Sunday, November 4, 2012

Penultimate Big Electoral Map Projection, President Obama's Promises, Keeping Up With the Other Projection Sites

First Election Day Polls Open In: 1 Day, 17 Hours
Projected Popular Vote Total: Obama +0.2% (up 0.1% from yesterday)
Projected Electoral Vote Total: Obama 303, Romney 235 (Obama +13 from yesterday)
Current Betting Odds: Obama 65%, Romney 35% (Romney +2% from yesterday)
Current Popular Vote Betting Odds: Obama 57%, Romney 40%, within 0.5% - 3%

On the national level, we drop the NPR poll (which is now more than a week old), add back the Battleground poll (which is now up and running again) and add the NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll (a new poll issuance.)

Obama leads by 0.2% in my aggregation.  Of the 6 polls released in the past 24 hours (in green), the race is even in 4 of them and Obama has narrow leads in 2.

What will be interesting to see is that when Gallup, which had paused polling after Hurricane Sandy, makes its final release tomorrow (which it has promised), whether it falls in line with the other polls we are seeing or whether they continue to show a much more favorable picture for Mitt Romney than the other polls.

At the state level, Virginia flips over the President Obama today by the very narrowest of margins.  That is a little bit of noise, since it was only +0.1% for Mitt Romney before and is now +0.1% for President Obama.  So basically, in mathematical terms it has gone from being a state that Romney has a 51% chance of carrying to a a state he has a 49% chance of carrying.  It doesn't fundamentally change the dynamics of the race.

Of significant note is the tightening of the race in Pennsylvania, which as I've noted the past couple of days, Mitt Romney is now fighting hard for, with some progress.  It still seems very tough for me to believe that he can close the gap and actually win there, but he's got to do something as many of the other lean states are slipping away.

His attempted path to victory, based on where he is campaigning in the final days would appear to be:
Hold Florida
Take Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio - this would give him 286 electoral votes
Alternatively, if he holds Virginia but losses one of the two big states, he'll have 266 to 268 electoral votes, meaning he will only need 1 other swing state pick-up (Colorado is the most likely) to reach 270.

It is still a very tall order for Romney to win either Pennsylvania or Ohio and Virginia and Florida are no locks.

Think of it this way - in a very optimistic scenario for Romney, let's give him a 90% chance of taking Florida, an 80% chance of taking Virginia, a 50% chance each of taking Pennsylvania and Ohio and a 50% chance of picking up Colorado or something similar.  His odds are significantly lower to do all of these things, in my opinion, but bear with me to understand the math - Obama still wins more than half the time in our trial heats.

If you use more realistic odds - say Romney is 75% to take Florida, 50% to take Virginia, 30% each to take Ohio and Pennsylvania and 50% to take Colorado or a similar state.  This yields a result in trial heat testing of Obama winning 88% of the time, Romney winning 12% of the time, which I think is about where we are.

Having said all that, the Intrade betting odds are closer than what I am seeing, so you might choose to believe the market rather than me.  But I still project Barack Obama to win a 2nd term, in all likelihood.

I'm expecting an insane amount of polling to release tomorrow, as most of the firms release their last numbers before the election, so we may see some shifts - stay tuned for that.

Assessing President Obama's Campaign Promises
On the campaign trail in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama made a lot of promises about what he would do if he got to office.  Most Presidential candidates do.

The difference between the 2008 cycle and previous cycles is the level of documentation that has been made of those promises and the great work done by the folks at and the St. Petersburg Times to track his progress against those promises.

In the first few years of his Presidency, I wrote fairly frequently about the topic of the President and how his performance tracked to what he promised on the campaign trail.  As the 2012 campaign has worn on, I've written significantly less on the topic as this space has largely been dedicated to documenting and analyzing the dynamics of the election battle.

But, as we approach the election, I think in the interest of making an informed decision in the ballot box, it is worth another look at the President's promises and what he has done.

First, my usual caveats.  This is about the President doing what he said he was going to do, NOT the wisdom of those choices.  For instance, one of the promises that the President has kept is to expand eligibility for Medicaid and SCHIP, two health care programs that provide support to lower income people.  You may think this is a bad idea - that the expanse of entitlement programs is a big part of our deficit problem and the President was ill-advised to do so.  But he said he would do it on the campaign trail and he did it and that's all we are measuring here.

Similarly, you may feel that some of the promises that he broke were bad ideas and that he was right to reverse course.  For instance, one of the President's broken promises was to close the military prison in Guantanamo Bay.  You may feel that Gitmo should stay open and that reversing course was prudent.  But he said he would close it on the 2008 campaign trail and he did not, so it counts against him in this measure.

So, with that out of the way, how do the President's actions stand up to his words?

Decently, but not amazingly well.

Politifact documented 508 promises that the President made.  Of those, 2 are not measurable as the circumstances have not allowed for testing whether the President would keep his promises or not.

Of the 506 that are measurable, he has fulfilled 193 more or less in full, partially fulfilled or compromises on 79 and outright broken 88.  The remaining 146 either are stalled in congress or still being worked on, but action has not been decisive enough to categorize them as either fulfilled, compromised or broken.

If you look at the 504 ratable promises as the President's commitment as to what he would get done and give him a 100% score for the ones that he has kept and a 50% score for the partially fulfilled or compromised promises, then he has done 46% of what he said he would.  While there are not comparable benchmarks to previous Presidents as the level of documentation is not there for previous Presidencies to compare, I said at the time of his inauguration that if he could fulfill 50% of what he promised to do, he would be doing well.

Taken another way, if you assume the 146 where there is not decisive action to be out of the mix - the President, after all, did not say he would do everything in his first term, then he rates 65%.  Keep in mind that promises that were explicitly time-bound on the campaign trail are counted as broken.  65% is a solid, but not overwhelming score.

But those are just the raw numbers.  You must also look at the nature of the promises kept and broken, since certainly not all promises are created equal.

There are too many to list here (although I encourage you to go to politifact and read the complete list), but here are the major ones by category:
* Expand Medicaid and SCHIP
* Establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights
* Extend the Bush Tax Cuts for lower incomes
* Close the doughnut hole in Medicare prescription drug benefits
* A whole host of promises related to universal healthcare
* A whole host of promises related to better funding and supporting the Veterans Administration
* A host of promises related to withdrawing from Iraq
* Increasing troop presence in Afghanistan
* Expand the START treaty
* A host of promises related to educational reform
* Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell
* Sign the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act
* Seeking and killing Osama Bin Laden

* Close Gitmo
* End Bush tax cuts for upper incomes
* Reform prescription drug industry, including allow reimported drugs
* Toughen rules for former lobbyists in his administration
* Increase the minimum wage to $9.50/hr
* Reduce earmarks
* Submit a comprehensive immigration bill in his first year in office
* Cut the deficit in half in his first term
* Pass healthcare reform with bipartisan support

You can draw your own conclusions on what is reasonable to ding the President for and what is out of his control on the broken promises.  You can also draw your own conclusions about whether the promises that the President kept were prudent approaches to the problems our nation faces.

But, in large measure, the promises that are broken by the President (the deficit being a MAJOR exception) are issues where he has either moved to the right of how he campaigned or failed to secure congressional support for his agenda.  A lack of leadership, perhaps, but I certainly don't see a bait-and-switch in his policies.

We pretty much got what you would have expected from the President in his first term if you'd paid attention to his campaign rhetoric in 2008.  The question going into the voting booth is if that is something that you support or not.

If you like this site, tell your friends.  And please vote Tuesday, if you have not already voted.

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