Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Big 2012 Elecotral Map - A Stable Picture of a Changed Race, Should Obama Abandon North Carolina and Florida?, Veep Candidates Clash, The Battle for Congress

Days Until the Election: 23
Projected Popular Vote Total: Romney +1.0% (down 0.2% from last week)
Projected Electoral Vote Total: Obama 294, Romney, 244 (Obama up 13 from last week)
Current Betting Odds: Obama 61%, Romney 39% (Romney up 1% since last week)

As the aftermath of the first Presidential debate settles down in the polls, we see the "new normal" for the race beginning to stabilize.  Romney actually lost a little ground this week, with his national polling falling back fractionally and Virginia flipping back to Obama.  But the basic picture is still the same - a pick 'em race nationally with a slight structurally electoral advantage to Obama.

Romney needs to add a minimum of 26 electoral votes from here to win the Presidency.  If he picks up the 3 closest states (New Hampshire, Nevada and Virginia), it leaves him just short at 267.  This means that Romney still needs one of the larger states - either Ohio, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, or to pick up those 3 plus Iowa.

The betting odds continue to tighten a little but still show an Obama advantage, largely, I believe, because of this structural electoral advantage that we have been discussing for some time.

Should Obama Bail on North Carolina and Florida?
The Democratic National Convention was held in Charlotte and North Carolina holds a special place on the map for Barack Obama as a state he'd like to have.  Florida obviously holds special significance for Democrats as the site of the epic recounts 12 years ago.

But, as a matter of strategy, if I were advising President Obama, I would urge him to abandon his campaign in North Carolina and Florida in the waning days of the campaign.

Sure, winning one of those two states would seal the deal for a second term.  But they seem to be slipping out of reach and he doesn't need them.

Certainly, I would contest Colorado, which is basically just one media market and still seems very winnable.  Other than that, I'd focus on holding the states with leads.  As I described above, Romney, if he takes Florida and North Carolina, still needs New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia, Colorado and 1 other state.  Firewall Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania and you win the Presidency.  Make Romney feel heat by rallying Hispanic voters in Colorado and Nevada.  Make the fight take place on your turf and focus resources.

Likewise, if I were advising Romney, I'd be telling him to pour everything into Ohio and Wisconsin.  Those are two big states that appear "gettable".  Michigan looks like too far a reach.  I think Pennsylvania is a long shot.  Nail Ohio and Wisconsin and your paths to the Presidency are many.  Miss them both and it is an almost impossible map.

VP Candidate Debate to an Essential Draw
The VP debate is typically the least significant of the four national debates in terms of moving the polls and that certainly appears to be the case this year - in part because almost everyone is voting based on the top of the ticket and in part because, in my opinion, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan essentially fought to a draw.

Biden was very good on substance - he was quick on his feet, aggressive in countering Ryan's attacks and came across likable, as he virtually always does.  He has received some criticism for smirking and laughing during Ryan's responses, but I don't think in context that those responses will hurt him.

Ryan appeared capable, cool and collected.  He was also aggressive on the attack and showed credibility and understanding on foreign policy. 

In short, I don't expect that the VP debate will do much to change the race.

Tune in next week for the second Presidential debate, where it is essential for Obama's chances that he significantly outperform his first debate performance.  Look for Romney to be aggressive to maintain / support his positive momentum.

The State of the Congressional Races
It's been a while since I've looked at the state of the races.  It appears more likely than not that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate at this point and that Republicans will retain the House.  Here are the latest numbers:

In the Senate, there are 30 Democratic and 37 Republican seats that are not up for election.  Of the balance, here are where things stand:

Safe or Likely Independent Seats - 2
(both likely to caucus with Democrats)
Vermont, Maine

Safe or Likely Democratic Seats - 12
California, Maryland, New York, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington, West Virginia, New Mexico

Safe or Likely Republican Seats - 6
Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska

Close Races - Projected 10 Democrats, 3 Republicans
Florida - Nelson (D) +7.6%
Ohio - Brown (D) +5.6%
Missouri - McCaskill (D) +5.2%
Pennsylvania - Case (D) +5.0%
Connecticut - Murphy (D) +4.2%
Wisconsin - Baldwin (D) +3.0%
Indiana - Donnoley (D) +2.0%
Massachusetts - Warren (D) +1.8%
Arizona - Carmona (D) +1.5%
Virginia - Kaine (D) +1.0%
North Dakota - Berg (R) +0.1%
Montana - Rehberg (R) +0.5%
Nevada - Heller (R) +3.0%

Projected: 52 Democrats, 46 Republicans, 2 Independents
(effective control 54-46 Democratic)

So, Democrats have the lead, but also have more close races to defend that they are currently leading.  Republican control of the Senate is not impossible, but looks to have become increasingly unlikely as the races have played out.

On Intrade, the odds of Republicans winning at least 50 Senate seats is currently pegged at 34%, and keep in mind that 50 seats only gives them the majority if they also win the Vice-Presidency, otherwise they would need 51 to get control.

In the House,
Current generic polling has the Democrats at +1.3%.

Based on this, projecting based on the newly redistricted House (which structurally favors the GOP) would give us:
Republicans 220 Seats, Democrats 215 Seats

I don't generally do seat-by-seat analysis of the House, but other sites do, so here is there perspective: (splitting the toss-ups evenly): GOP 239, DEM 196 GOP 240, DEM 195

Republicans have a 90% chance of retaining the House, based on the latest Intrade odds.

Obviously, the seat-by-seat analysis yields a broader spread than the generic polling data would indicate.  This may well be the case because of the candidates in the close races.  But I'm inclined to believe the truth is somewhere in between.  Either way, the GOP appears well-poised to retain the House.

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