Commentary Magazine


Topic: polls

Free Advice for Liberals: Stop Complaining About Skewed Polls

With less than a week left before Election Day, liberal pundits have been reading the polls in battleground states and don’t like what they see. Though many races are still falling inside the margin of error, Republicans are being given the edge in most of the tossup states. Despite the endless talk about there being no “wave” or this being a “Seinfeld election,” a GOP-controlled Senate next January is likely and their gains in both houses of Congress may well exceed what most observers thought was likely. In response, Democrats are doing what a lot of people do when they don’t like the way things are going: they’re crying foul and claiming the polls are skewed against their party. While there’s a chance they may be proved right, the odds are they’re whistling in the wind. And conservatives should be very familiar with the sensation.

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With less than a week left before Election Day, liberal pundits have been reading the polls in battleground states and don’t like what they see. Though many races are still falling inside the margin of error, Republicans are being given the edge in most of the tossup states. Despite the endless talk about there being no “wave” or this being a “Seinfeld election,” a GOP-controlled Senate next January is likely and their gains in both houses of Congress may well exceed what most observers thought was likely. In response, Democrats are doing what a lot of people do when they don’t like the way things are going: they’re crying foul and claiming the polls are skewed against their party. While there’s a chance they may be proved right, the odds are they’re whistling in the wind. And conservatives should be very familiar with the sensation.

Two years ago as we headed for the presidential vote, most of the polls were telling us that Barack Obama would win a clear if narrow victory in his bid for reelection. Battleground states that Republican nominee Mitt Romney badly needed to build an Electoral College majority were all in play but survey after survey showed him trailing. The response from some conservative pundits was to take a close look at the polls, drill down into the data, and see if the sample was kosher. Most of the major polls were built on a statistical model that seemed to overestimate the number of affiliated Democrats being asked their opinion. The samples invariably showed Democrats turning out in the same numbers as they had in 2008 when Obama swept to the White House on a cloud of hope and change charisma and messianic expectations. It seemed impossible that after four years of an indifferent presidency that Obama could perform the same magic trick again when it came to inspiring the Democratic base and huge numbers of minorities, young voters, and unmarried women to come to the polls. Seen in that light, the pollsters were skewing the sample to favor Obama and the Democrats and shortchanging Romney who might well be even with the president once the totals were adjusted to account for who would really show up and vote.

Unlike many other conservative writers who spent the year convinced there was no way as bad a president as Obama could get reelected, I felt he was more likely to win than not. His historic status as our first African-American president made him a unique political figure and his charms, though lost on me and most other conservatives, kept him popular even after a dismal record in office. But after spending enough time parsing electoral survey samples, I became convinced that wildly inflated estimates for the number of Democrats who would vote had created an exaggerated poll-driven picture of the likely outcome that was boosting Obama’s chances and hurting Romney. Along with others who had worked out the same math, I thought the likely Obama victory predicted by New York Times statistical guru Nate Silver seemed to be based on inaccurate data.

My logic was impeccable and my arguments sound. But there was one problem. I was wrong.

It turned out the pollsters were right to think that the Democratic base would turn out for Obama in 2012 the same way they had in 2008. Silver had rightly understood that the pollsters had accounted for possible changes in the electorate. More minorities and young Democrats would turn out than four years earlier or in the 2010 midterms. The result was that Obama did sweep almost every battleground state, although some were by slender margins. Silver was acclaimed as a genius and those of us who had questioned his figures and those of the pollsters he cited had to admit we were mistaken.

I retell this story not out of nostalgia for a result I still consider unfortunate for the nation but as a cautionary tale for liberals who are spending this week digging the same kind of hole I dug for myself prior to the 2012 vote. Listen to MSNBC at any time of day or read some of the people who now write for The Upshot, the section that replaced Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog that he pulled from the Times and now operates as his own independent franchise, and you’ll see, hear, or read similar refrains to the ones I was sounding just two years ago. We are told that the sample sizes being used by the polls showing Republicans winning are underestimating Hispanics, women, or Democrats. Adjust the polls for what they think are the real totals and you’ll find that races are tied or with Democrats rather than Republicans leading.

My advice is to Rachel Maddow and Co. is simple: stop digging. Save your breath and start preparing for the worst rather than creating embarrassing sound bites that will come back to haunt you in a week.

As the redoubtable Silver notes today on his site, errors on the scale that conservatives thought possible in 2012 or liberals are alleging today are always possible but not terribly likely. Talk about skewed polls is the last refuge of those in denial about an electoral trend. That was true two years ago and it’s happening today. The temptation to try and “unskew” the polls is obvious and it’s what readers in our bifurcated media want to see. But, as Silver writes, “Usually this doesn’t end well for the unskewers.”

With so many polls out there showing much the same thing about a Republican advantage, the chances that they are all wrong about who will vote (or have already cast ballots in early voting states) are slim. Unskewing seems like it makes sense but it is invariably based more on wishful thinking than sober analysis. Just as conservatives had to eventually accept that pre-election poll estimates of Democratic turnout were right, so, too, will liberals likely have to own up to the fact that today’s expectations about their base’s voting patterns are similarly accurate. Indeed, as Silver writes, it may be that pollsters are underestimating the number of Republicans this year just as they did the same to some degree for Democrats in 2012.

This should not cause us to lose all skepticism about polls. They should be closely examined and probed for possible errors. But such analyses tend to be based on the idea that the candidates you prefer are being shortchanged more than a real suspicion of error. Assuming that the errors will all go one way or that your candidate will  catch the breaks is a guarantee that you’ll soon be eating your hat, humble pie, crow, or whatever metaphor you prefer. Ms. Maddow and her friends will soon find that it doesn’t taste any better in their mouths than it did in mine.

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Americans Have Corrosive Dissatisfaction for Our Political System

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll revealed some noteworthy data about the public’s attitude toward our political system. When asked about how satisfied they were with it, here’s what they found:

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A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll revealed some noteworthy data about the public’s attitude toward our political system. When asked about how satisfied they were with it, here’s what they found:

Very Satisfied: 2 percent
Somewhat Satisfied: 17 percent
Somewhat Dissatisfied: 30 percent
Very Dissatisfied: 49 percent
Not Sure: 2 percent

So 19 percent are very/somewhat satisfied with our political system while 79 percent are somewhat/very dissatisfied–and nearly half are very dissatisfied.

“We’re in the summer of our discontent,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “Americans are cranky, unhappy.”

Indeed they are, and they have ample reasons to feel as they do. Of course, they are the very citizens who elected the very lawmakers who operate the very system they verily hate, so there’s plenty of blame to go around. Our broken system is the result of our divided selves.

Still, whatever the causes–and there are many of them–it can’t be good when there’s such massive dissatisfaction with our political system. For one thing, we have urgent challenges that require a political system that works, that people have confidence in. Beyond that, though, our political system–the extraordinary handiwork of our founding generation–produced what Lincoln called an “inestimable jewel.” It is one of the main reasons we revere our country. Sustained contempt for our political system is corrosive. It undermines our affections for America. And unless it is reversed, it will find increasingly disturbing outlets and end up doing durable damage to the nation we love.

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RE: Poll: 60% Support Tax Hikes on the Wealthy

I certainly agree with Alana that the Republicans are in a tough spot. But I’m not sure how valid any of these polls about public opinion on the issue are. Unlike when the choice is either A or B, as those are the only two candidates in an election, polls on public issues depend crucially on exactly how they are worded. And even when worded in a neutral manner (not an easy thing to achieve even when the pollster is trying to be honest), I’m not sure they mean that much in terms of political consequences down the road.

No matter what the Republicans do, the permanent Obama campaign—sorry, I mean the mainstream media—will hammer them. So they might as well do what’s right.

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I certainly agree with Alana that the Republicans are in a tough spot. But I’m not sure how valid any of these polls about public opinion on the issue are. Unlike when the choice is either A or B, as those are the only two candidates in an election, polls on public issues depend crucially on exactly how they are worded. And even when worded in a neutral manner (not an easy thing to achieve even when the pollster is trying to be honest), I’m not sure they mean that much in terms of political consequences down the road.

No matter what the Republicans do, the permanent Obama campaign—sorry, I mean the mainstream media—will hammer them. So they might as well do what’s right.

I’m not surprised that 60 percent want taxes raised on the wealthy. This is taxing the man behind the tree, in Senator Russell Long’s famous description of the art of taxation, as almost no one considers himself to be “rich.”

Equally, I am not surprised that 64 percent want to raise taxes on large corporations. I wonder what percentage of that 64 percent know that the United States already has the highest corporate taxes in the world? Maybe 10 percent? The average man in the street has little understanding of the realities of such public policy questions, which obsess only the chattering classes. Polling them doesn’t provide useful information, it only provide ammunition for one side or the other to use.

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Dems Setting Narrative to Explain Loss

Democrats have been setting their narrative for a possible Obama loss early the last several days, as reports of “conservative voting machines” circulated throughout the liberal blogosphere. I first heard about the conspiracy for Romney’s victory on Sunday night while on a panel with several New York City liberals. They assured me that because Mitt Romney’s son owns stock in companies that manufacture voting machines used in Ohio, the groundwork has been laid for a fraudulent Romney victory there. Surprisingly, one of the best sources for debunking the story comes from NPR:

This conspiracy centers on voting machines in Ohio, a key battleground in this election. A couple of Ohio counties use voting machines made by a company called Hart InterCivic. According to the rumor, Tagg Romney owns part of Hart. So, goes the story, Tagg Romney could fix the election.

It turns out there is no direct financial interest, but there’s an appearance of a tenuous connection. Tagg Romney’s private equity firm, Solamere Capital, is invested in another private equity firm called H.I.G. Capital. A little over a year ago, H.I.G. invested heavily in Hart and took over its board.

But according to a letter Hart’s CEO, Phillip Braithwaite, sent to elections officials around the country, “Solamere has absolutely no interest in the specific H.I.G. fund that has invested in Hart InterCivic.” Also according to this letter, Solamere is just one of 350 institutional investors in H.I.G. “Hart InterCivic has never had any contact of any kind with Solamere.”

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Democrats have been setting their narrative for a possible Obama loss early the last several days, as reports of “conservative voting machines” circulated throughout the liberal blogosphere. I first heard about the conspiracy for Romney’s victory on Sunday night while on a panel with several New York City liberals. They assured me that because Mitt Romney’s son owns stock in companies that manufacture voting machines used in Ohio, the groundwork has been laid for a fraudulent Romney victory there. Surprisingly, one of the best sources for debunking the story comes from NPR:

This conspiracy centers on voting machines in Ohio, a key battleground in this election. A couple of Ohio counties use voting machines made by a company called Hart InterCivic. According to the rumor, Tagg Romney owns part of Hart. So, goes the story, Tagg Romney could fix the election.

It turns out there is no direct financial interest, but there’s an appearance of a tenuous connection. Tagg Romney’s private equity firm, Solamere Capital, is invested in another private equity firm called H.I.G. Capital. A little over a year ago, H.I.G. invested heavily in Hart and took over its board.

But according to a letter Hart’s CEO, Phillip Braithwaite, sent to elections officials around the country, “Solamere has absolutely no interest in the specific H.I.G. fund that has invested in Hart InterCivic.” Also according to this letter, Solamere is just one of 350 institutional investors in H.I.G. “Hart InterCivic has never had any contact of any kind with Solamere.”

That said, several top executives at H.I.G. are what’s known as bundlers for the Romney campaign, according to a database created by USA Today using data from the Sunlight Foundation. That means they have raised tons of money for Romney. There are also three H.I.G. executives on the board of Hart InterCivic, and two of them have donated to Mitt Romney’s campaign (though one gave to both Romney and President Obama in the last election cycle).

These executives surely want their candidate to win, but could they make it happen by changing votes in Ohio?

“If somebody was doing something funny, believe me everybody would know,” says Sally Krisel, deputy director of elections in Hamilton County.

A second conspiracy comes from the aggregation site Reddit. One user posted a video of a broken voting machine. When the user selected Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the machine refused to register the choice, instead highlighting Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. The voter tried three times before contacting poll workers and the machine has since been taken offline. This has happened in other states as well, as faulty electronic machines registered the wrong selection when users chose their candidate.

There are other reports, less publicized by the mainstream media, from Ohio where voters were unable to initially cast a vote for Mitt Romney because the machines continued to register Barack Obama as their selection. Voters in North Carolina and Kansas have reported the problem as well, telling reporters that machines initially refused to allow ballots to be cast for Romney before machines were re-calibrated. The RNC’s lawyers have already sent a letter to six secretaries of state to ensure that electronic voting machines were properly calibrated in order to avoid further mix-ups. 

Democrats are already in damage-control mode, trying to convince themselves and their supporters that the only path to a Romney/Ryan victory is through fraud alone. This morning, the DNC’s former chairman and presidential candidate Howard Dean told Morning Joe, “Given the vote and the leading in the polls in Ohio, the only way [Obama] can lose is if people are prevented from casting their ballots. Either by voting machines that aren’t functioning right or other forms of harassment.”

There are serious concerns about possible voter intimidation in Philadelphia, and today Jonathan wrote about courts having to intervene in some cases to ensure GOP poll watchers would be allowed in precincts that they were denied entry to or ejected from. Democratic theories about secret right-wing conspiracies to rig voting machines, however, show just how desperately they appear to be trying to explain away a fair and legal possible Romney victory. If liberals really were as confident as Nate Silver assures them they should be, this hysterical story wouldn’t be making the rounds.

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Unions Boosting Obama in Ohio?

Politico reports on a new AFL-CIO (I know, I know) poll, which finds Obama up five percentage points with union voters compared to 2008. Alexander Burns writes: “If Obama wins reelection tonight, much of the postgame will focus on his suport (sic) among nonwhite voters, but his edge in the Electoral College has also long depended on overperforming with Ohio whites. The union vote is a big, big part of that — not only in Ohio, but also in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.”

From the poll:

By a 41-point margin, Ohio union members are voting for President Obama (70%) over Mitt Romney (29%) in the presidential race. The early vote among Ohio union members tilts even more heavily in President Obama’s favor (79% to 21%).

Obama’s support among Ohio union members has increased by five percentage points since 2008. Our Election Night and post-election polling in 2008 showed Obama winning 65% of the Ohio union vote, so even accounting for each poll’s margin of error, Obama currently is performing at least as well among Ohio members, if not better, than he did in 2008.

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Politico reports on a new AFL-CIO (I know, I know) poll, which finds Obama up five percentage points with union voters compared to 2008. Alexander Burns writes: “If Obama wins reelection tonight, much of the postgame will focus on his suport (sic) among nonwhite voters, but his edge in the Electoral College has also long depended on overperforming with Ohio whites. The union vote is a big, big part of that — not only in Ohio, but also in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.”

From the poll:

By a 41-point margin, Ohio union members are voting for President Obama (70%) over Mitt Romney (29%) in the presidential race. The early vote among Ohio union members tilts even more heavily in President Obama’s favor (79% to 21%).

Obama’s support among Ohio union members has increased by five percentage points since 2008. Our Election Night and post-election polling in 2008 showed Obama winning 65% of the Ohio union vote, so even accounting for each poll’s margin of error, Obama currently is performing at least as well among Ohio members, if not better, than he did in 2008.

What goes unmentioned is how much union membership has shrunk since Obama took office. In Ohio alone, the rolls dropped by 10 percent between 2008 and 2011 — from 716,000 members to 647,000. That doesn’t even include any drop that took place over the past year, since those numbers aren’t available yet on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

Looking at the swing states beyond Ohio, those numbers aren’t much better. As the Christian Science Monitor reported over the summer:

Since Obama took office, the numbers for union membership have shrunk. Nationally between 2008 and 2011, public and private union membership dropped by 3.3 percent. The numbers in the Midwest are more dramatic: a 14.5 percent slide in Wisconsin, 13.9 percent in Indiana, 12.9 in Michigan, 9.7 in Ohio, 8.1 in Pennsylvania, and 6.7 in Illinois, according to UnionStats.com.

So while Obama’s numbers may be up slightly with union members, there are also fewer of them out there. That means fewer feet on the ground for the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote efforts (which unions often assist with) and fewer voters forced to listen to pro-Democrat propaganda as a consequence of their union membership.

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It’s Now Public: Editors Rejigger Polls

With the poll-obsessed talk of the past six months, those who raise questions about problems with them are often subjected to scorn and derision on the grounds that they are simply objecting to surveys whose results they don’t like.

The objection is beside the point; who else but someone who is unhappy with a poll’s result would bother to raise the hood and look at the engine and see where it might be busted?

The leading objection raised this year is to polls whose findings suggest a more Democratic turnout in states than is likely to be the case. I go into that in a column today in the New York Post. 

A stunning tale today in the Salt Lake Tribune, however, reveals the dirty little secret of polls paid for by the media. The results are, in effect, owned by the media, and the media can insist that they be rejiggered.

The Tribune published a poll done by the respected Mason-Dixon firm that showed a 10-point lead for the county’s Republican candidate for mayor. The poll was released on Thursday. Later, editors for the paper objected to the results on the grounds that the poll had an insufficient number of Democrats in its sample:

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With the poll-obsessed talk of the past six months, those who raise questions about problems with them are often subjected to scorn and derision on the grounds that they are simply objecting to surveys whose results they don’t like.

The objection is beside the point; who else but someone who is unhappy with a poll’s result would bother to raise the hood and look at the engine and see where it might be busted?

The leading objection raised this year is to polls whose findings suggest a more Democratic turnout in states than is likely to be the case. I go into that in a column today in the New York Post. 

A stunning tale today in the Salt Lake Tribune, however, reveals the dirty little secret of polls paid for by the media. The results are, in effect, owned by the media, and the media can insist that they be rejiggered.

The Tribune published a poll done by the respected Mason-Dixon firm that showed a 10-point lead for the county’s Republican candidate for mayor. The poll was released on Thursday. Later, editors for the paper objected to the results on the grounds that the poll had an insufficient number of Democrats in its sample:

Tribune editor Nancy Conway acknowledged the problem.

“We are as concerned about this as anyone,” she said Monday. “As soon as we understood there was a problem we worked to correct it.

“We had no reason to doubt the poll until we saw others conducted over the same period and could see differences in the numbers. That raised questions,” Conway said. “We contacted our pollster who did additional research on Salt Lake County demographics and found there was indeed a flaw.

“We knew right then that we needed to correct our mistake and that’s what we are doing,” Conway said.

And so it was done, as the story explains.

The Salt Lake Tribune does not appear to have endorsed a candidate in the mayoral race, but it is a liberal paper in a conservative state that earned headlines nationwide for endorsing Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. So perhaps one can presume its editors favor the Democrat.

To recap: A newspaper pays for a poll. It doesn’t like the look of the results. So it asks the pollster to reexamine them and alter them by changing his “weights.” He does so; he may agree with the call (as the Mason Dixon pollster says he does in the story) or he may be simply serving the interests of his paying client.

And it will do so based on the partisan split—the very controversy that is dismissed so cavalierly by media types.

We only know about this one because of the highly unusual circumstances of its revision. The question you have to ask yourself now is: How many times does this happen before a poll is published

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Obama Camp to Supporters: Don’t Panic if Exit Polls Look Bad

Via Politicker, the Obama campaign is just oozing confidence heading into the home stretch:

In a conference call this afternoon, President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign had one central message for their supporters when Election Day arrives tomorrow: They should “keep calm,” even if they hear snippets of information favoring Republican Mitt Romney. …

The fear, she explained, was early numbers leaking before voters have finished going to the polls, creating unnecessary panic and pessimism among Democrats.

“Keep calm and tweet on,” Ms. Cutter said. “So, no matter what you hear tomorrow about turnout in Republican counties or exit polls, particularly early in the day, please remember and remind your readers that, because of early votes, we’re where we need to be to win….I don’t think there’s going to be official exits until the end of the day, but if things leak out that aren’t validated or weighted, please stay calm.”

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Via Politicker, the Obama campaign is just oozing confidence heading into the home stretch:

In a conference call this afternoon, President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign had one central message for their supporters when Election Day arrives tomorrow: They should “keep calm,” even if they hear snippets of information favoring Republican Mitt Romney. …

The fear, she explained, was early numbers leaking before voters have finished going to the polls, creating unnecessary panic and pessimism among Democrats.

“Keep calm and tweet on,” Ms. Cutter said. “So, no matter what you hear tomorrow about turnout in Republican counties or exit polls, particularly early in the day, please remember and remind your readers that, because of early votes, we’re where we need to be to win….I don’t think there’s going to be official exits until the end of the day, but if things leak out that aren’t validated or weighted, please stay calm.”

Exit polling is notoriously unreliable, so Cutter is actually giving good advice here. But as Erika Johnson points out, the early votes really don’t seem to have the Obama campaign where they “need to be” — and, based on Stephanie Cutter’s apparent concern about election day turnout, she knows it. Would a campaign that believed it was cruising on early votes really be this jittery about leaked exit polls? It sounds like they think the race is more of a toss-up than they’re letting on.

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Good Signs for Romney in Ohio Early Voting?

Breitbart flags this tweet from The Hotline’s Josh Kraushaar, which suggests good news for Mitt Romney in the Ohio early voting numbers:

Obama won Ohio in 2008 thanks to his strong early vote advantage. Whatever ground he loses to Romney in early voting, he’ll need to make up for with higher Election Day turnout. According to the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, this could be a problem for Obama, based on the turnout trends since 2008:

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Breitbart flags this tweet from The Hotline’s Josh Kraushaar, which suggests good news for Mitt Romney in the Ohio early voting numbers:

Obama won Ohio in 2008 thanks to his strong early vote advantage. Whatever ground he loses to Romney in early voting, he’ll need to make up for with higher Election Day turnout. According to the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, this could be a problem for Obama, based on the turnout trends since 2008:

We won’t know the actual early vote results until the polls close (the Gannett numbers from this appear to be inaccurate), but the latest indications are good for Romney. Keep in mind, if the early vote breakdown is very close or favors Romney, that’s also a sign of serious flaws in the state polls. Rasmussen’s Ohio poll yesterday had Obama leading Romney in the early vote by 23 points, and PPP’s had Obama up by 21.

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Romney’s Internal Polls Show Lead in OH, NH, IA

The Daily Mail‘s Toby Harnden reports on the Romney campaign’s internal poll numbers, which apparently show him with a slight edge in Ohio, New Hampshire and Iowa; tied with Obama in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; and trailing in Nevada:

Mitt Romney is ahead by a single percentage point in Ohio – the swing state that could well decide the election – according to internal polling data provided to MailOnline by a Republican party source.

Internal campaign polling completed on Sunday night by campaign pollster Neil Newhouse has Romney three points up in New Hampshire, two points up in Iowa and dead level in Wisconsin. Most startlingly, the figures show Romney and Obama deadlocked in Pennsylvania.

If the Romney campaign’s internal numbers are correct – and nearly all independent pollsters have come up with a picture much more favourable for Obama – then the former Massachusetts governor will almost certainly be elected 45th U.S. President.

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The Daily Mail‘s Toby Harnden reports on the Romney campaign’s internal poll numbers, which apparently show him with a slight edge in Ohio, New Hampshire and Iowa; tied with Obama in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; and trailing in Nevada:

Mitt Romney is ahead by a single percentage point in Ohio – the swing state that could well decide the election – according to internal polling data provided to MailOnline by a Republican party source.

Internal campaign polling completed on Sunday night by campaign pollster Neil Newhouse has Romney three points up in New Hampshire, two points up in Iowa and dead level in Wisconsin. Most startlingly, the figures show Romney and Obama deadlocked in Pennsylvania.

If the Romney campaign’s internal numbers are correct – and nearly all independent pollsters have come up with a picture much more favourable for Obama – then the former Massachusetts governor will almost certainly be elected 45th U.S. President.

If the campaign is really seeing internal polls like this, it would explain the Romney campaign’s recent confidence. Still, they would also be the only recent polls that show Romney with an edge in Ohio and New Hampshire. For the past week, every other poll has shown a tie or Obama with a slight lead in those states, and in the RCP polling average Obama is up 2.9 percent in Ohio and 2 percent in New Hampshire. That doesn’t mean the Romney internal polls are wrong or even that far off from what we’re seeing elsewhere, just that they’re more favorable for Romney than the other polling — not a surprise, since they’re internals.

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Polls: Ohio Still a Tossup

Rasmussen’s latest (and last) finds Romney and Obama tied in Ohio: 

The pivotal presidential state of Ohio remains all tied up on the eve of Election Day.

The final Election 2012 Rasmussen Reports survey of Likely Ohio Voters shows Mitt Romney and President Obama each earning 49% support. One percent (1%) favors some other candidate in the race, and another one percent (1%) is undecided. …

The race in Ohio was tied late last week after Romney posted a slight 50% to 48% advantage a few days earlier. The candidates have been within two percentage points of one another or less in every survey in Ohio since May.

Forty percent (40%) of likely voters in the Buckeye State have already voted. Obama leads 60% to 37% among these voters.

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Rasmussen’s latest (and last) finds Romney and Obama tied in Ohio: 

The pivotal presidential state of Ohio remains all tied up on the eve of Election Day.

The final Election 2012 Rasmussen Reports survey of Likely Ohio Voters shows Mitt Romney and President Obama each earning 49% support. One percent (1%) favors some other candidate in the race, and another one percent (1%) is undecided. …

The race in Ohio was tied late last week after Romney posted a slight 50% to 48% advantage a few days earlier. The candidates have been within two percentage points of one another or less in every survey in Ohio since May.

Forty percent (40%) of likely voters in the Buckeye State have already voted. Obama leads 60% to 37% among these voters.

Today’s University of Cincinnati poll also found a statistical tie, with Obama up by one. Previously, Rasmussen showed Romney with a slight lead in Ohio. All of the other polls have found a tie or a slight edge for Obama — and several in the last week have found Obama at or above the 50-percent line. Party ID breakdowns that favor Obama could be skewing the polls, but we won’t know precisely to what extent until after the election. 

If Michael Barone is right, the polling is wildly off-base and Romney is heading for a landslide:

Also, both national and target state polls show that independents, voters who don’t identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans, break for Romney.

That might not matter if Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 39 to 32 percent, as they did in the 2008 exit poll. But just about every indicator suggests that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting — and about their candidate — than they were in 2008, and Democrats are less so.

That’s been apparent in early or absentee voting, in which Democrats trail their 2008 numbers in target states Virginia, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada. …

Bottom line: Romney 315, Obama 223. That sounds high for Romney. But he could drop Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and still win the election. Fundamentals.

On the other hand, if Phil Klein is right, Obama will prevail in all the states where he has a slight edge in the polls, and beat Romney by a hair:

I believe the arguments about polls understating Romney’s position have some merit, but only up to a point. I also believe that by and large, despite some high profile errors, polling is generally accurate when results from multiple pollsters overwhelmingly point in one direction. So, I’ve decided to split the difference in my prediction. That is, I’ve given Romney the states that are essentially tied, in which he’s led in at least some recent polls. But in states where Romney has trailed in nearly all polls, and in some cases by a comfortable margin, I’m giving them to Obama. My thinking is that even if Romney over-performs the polls somewhat, he still is unlikely to over-perform by a wide enough margin to win these states.

Applying this philosophy, I give Romney Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado. But I assume that Obama takes Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. …

Add it all up and the final tally is Obama 277, Romney 261.

Klein has a safer bet, but Barone’s argument is persuasive. They both show how difficult it is to come up with an analysis when we know the polls have some flaws, but don’t yet know to what extent.

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Republicans Close Gap With Swing-State Early Voters

Last week’s Pew poll found that President Obama is trailing Mitt Romney among early voters — a group he won by a large margin in 2008 — and the latest party identification breakdown of early voters from the United States Election Project and Politico support that:

In Colorado, Republicans have cast 38 percent of the early vote to 35 percent for Democrats and 27 percent for unaffiliated voters. Four years ago, the numbers were reversed: Democrats cast 38 percent, Republicans 36 percent and independents 26 percent.

In Iowa, 43 percent of the early vote this year has been cast by Democrats, 32 percent by Republicans and 24 percent by no party or other. In 2008, the numbers were 47 (D) 29 (R) 24 (NP).

While Nevada doesn’t provide comparative statewide early vote data between 2008 and 2012, a similar pattern emerges in the two counties where the bulk of the state vote will be cast – the Democratic percentage of early votes is down slightly and there’s an uptick in the GOP percentage.

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Last week’s Pew poll found that President Obama is trailing Mitt Romney among early voters — a group he won by a large margin in 2008 — and the latest party identification breakdown of early voters from the United States Election Project and Politico support that:

In Colorado, Republicans have cast 38 percent of the early vote to 35 percent for Democrats and 27 percent for unaffiliated voters. Four years ago, the numbers were reversed: Democrats cast 38 percent, Republicans 36 percent and independents 26 percent.

In Iowa, 43 percent of the early vote this year has been cast by Democrats, 32 percent by Republicans and 24 percent by no party or other. In 2008, the numbers were 47 (D) 29 (R) 24 (NP).

While Nevada doesn’t provide comparative statewide early vote data between 2008 and 2012, a similar pattern emerges in the two counties where the bulk of the state vote will be cast – the Democratic percentage of early votes is down slightly and there’s an uptick in the GOP percentage.

At The Atlantic, Molly Ball also gives a good analysis of North Carolina (Republicans are still trailing, but they’ve significantly closed the gap from ’08) and Florida (same thing). Unfortunately, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania don’t break down voters by party, so analysis there is based on looking at turnout numbers in counties and/or precincts that went heavily for Obama or McCain in 2008. And the early vote turnout is down in Ohio counties Obama won handily in 2008, reports Jim Geraghty.

Obama crushed McCain in the pre-election day vote four years ago, but despite a big push by his campaign and a supposedly unbeatable turnout operation, he’s lagging in key states. In places like Iowa and Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, which Obama won by double-digits in 2008, he still has a buffer zone where he can lose some support and still hold on. But he has much less room for error in Ohio. While swing state polls still seem to indicate a slight lead for Obama, many of them also rely on turnout that looks similar to 2008. From what we’re seeing with early voters, that’s not a realistic expectation.

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Obama Leads in Iowa, Race Close in NH, WI

Today’s WSJ/NBC/Marist poll shows President Obama with a six-point lead in Iowa, but Mitt Romney within striking distance in New Hampshire and Wisconsin:

In Iowa, Obama is ahead by six points among likely voters, 50 percent to 44 percent, which is down from his eight-point lead earlier this month. 

In Wisconsin, the president edges Romney by three points, 49 percent to 46 percent, which is within the survey’s margin of error. That’s also down from Obama’s six-point lead earlier this month.

And in New Hampshire, Obama gets support from 49 percent of likely voters, while Romney gets 47 percent. In September, before the debates began, Obama held a seven-point advantage in the state, 51 percent to 44 percent.

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Today’s WSJ/NBC/Marist poll shows President Obama with a six-point lead in Iowa, but Mitt Romney within striking distance in New Hampshire and Wisconsin:

In Iowa, Obama is ahead by six points among likely voters, 50 percent to 44 percent, which is down from his eight-point lead earlier this month. 

In Wisconsin, the president edges Romney by three points, 49 percent to 46 percent, which is within the survey’s margin of error. That’s also down from Obama’s six-point lead earlier this month.

And in New Hampshire, Obama gets support from 49 percent of likely voters, while Romney gets 47 percent. In September, before the debates began, Obama held a seven-point advantage in the state, 51 percent to 44 percent.

Ed Morrissey looks at how the the party identification breakdown in this poll compares to 2008 and 2010, and writes that they’re probably a little overly-favorable for Obama, but not too atrocious: 

Overall, I’d say that while the toplines look decent for Obama and the samples look arguably solid, those numbers for independents should be a big, big worry.  Obama has lost most of his double-digit edges among indies in all three states, and is in a virtual tie in Wisconsin and New Hampshire with Romney in those demos. With Republican enthusiasm waxing and Democratic enthusiasm waning, these second-tier swing states could break Obama’s hopes of winning a second term.

The bottom line is that the polls are still close, and the race will come down to whether Obama’s turnout operation is as effective as we’re told it will be on election day. If the party identification breakdown is similar to the WSJ/NBC/Marist poll, then Obama will be in a good position, as you can see from the above numbers. As long as Romney wins Ohio, he doesn’t necessarily need Wisconsin, Iowa or New Hampshire to win (assuming he takes all the swing states where he has a slight lead). But Obama is still ahead in the Ohio polls, and if that’s the case Romney will need either those smaller states, or a surprise victory in Pennsylvania — which is getting closer, but still leaning blue at this point.

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Independents Shift to Romney

Today’s Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Romney leading Obama by one-point with just one week to go. Notice that WaPo can barely bring itself to say Romney has a lead (however slight) in its write-up:

For the third consecutive day of the Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll, a single — statistically insignificant — percentage point separates the two presidential contenders: 49 percent of likely voters back Republican Mitt Romney, and 48 percent support President Obama.

The parity in the contest shows up elsewhere as well: the two candidates are just two points apart when it comes to dealing with taxes, and they are three points apart on health care policy. The poll’s margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the sample of 1,278 likely voters.

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Today’s Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Romney leading Obama by one-point with just one week to go. Notice that WaPo can barely bring itself to say Romney has a lead (however slight) in its write-up:

For the third consecutive day of the Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll, a single — statistically insignificant — percentage point separates the two presidential contenders: 49 percent of likely voters back Republican Mitt Romney, and 48 percent support President Obama.

The parity in the contest shows up elsewhere as well: the two candidates are just two points apart when it comes to dealing with taxes, and they are three points apart on health care policy. The poll’s margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the sample of 1,278 likely voters.

WaPo’s tracking poll also shows Romney maintaining a double-digit lead with independents. Chris Cillizza writes that this is a serious problem for Obama, but may not be definitive:

First, while the election is national in scope, it will be decided in a handful of swing states, including Virginia, where Post polling released Sunday showed Obama with a four-point edge.

Second, enthusiasm among independents can be a fleeting thing — as shown by the movement in the numbers among GOP-leaning independents over the past few weeks.

Third, even Republicans acknowledge that Obama’s turnout operation is the best that has ever been built, meaning (a) the incumbent’s campaign will find every Democratic partisan there is in a swing state and (b) it will work hard to contact and energize those Democratic-leaning independents in the final eight days of the campaign.

True, but whatever happened over the last few weeks that suddenly made independent voters across the country shift toward Romney is having an impact in the swing states as well. There’s been a disconnect between national and state polls, but there are signs the latter are catching up. Enthusiasm can always change, but with just a week to go Romney has a strong lead in that area. If Romney maintains his advantage with independents on election day, Obama would need to get his base to turn out in the same numbers as in 2008. No matter how great his turnout operation, he’s still working with a far less enthusiastic pool than he was last time around.

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Romney Hits 50% in WaPo/ABC Poll

Today’s WaPo/ABC national tracking poll shows Mitt Romney leading President Obama, 50 percent to 47 percent (a “statistically insignificant” margin as WaPo makes sure to note at the top of its story). Still, it’s the first time Romney hit the 50-percent mark in this poll, and a sign Romney’s momentum isn’t fading:

As Romney hits 50, the president stands at 47 percent, his lowest tally in Post-ABC polling since before the national party conventions. A three-point edge gives Romney his first apparent advantage in the national popular vote, but it is not one that is statistically significant with a conventional level of 95 percent confidence. 

However, Romney does now boast a statistically — and substantively — important lead on the economy, which has long been the central issue of the race. When it comes to handling the nation’s struggling economy, 52 percent of likely voters say they trust Romney more, while 43 percent say they have more faith in the president. 

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Today’s WaPo/ABC national tracking poll shows Mitt Romney leading President Obama, 50 percent to 47 percent (a “statistically insignificant” margin as WaPo makes sure to note at the top of its story). Still, it’s the first time Romney hit the 50-percent mark in this poll, and a sign Romney’s momentum isn’t fading:

As Romney hits 50, the president stands at 47 percent, his lowest tally in Post-ABC polling since before the national party conventions. A three-point edge gives Romney his first apparent advantage in the national popular vote, but it is not one that is statistically significant with a conventional level of 95 percent confidence. 

However, Romney does now boast a statistically — and substantively — important lead on the economy, which has long been the central issue of the race. When it comes to handling the nation’s struggling economy, 52 percent of likely voters say they trust Romney more, while 43 percent say they have more faith in the president. 

More remarkable than Romney’s advantage on economy is his advantage with independents. It’s not even close:

These advantages with independents undergird a sizable, 19 percentage-point Romney lead over Obama on the horse race. Should that advantage stick, it would be the sharpest tilt among independents in a  presidential election since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide win. (Reagan won independent and other unaffiliated voters 63 to 36 percent, according to the exit poll). Obama won them by eight in 2008.

The poll’s party ID breakdown isn’t terrible: D/R/I is 34/30/32. In 2008, the numbers were 40/33/28. Considering the enthusiasm shift since then, you’d expect Republicans and Democrats to be more evenly split this time around, but plus-4 for Dems isn’t nearly as bad as some of the previous WaPo/ABC polls have been.

The pro-Romney tilt among independents explains the Obama campaign’s recent focus on motivating the base with “zingers” instead of pivoting to the center. A 19-point deficit with independents sounds insurmountable, but the overall race is still within the margin of error. Obama will need massive turnout from his base if that’s the case. As the Post reports, that would be the highest advantage since Ronald Reagan won independents by 27 points in his 49-state reelection sweep.

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GWU/Politico: Romney Up in Swing States

Mitt Romney gained three points since last week in the Politico/GWU battleground tracking poll, but the bigger news is that he’s leading President Obama by two points — the first time he’s been on top in this poll since early May:

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll of 1,000 likely voters — taken from Sunday through Thursday of last week — shows Romney ahead of Obama by two points, 49 to 47 percent. That represents a three-point swing in the GOP nominee’s direction from a week ago but is still within the margin of error. Obama led 49 percent to 48 percent the week before. …

Across the 10 states identified by POLITICO as competitive, Romney leads 50 to 48 percent. …

Two weeks from Election Day, the GOP nominee also continues to maintain a potentially pivotal advantage in intensity among his supporters. Seventy-two percent of those who support Obama say they are “extremely likely” to vote, compared to 80 percent who back Romney. Among this group, Romney leads Obama by 7 points, 52 to 45 percent.

The intensity gap is just one of Obama’s problems. He’s also losing ground with women voters:

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Mitt Romney gained three points since last week in the Politico/GWU battleground tracking poll, but the bigger news is that he’s leading President Obama by two points — the first time he’s been on top in this poll since early May:

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll of 1,000 likely voters — taken from Sunday through Thursday of last week — shows Romney ahead of Obama by two points, 49 to 47 percent. That represents a three-point swing in the GOP nominee’s direction from a week ago but is still within the margin of error. Obama led 49 percent to 48 percent the week before. …

Across the 10 states identified by POLITICO as competitive, Romney leads 50 to 48 percent. …

Two weeks from Election Day, the GOP nominee also continues to maintain a potentially pivotal advantage in intensity among his supporters. Seventy-two percent of those who support Obama say they are “extremely likely” to vote, compared to 80 percent who back Romney. Among this group, Romney leads Obama by 7 points, 52 to 45 percent.

The intensity gap is just one of Obama’s problems. He’s also losing ground with women voters:

Women propelled Romney’s move into first place in the poll — a majority of which was conducted before the Hofstra debate. Obama’s 11-point advantage a week ago among the crucially important group dwindled to 6 points. The Democratic incumbent still leads 51 to 45 percent with women, but Romney leads by 10 points among men.

As noted above, most of the poll was taken pre-Hofstra debate, which explains the Obama campaign’s obsession with “binders full of women.” But the War on Women gimmicks seem to have lost their potency. Sandra Fluke’s Nevada rally that drew just 10 people to a Sak-n-Save parking lot this week is an apt metaphor for Obama’s fumbling campaign.

There are also some post-Hofstra polls out today that show Romney’s momentum continuing in the swing states. Obama’s 10-point Ohio lead last month has slipped to five points in the Quinnipiac/CBS News poll. And the president is ahead by just one point in the PPP Ohio poll, down from a five-point lead last week. The Obama campaign has argued the national polls showing Romney tied or ahead are far less meaningful than the swing state ones. But a few more polls like these, and Chicago may come to regret that argument.

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Pew Poll Finds Foreign Policy Problems for Obama

This Pew Research Center poll was conducted the weekend after the first debate, but the overview was just released today. It found that Mitt Romney has significantly cut into President Obama’s 15-point lead on foreign policy, and now trails by just four points:

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7, 2012 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters, finds that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney run about even on most foreign policy issues. On the question of who can do a better job making wise decisions about foreign policy, 47% of voters favor Obama and 43% Romney. This represents a substantial gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 15 points on foreign policy issues in September.

Some of Obama’s slide may have to do with the Benghazi attack. While respondents were split how the administration handled the attack, a plurality of independents disapproved. The more closely respondents followed the news, the more likely they were to disagree with the administration’s response:

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This Pew Research Center poll was conducted the weekend after the first debate, but the overview was just released today. It found that Mitt Romney has significantly cut into President Obama’s 15-point lead on foreign policy, and now trails by just four points:

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7, 2012 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters, finds that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney run about even on most foreign policy issues. On the question of who can do a better job making wise decisions about foreign policy, 47% of voters favor Obama and 43% Romney. This represents a substantial gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 15 points on foreign policy issues in September.

Some of Obama’s slide may have to do with the Benghazi attack. While respondents were split how the administration handled the attack, a plurality of independents disapproved. The more closely respondents followed the news, the more likely they were to disagree with the administration’s response:

The administration gets lower ratings from those who followed news about investigations into the embassy attack very or fairly closely. Among this group, 36% approve of the administration’s handling of the situation and 52% disapprove.

More Republicans (67%) followed news about the Libya investigations than did Democrats (53%) or independents (55%). However, looking only at independents, those who followed news about the Libya investigations disapprove of the administration’s handling of the situation by two-to-one (59% disapprove vs. 29% approve).

Keep in mind, this was a poll of the general public, not registered or likely voters. Unless Obama’s argument about Benghazi in Tuesday’s debate resonated with voters, his numbers could be even lower with the actual electorate.

A growing majority of Americans also say it’s more important to take a firm stand against a nuclear Iran than to avoid a military conflict. In January, the “stand against” option led by nine points. In the latest poll, it leads by 21 points:

The public has long favored tough measures to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and 56% now say it is more important to take a firm stand against Iran’s nuclear program, while 35% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict. In January, 50% favored taking a firm stand against Iran and 41% said it was more important to avoid a confrontation.

The Republican Party also continued to dominate the Democratic Party on the pro-Israel issue. A plurality of Republicans, 46 percent, say that the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel, while only 9 percent of Democrats agree. One-quarter of Democrats say that the U.S. is actually too supportive of Israel.

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Romney Leads by Six in Gallup Tracking

Today’s Gallup seven-day tracking poll shows Mitt Romney with a solid lead against President Obama among likely voters. At NRO, Charles C.W. Cooke reports on why this poll is historically meaningful:

Mitt Romney is up six points on Gallup’s seven-day likely-voter tracker, 51–45. Romney is also winning the seven-day registered-voters poll, 48–46.  These statistics are there to be broken, but it is worth pointing out for the record that, in the history of Gallup, no presidential candidate has ever been over 50 percent in mid-October and gone on to lose.

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Today’s Gallup seven-day tracking poll shows Mitt Romney with a solid lead against President Obama among likely voters. At NRO, Charles C.W. Cooke reports on why this poll is historically meaningful:

Mitt Romney is up six points on Gallup’s seven-day likely-voter tracker, 51–45. Romney is also winning the seven-day registered-voters poll, 48–46.  These statistics are there to be broken, but it is worth pointing out for the record that, in the history of Gallup, no presidential candidate has ever been over 50 percent in mid-October and gone on to lose.

Going into the 2008 election, Obama had a 7-point lead on Sen. McCain, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent in the same Gallup tracking poll. This is almost a complete inversion of that. We’re less than three weeks away from the election, but there’s still time for Obama to halt Romney’s momentum. The president scored a narrow victory in last night’s debate, but it’s not clear whether it was enough to make a difference in the race. The CNN snap poll found most debate-watchers said it didn’t influence their vote, and the ones who said it did were split evenly between the two camps:

The president’s edge on the question of who won the debate appears to be the result of his much better than expected performance and his advantage on likeability. But the poll also indicates that debate watchers said Romney would do a better job on economic issues. And the two candidates were tied on an important measure – whether the showdown would affect how the debate watchers will vote. Nearly half said the debate did not make them more likely to vote for either candidate, with the other half evenly divided between both men.

That doesn’t mean Obama won’t get any boost from last night, but the benefit for Romney was apparent almost immediately after the first debate.

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On Economic Issues, Romney Wins Big

The post-debate polls taken last night seemed to more or less line up with the conventional wisdom forming on social media: President Obama won a narrow victory over Mitt Romney, helped late by escaping the Libya question—thought to be his Achilles’ heel—when Romney dropped the ball.

But that Libya exchange—in which moderator Candy Crowley intervened on Obama’s behalf and only afterwards seemed to realize that she had been wrong on the facts—also revealed the flip side of Romney’s lack of focus on Benghazi: his fluency and preparation for questions on the economy, and Romney’s continuing bet that the economy will overshadow the other issues in voters’ minds. Polls back this up, and the post-debate polls seemed to as well. While both the CNN and CBS polls gave Obama a hard-fought win on points, respondents to both polls gave Romney the win on the economy by wide margins. CBS reports:

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The post-debate polls taken last night seemed to more or less line up with the conventional wisdom forming on social media: President Obama won a narrow victory over Mitt Romney, helped late by escaping the Libya question—thought to be his Achilles’ heel—when Romney dropped the ball.

But that Libya exchange—in which moderator Candy Crowley intervened on Obama’s behalf and only afterwards seemed to realize that she had been wrong on the facts—also revealed the flip side of Romney’s lack of focus on Benghazi: his fluency and preparation for questions on the economy, and Romney’s continuing bet that the economy will overshadow the other issues in voters’ minds. Polls back this up, and the post-debate polls seemed to as well. While both the CNN and CBS polls gave Obama a hard-fought win on points, respondents to both polls gave Romney the win on the economy by wide margins. CBS reports:

Moments following the debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., 37 percent of voters polled said the president won, 30 percent awarded the victory to Romney, and 33 percent called it a tie. After some particularly animated exchanges between the two candidates, 55 percent of voters said Mr. Obama gave direct answers, but 49 percent also said that about Romney.

As for who would do a better job of handling the economy, the president made some headway on closing that gap. Before the debate, 71 percent said they believed Romney would, while only 27 percent said they thought Obama would; after the debate, 34 percent said the president would better handle the economy, with 65 percent saying Romney would.

And here’s CNN’s write-up of its in-house poll:

According to the survey, Obama had a 47%-41% edge on which candidate was more likeable. But on some key issues, Romney came out on top, including an 18-point lead on the economy.

“Mitt Romney was seen as better able to handle the economy, taxes, and the budget deficit among the debate audience, but it seems that issues were trumped, or at least blunted, by intangibles, including the expectations game,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Obama’s victory on the “intangibles,” such as expectations and demeanor, should not be dismissed. Those are often what people remember most about debates. Additionally, a major goal for Obama was to fire up the base. They were despondent after the first presidential debate because of the old adage about parties: when the host no longer appears to be having fun, it’s time to go. But if Obama was able to inject some enthusiasm into his party faithful last night, he’ll take it.

Yet it must be acknowledged that in the voting booth, it’s probably a safer bet that intangibles won’t drown out issues. Romney has raised his favorability ratings and made himself seem judicious and presidential, so voters will probably consider this election as one between two plausible presidents. In such a case, it really does come down to issues.

Should Obama be concerned that he got flattened on the economy even in a debate in which he eked out a narrow victory? If the electorate thinks Obama is marginally more likable than Romney, but wildly inferior to Romney on the issue that determines most presidential elections and is expected to determine this one as well, how would such voters cast their ballots?

Additionally, the CNN pollster says Obama won last night in part by beating expectations. That amounts to: The president wasn’t nearly as terrible as he has been or as awful as voters expected him to be. That’s not a ringing vote of confidence; it’s a condescending pat on the shoulder.

CNN’s pollster also says Romney was better on taxes—there goes one of the pillars of Obama’s yearlong attack on Romney. Obama ran on cutting the deficit—he called George W. Bush “unpatriotic” for running up deficits that Obama is only rapidly adding to—and voters give Romney the edge there too. Obama hopes to gain some momentum after last night, but a campaign betting on a minor lead on “intangibles” suggests a campaign still spinning its wheels.

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Romney Closes Likability Gap

Today’s Politico/GWU poll has Mitt Romney trailing President Obama by one point nationally, but leading by two points in the swing states. In even better news for the Romney campaign, Mitt’s nearly closed the likability gap with Obama:

Even as the head-to-head number held stubbornly steady for the past month, Romney improved his likability numbers. A slim majority, 51 percent, now views Romney favorably as a person, while 44 percent view him unfavorably.

The former Massachusetts governor had been underwater on this measure. In mid-September, 49 percent of respondents viewed him unfavorably. Going into the first presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3, the electorate was evenly split 47 percent to 47 percent on what to make of Mitt. …

Obama’s enduring personal popularity has been a key reason for his political resiliency. But Obama and Romney are now essentially tied on likability: 53 percent of those surveyed have a positive impression of Obama personally, and 45 percent do not. The same number view both Romney and Obama strongly favorably as view them strongly unfavorably.

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Today’s Politico/GWU poll has Mitt Romney trailing President Obama by one point nationally, but leading by two points in the swing states. In even better news for the Romney campaign, Mitt’s nearly closed the likability gap with Obama:

Even as the head-to-head number held stubbornly steady for the past month, Romney improved his likability numbers. A slim majority, 51 percent, now views Romney favorably as a person, while 44 percent view him unfavorably.

The former Massachusetts governor had been underwater on this measure. In mid-September, 49 percent of respondents viewed him unfavorably. Going into the first presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3, the electorate was evenly split 47 percent to 47 percent on what to make of Mitt. …

Obama’s enduring personal popularity has been a key reason for his political resiliency. But Obama and Romney are now essentially tied on likability: 53 percent of those surveyed have a positive impression of Obama personally, and 45 percent do not. The same number view both Romney and Obama strongly favorably as view them strongly unfavorably.

Likability was the one area where the Obama campaign had a reliable advantage throughout the election. The campaign invested much of its war chest in negative ads to drive up Romney’s personal unfavorables, and Romney may have negated all of that with just one (free) debate performance.

We’ll see this week if Romney can keep this momentum going, or if Obama can undo some of it in tomorrow’s debate. David Axelrod has promised that Obama will be much more “aggressive” tomorrow that he was at the last debate. But with Romney standing right there and able to defend himself, there are limits to what Obama can say. I can’t imagine he’s going to accuse Romney of being a felon or causing the death of a steelworker’s wife, like his campaign and supporting super PAC did over the summer. Attacking Romney’s proposed policies is one thing, but Obama may damage his own image if he stoops to more personal attacks.

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Poll: Romney Opens 7-Point Lead in Florida

Mitt Romney’s 7-point lead in the TBT/Herald/Mason-Dixon poll is the latest sign of a Florida surge:

The survey conducted this week found 51 percent of likely Florida voters supporting Romney, 44 percent backing Obama and 4 percent undecided. That’s a major shift from a month ago when the same poll showed Obama leading 48 percent to 47 percent — and a direct result of what Obama himself called a “bad night” at the first debate.

The debate prompted 5 percent of previously undecided voters and 2 percent of Obama backers to move to Romney. Another 2 percent of Obama supporters said they are now undecided because of the debate.

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Mitt Romney’s 7-point lead in the TBT/Herald/Mason-Dixon poll is the latest sign of a Florida surge:

The survey conducted this week found 51 percent of likely Florida voters supporting Romney, 44 percent backing Obama and 4 percent undecided. That’s a major shift from a month ago when the same poll showed Obama leading 48 percent to 47 percent — and a direct result of what Obama himself called a “bad night” at the first debate.

The debate prompted 5 percent of previously undecided voters and 2 percent of Obama backers to move to Romney. Another 2 percent of Obama supporters said they are now undecided because of the debate.

Any poll that shows a shift as significant as this one should be taken with caution. But there are other indications that there’s strong momentum behind Romney in Florida, including today’s Rasmussen (which shows Romney +4) and ARG (which shows Romney +3). There’s also the assessment of the Suffolk University pollsters, who pulled out of Florida, Virginia and North Carolina this week after saying Romney has already definitively locked up these states.

According to the TBT/Herald/Mason-Dixon poll, Obama is in serious trouble with Hispanic voters in the state:

Especially ominous were the numbers for Hispanic voters, a demographic where the Obama campaign is banking on an advantage of at least 15 percentage points. The poll showed 44 percent of likely Hispanic voters favoring Obama and 46 for Romney, though the margin of error is higher with that smaller group of voters. …

The bottom line? Obama appears to be in serious trouble in America’s biggest battleground state. He has two debates and 25 days to turn it around, but the poll points to a race that had been close and stable for months shifting significantly toward the Republican nominee.

Making up 17-points with Hispanic voters seems close to impossible at this point. Obama can cite an executive order on immigration every day between now and the election, but if the TBT/Herald/Mason-Dixon numbers are correct, he still won’t be anywhere near where he needs to be.

These numbers are also devastating for Obama:

• Who do you trust more to improve the economy? Romney 50 percent, Obama 44 percent.

• Who do you trust more on foreign policy? Romney 49 percent, Obama 46 percent.

• Who do you trust more to look out for the middle class? Romney 50 percent, Obama 47 percent.

• Who do you consider more trustworthy to lead the nation? Romney 51 percent, Obama 46 percent.

• Whose plans are more likely to do more long-term harm to Medicare? Obama 54 percent, Romney 40 percent.

All that foreign policy cheerleading at the Democratic National Convention? It came to nothing. Romney has taken the lead on foreign policy, a subject the Obama campaign thought they had a comfortable advantage on. Romney’s lead on economic issues was predictable, but now he’s overtaken Obama on “looking out for the middle class” — the “empathy” question that Obama typically rules. The biggest surprise at all may be on Medicare. Likely voters say Obama’s plans are far more likely to harm Medicare in the long-term, which suggests the Obama campaign’s Mediscaring has been a complete bust.

We’ll have to see whether other polls back this up in the next few days. But this is disastrous for the Obama campaign.

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