Not a toss-up

The Public’s prediction

More Americans think Obama will win than Romney. Historically, the public is pretty good at this (via Gallup):

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What I found most interesting was the partisan breakdown for this year.  Basically, by large margins, partisans of both parties think their guy will win, but Democrats are nonetheless substantially more confident (86%) than Republicans (71%):

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Understanding the likelihood of an Obama victory

Andrew Gelman explains how to understand the probability of an Obama win.  This paragraph is the key:

What I’m saying is that I can simultaneously (a) accept that Obama has a 72 percent chance of winning and (b) say the election is too close to call. What if the weatherman told you there was a 30 percent chance of rain — would you be shocked if it rained that day? No. To put it another way, suppose Mitt Romney pulls out 51 percent of the popular vote and wins the election. That doesn’t mean that Nate Silver skews the polls (as is suggested by this repulsive article at, which, among other things, criticizes Silver for being thin and having a soft voice). Romney winning the election with 51 percent of the vote is well within the margin of error, as Silver clearly indicates. That’s what too close to call is all about.

As for me, I’ve been telling everybody that I predict that Obama will win, but would not at all be surprised if Romney wins (very disappointed, yes; surprised no).

Photo of the day

So many amazing Sandy photos out there.  I think we should mix things up, though.  Really loved this image from N&O day’s best:

A runner makes its way across to the stables at Taunton racecourse on October 30, 2012 in Taunton, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

NC is tied?

Although you cannot judge from just any one poll.  This Elon poll highlighted in Nate Cohn’s post is done right (I actually read through the whole release).  Called cell phones, etc.

How could North Carolina be close during a tied national election? Demographics. While Obama has bled white supporters nationally, his coalition was less dependent on whites in North Carolina than any other state. Demographic changes are sweeping the state at a fast enough rate to compensate for or potentially overwhelm declining turnout rates or losses among Obama ’08 voters.

While many have questioned whether Obama could still win North Carolina, the polls, demographics, registration numbers, and perhaps even the early voting numbers start to speak for themselves. Romney holds a 2 point lead in an average of North Carolina polls conducted since October 15, and that’s despite two automated surveys showing Romney ahead by more than 6 points (Elon, Civitas, and Groves (D) each call cell phones).

Cohn gives good reasons while NC should still be close.  And based on advertising, the Romney camp clearly does not think they have it in the bag.  It seems hard to imagine Romney winning the national popular vote while struggling so to win NC, but stranger things have happened.  Still, I do think you have to consider the closeness in recent Florida and NC polls a big plus for Obama.


Then again

Nate Cohn says the latest polling data shows a split in polls, not a split in electoral college vs. popular vote:

But polls over the last week give more credence to the argument that there isn’t a split between the popular vote and the Electoral College, but instead between the national polls and the state polls. Over the last week, we’ve learned more about the state of the race in several under-polled states, like California, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, North Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, and New York. While Obama was performing worse than ’08 in most surveys, some showed him performing nearly as well while only a few showed Obama performing eight-plus points worse than he did four years ago–the magic number to give Romney a popular vote victory despite Obama’s resilience in the battlegrounds.

This was even true in Appalachia, where many have speculated that Obama might suffer catastrophic losses. Recent polls show a uniform swing in Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and one poll even shows Obama doing surprisingly well in Oklahoma. If one takes post-debate state polling averages and then categorizes states into demographically similar regions with a historic tendency to move together, one can calculate a national estimate by assuming that each region’s voting preference changes by an amount equal to the movement of the component states with post-debate state polls. This method shows Obama leading by 1.5 to 2 points in the national popular vote, depending on regional choices…

Presuming that those state polls are accurate and Obama doesn’t lose 7 or 8 points in his home state of Illinois, a Romney national popular vote win would require big 9 or 10 point improvements in California and Texas, where large gains are difficult to imagine without declines in Hispanic turnout or support for Obama, and large gains in the highland states of the inland south, where many suspect Obama’s support could collapse to levels unseen since McGovern. The state polls don’t yet support either half of this scenario. If it happens on Election Day, score a win for the national polls.

An electoral college/popular vote split

Nate Silver’s latest model puts the likelihood of Obama winning the electoral college and losing the popular vote at almost 6% (and 2% for the converse).  Charlie Cook’s latest analysis also suggests this as a very real possibility:

The seven jump ball states with a total of 94 electoral votes are Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), New Hampshire (4), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), and Virginia (13).

To win, Obama needs to win states with 17 (or 18 percent) of the 94 electoral votes in the seven Toss Up states, while Romney needs a whopping 79 (or 84 percent) of the 94 electoral votes.

However, the Obama advantage is not as clear cut as this suggests.  In each of these states, Obama and Romney are within 5 percentage points of each other and in most they are within 2 or 3 points of each other.

This race appears to be going to the wire, and the chances of a split popular vote/Electoral College vote are real. Romney looks to be at least an even-money bet for the popular vote, but Obama seems to have the edge in the electoral vote.

As your presumably know, I hate the electoral college.  Before 2000, I thought one of these perverse results would finally result in us getting rid of it. Obviously, it had almost no impact.  Now, maybe I’m completely wrong, but I think that there’s no way the Republicans would simply put up with this crap in a way Democrats have.  I’m thinking this result would have a decent chance of finally ending the electoral college behind the Republican fury.

Now, presumably there’s a downside in that Republicans would spend four years attacking Obama’s legitimacy in a way Democrats never did with GWB.  But honestly, can Republicans cooperate with Obama any less than they have?  And, as much as I would hate to see Obama win this way, with the outcome being protecting Obamacare, I’ll definitely take it.

If only tenure were this good

Tenure is pretty awesome, though not quite this awesome.  Love this strip (h/t Big Steve):


The ground game

I must say, I especially enjoyed this Atlantic piece on the ground game, as much of it spent in my hometown of Springfield, VA.  Here’s what the Obama campaign is up to:

It’s true that the Obama campaign’s strategy is far more reliant on bringing new voters into the electorate — particularly the young and minority voters who are less likely to register and vote. But if the Democrats can do that, it could make a big difference in a close election.

“If there’s a blowout election, the ground game is nice,” Bird, the Obama field director, said. “But in a state-by-state close contest for electoral votes, where it’s deadlocked going in, if you know you expanded the electorate, and you know who those people are, and you have volunteers trained to turn them out — that’s what the ground game is engineered to do.”

Meanwhile, Ezra focuses on the work of Set Masket that suggests a good ground game may be worth an additional 1% of the vote.  Most years, that hardly makes a difference.  In 2012, that could be key.   Now, this may not be a perfect metric, but it certainly suggests an Obama advantage:

Finally, this Sasha Issenberg piece (I really need to get myself a copy of Victory Lab– my text Campaigns & Elections class will definitely be reading it).  The basic gist is that team Obama is way ahead tactically because they’ve been working with practical-minded social scientists to fine tune their efforts:

In fact, when it comes to the use of voter data and analytics, the two sides appear to be as unmatched as they have ever been on a specific electioneering tactic in the modern campaign era. No party ever has ever had such a durable structural advantage over the other on polling, making television ads, or fundraising, for example. And the reason may be that the most important developments in how to analyze voter behavior has not emerged from within the political profession.

“The left has significantly broadened its perspective on political behavior,” says Adam Schaeffer, who earned graduate degrees in both evolutionary psychology and political behavior before launching a Republican opinion-research firm, Evolving Strategies. “I’m jealous of them.”

Schaeffer attributes the imbalance to the mutual discomfort between academia and conservative political professionals, which has limited Republicans’ ability to modernize campaign methods. The biggest technical and conceptual developments these days are coming from the social sciences, whose more practically-minded scholars regularly collaborate with candidates and interest groups on the left. As a result, the electioneering right is suffering from what amounts to a lost generation; they have simply failed to keep up with advances in voter targeting and communications since Bush’s re-election. The left, meanwhile, has arrived at crucial insights that have upended the conventional wisdom about how you convert citizens to your cause. Right now, only one team is on the field with the tools to most effectively find potential supporters and win their votes.

Who knows how this all comes out, but I suspect that we may look back at this election where an embattled incumbent basically ended up winning largely due to superior organization and tactics.

Photo of the day

Sandy again.  Some of these from the latest In Focus set are downright post-apocalyptic.  Thought this was pretty wild.

A “keep off the dunes” sign, buried Tuesday morning in Cape May, New Jersey, after a storm surge from Sandy pushed the Atlantic Ocean over the beach and into the streets, on October 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Romneyworld and FEMA

In Romney’s world FEMA is an unnecessary, “immoral” extravagance our nation cannot afford.  In mine, it’s a classic example of the reason we actually have government rather than living a life that is nasty, brutish, and short.  Yglesias:

During a 2011 GOP primary debate he said it was “immoral” for the federal government to be spending money on disaster relief when it should be focused on deficit reduction:

First Romney says: “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

“Including disaster relief, though?” debate moderator John King asked Romney.

His response:

We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all…

Disaster relief, I would argue, is a great federal program precisely because of the debt issue.

If a storm damages basic physical infrastructure (power lines, bridges) and imperils human life it would be the height of penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking to suppose that the afflicted area should wait months or years to repair the damage. Ultimately, anyplace is going to go back to robust wealth creation faster if basic stuff gets fixed up faster. But that requires financing by an entity capable of rapidly financing expensive projects—i.e., the federal government. Left to its own devices a storm-ravaged Delaware or Louisiana is going to be squeezed between balanced budget rules and falling sales tax receipts and be forced into an increasing state of dilapidation.

But, massive cuts to FEMA and every other domestic non-defense program is basically exactly what Mitt Romney proposes to do.

The most important and obvious policy we’re just not taking seriously

If you’ve been paying attention of late, you’ve surely heard something about the most amazing policy we’re not doing nearly enough of– investing quality pre-K programs for at-risk youth.  James Heckman, the guru of all this, suggests that the payoff could be as much as $10 down the road in saved costs on incarceration and welfare and greater revenues from a properly-functioning, working taxpayers for every $1 invested.  Not often you get a pay-off like that.  And let’s say Heckman’s off, and it’s only 5 to 1, that’s still huge.  And let’s say these studies are only on the best pre-schools and with a more average pre-school, it would still only be 2 to 1.  How do you not do that investment?!  Well turns out you may not want to if you are so ideologically opposed to government that all you can see is “socialized” government takeover instead of a phenomenally good win-win investment.  The This American Life story details how Oklahoma (predominantly Republican) legislators were basically tricked into passing universal pre-K because when approached directly, they indeed feared socialism.

This related report from the Planet Money team basically has a wonderfully handy summary of all the great evidence for the long-lasting benefits to the individuals, and society, from investment in pre-K for at-risk youth.   Please listen.   Meanwhile, here in NC, the governor is scrambling to restore funding to our pre-K program which the Republicans cut in their most recent budget.   Given all the available evidence, the shortsightedness of cuts like this is truly breathtaking.  This should not be a partisan issue.  Again, you will find few (any?) public policies which have a larger payoff.  The fact that this is a partisan issue is just depressing.




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