewide average. Therefore, we think it’s more accurate to say that Democrats have been aggressive getting their vote out, but their advantage is not an overwhelming one.
Florida: In person early voting started this past Saturday. While the partisan tilt became somewhat more Democratic, their advantage hasn’t been as one sided as it was in 2008: 2.2 million Floridians have early/absentee voted, and the Democrats now hold a narrow 42-41% plurality (statewide voter registration is 41-37% Democratic).
Nevada: While Democrats jumped into an initial lead with early voting (which started last Saturday), what was a 48-36% Democratic advantage has narrowed a bit to 45-37% Democratic, and 433K early votes have been cast.
Colorado: Early voting totals are nearly at the 1 million mark: 965K have early or absentee voted. Republicans cling to a 38-36% lead (same point spread as last week) in a state where current voter registration is 32-32% Republican.
Looking ahead, while Oklahoma has not started its early voting (it starts in several days), early voting will now start to end in each of the states where it has been conducted. Today is the last day for Louisianians to early vote, and by Friday, early voting concludes in 11 states, including Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin.