SPOILER ALERT: In this post I’ll tell you why polls are looking very good for Mitt, but will also conclude by saying it only matters if we all dig in, do our part to get out the vote. So click the “ComMITTed” link!
I’ve now seen three commentaries on the latest Gallup poll, and they’re telling a consistent story: Chigago is, or should be, sweating profusely about these latest polling numbers. And the evidence is they are.
The Eye Candy: National Polls.
National polls are great and continue to give encouraging news of a Mitt 2-4% lead. The RealClearPolitics average of polls gives Mitt a solid 1% edge. The latest poll in that group, a Rasmussen poll of 1,500 likely voters from October 25 to October 27 (yesterday), gives Mitt a 3% lead. The underlying data show Mitt is winning more Republicans (90%) than Obama is Democrats (85%), but the big news on the national front is that Mitt is leading among independents by 11%. But national polls are really the eye candy of the presidential politics. Fun to look at, but in the end, not what will make the difference.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road: State Polls
What’s really important, as we all know, is what happens in the electoral college. So what about those swing states? Well, there’s good news there, too, even if there’s lots of work to be done. Rasmussen’s electoral college map, based on Rasmussen’s own polling in each state, shows Mitt leading or tied in the critical swing states of Florida (50%/48%), Virginia (50%/47%), Colorado (50%/46%), Iowa (48%/48%), New Hampshire (50%/48%), Wisconsin (49%/49%) and, perhaps most importantly, Ohio (48%/48%). Given Mitt was behind in these states a couple weeks ago, and the press’ coronation of Obama as the narrow winner of the last two debates, the trends here are in the right direction: Mitt is gaining when it counts, and Mitt has an ability to improve, while Obama, who the voters have known for four years, is more likely to drop. Other states are also narrowing: Minnesota and Pennsylvania are closer than expected, if still leaning Obama. And no one thought Wisconsin would be tied a few weeks ago. If you don’t like Rasmussen’s numbers, you can turn to RealClearPolitics’ collection of polls and resulting electoral college map. RCP reports similar numbers for each of those states. It shows Virginia, Colorado and New Hampshire in a closer race, with Obama having a slight lead in Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio, with Mitt continuing to make inroads.
So national and state polling shows it’s a very close race, Obama has a miniscule and shrinking lead in states he needs to win, and Mitt is either tied or within easy striking distance in all the same states. Very encouraging for a challenger.
The Zinger: the Latest Gallup Poll
The real story is that Gallup poll. Neil Stevens of Red State dissects Gallup’s numbers and says:
We always talk about the independent, swing vote in elections because those tend to be the persuadables. But party ID numbers matter as well, because those partisan voters tend to split better than 90/10 for their party.
It is for that reason that Gallup’s new partisan ID split, one that mimics what Rasmussen has been saying all along, predicts nothing less than doom for the Democrats, and a solid, national win for Mitt Romney this year.
…the numbers are brutal. In 2008, the Democrats had a 39-29 (D+10) advantage in hard party ID, and a 54-42 (D+12) advantage with leaners. In 2012 though, we’re in the post-TEA party era. Republicans now show a 36-35 (R+1) hard party ID advantage, and a 49-46 (R+3) lead with leaners. This gives us a range of party ID swings from 2008, from R+11 to R+15.
What does this mean? In a tight election with key swing states on the edge and voter turnout key, more of those voters self-identifying as Republicans than Democrats this year means things may be better than they look on the surface of the polls. Mr. Stevens then goes further and says what these numbers would mean if plugged into his own electoral college model. It generates an estimate of the electoral college results if more voters self-ID as Republican versus his baseline year. Here’s the picture: