One way you know that the GOP nomination battle is effectively over is by examining the amount of press attention devoted to the last two contests on the calendar. The Illinois primary on Tuesday did not draw the same breathless attention on the media networks, nor did it generate nearly the same buzz via outlets like Twitter. And Louisiana was essentially ignored last night. While trying to follow the outcome in Louisiana on Twitter from the road last night, I was learning way more about the Syracuse-Ohio State outcome than the Santorum-Romney one.
Check out this synopsis of last week's midweek media focus, as told by Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast:
When Mitt Romney was winning the Illinois primary on Tuesday night, Bill O’Reilly moved from a short discussion of the contest to segments on whether Barack Obama is pushing the country toward socialism and whether he’s been tough enough on Iran. Sean Hannity led off his show with another debate on whether Bill Maher is a bad guy.Let's just say it out loud—Mitt's the nominee.
t wasn’t just Fox. On MSNBC, Ed Schultz devoted half his program to the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
The next morning, the campaign wasn’t among the top three stories billboarded by the Today show, which included: “What is it about this two-year-old that has more than three million people logging on to YouTube to watch her?”
Nor did the 2012 election make the top three at Good Morning America, which trumpeted this story: “Bikini model busted. The international swimsuit star back behind bars right now.”
In that spirit, what follows is the first of what I hope will be a series of reviews of the state of play in an Obama-Romney general election, by looking at the polling in each of the 51 contests that will determine who will be the president of the United States. It is a much more beneficial exercise to look at state polling, rather than looking at national polling of the race. Even if national polling hadn't been all over the map (and, dear lord, it has been), everyone who reads this site already knows that we elect our presidents through the electoral college.
Here are the parameters for this state-by-state study of the presidential polling:
1. In states where more than five polls have been conducted, the five most recent polls were utilized, and averaged together.Now that we've dispensed with the "rules of the game", head beyond the jump for the current state of play. Here's a teaser—by one metric (which would, admittedly, require a substantial swing in Mitt Romney's direction), there is a scenario for a 269-269 tie.
2. When fewer than five polls were available, the existing polls were averaged together. When no polls were available, the 2008 result was utilized. This only occurred, however, in about a dozen states, all of which leans precipitously to one side or another.
3. Polls for campaigns (or otherwise sponsored by PACs, etc) were left out. One exception—a poll conducted for Democratic Senate candidate Joe Donnelly in Indiana was included, because (a) it was the only poll out of Indiana to date, and (b) it was more favorable to the GOP than the alternative, which was to use the 2008 results. Partisan firms were not unilaterally excluded, by the way, which means that both PPP and Rasmussen's polls were employed.
4. Polls were collected primarily via the Daily Kos Weekend Digest, and other outlets where available.
Let's take the mystery out of it right at the outset—if the election were held today, Barack Obama would, in all probability, be re-elected rather easily over Mitt Romney. The polling average in each state, with no adjustments, would give Barack Obama 347 electoral votes, versus 191 electoral votes for Mitt Romney.
With current polling, Barack Obama's 2008 coalition remains dramatically intact. He would lose Indiana, where the sole poll in the race (the aforementioned Donnelly poll) had Mitt Romney up by four points. I'm also ceding the sole Nebraska electoral vote to Romney, though that's far from a lock. The average of the two polls there (one by PPP in October, and a more recent one by the House of Ras) is a Romney lead of 15 points. But John McCain won here in 14.9%, and Obama narrowly claimed the 2nd district.
Aside from that, Barack Obama holds every other state he claimed in 2008. Some of the margins are pretty tight, however, suggesting that Mitt Romney could conceivably chip away at the Obama majority. Indeed, there are a half dozen states where the polling average yields the president a lead of less than five points:
Narrowest Obama leads over Romney, on basis of five-poll averageFor those who have an intimate knowledge of the electoral college, and a decent grasp of arithmetic, you already see the "holy crap" conclusion here. Those six states tally a total of ... wait for it ... 78 electoral votes. If you add 78 to 191, you get 269. As in a deadlocked electoral college.
1. North Carolina: Obama +0.8
2. Florida: Obama +1.4
3. Nevada: Obama +2.0
4. Iowa: Obama +2.2
5. Ohio: Obama +3.2
6. New Hampshire: Obama +3.8
Obama fans will note that, for Romney to forge a tie, he is going to need to swing the electorate about four percent in his direction. A four-point swing in the other direction, incidentally, would give Barack Obama a total of 32 electoral votes (Arizona, Missouri, and Indiana).
This polling average analysis underscores a key Democratic advantage that often goes underreported: the enormous disparity in the size of each party's "base" in the electoral college.
If you look solely at states where the "average lead" is 10 points or more, Barack Obama tallies a total of 201 electoral votes. In other words, seven months prior to Election Day, Barack Obama has essentially locked down 74 percent of the electoral votes he needs to secure re-election.
Mitt Romney? 71 electoral votes.
Part of that huge gulf is owed to the fact that some larger traditionally GOP states fall outside of that double-digit parameter, even as we are reasonably confident that Romney will still win them. Incidentally, (and perhaps unsurprisingly, given the primaries) all of those states are Southern: Texas (currently Romney +8), Georgia (Romney +7.8), and South Carolina (Romney +6.8). The largest state that Romney presently has on lockdown is Alabama (9 electoral votes).
President Obama, to say the least, is in a pretty enviable position right now. If you would have bet that, based on polling averages at any point in the campaign, Obama would have a bigger lead in Virginia than Mitt Romney has in freaking Tennessee, you would've had some takers.
All that said, of course, the standard caveats apply. It is only the first quarter, so to speak, and the polling average does make clear that it will not take a dramatic shift for Mitt Romney to claw his way back to parity. What this analysis does tell us right now, however, is that in spite of all the wildly swinging national polls, we can be reasonably confident that Barack Obama is out in front, and probably by a margin in the neighborhood of five percent overall.
I will keep cataloguing polls, and updating this average. Chances are, you'll be reading an update of this polling average study here on Sunday Kos several weeks down the line.
(For the election junkies in the house, what follows is the actual current averages, placed in six categories: Obama +10, Obama 5-10, Obama 0-5, Romney 0-5, Romney 5-10, Romney 10+)
Obama lead of 10+ points (201 electoral votes): Washington DC (+86); Rhode Island (+27.8); Hawaii (+27); Maryland (+25.4); Delaware (+25); Vermont (+25); New York (+21.8); Massachusetts (+19.8); California (+19.2); New Mexico (+14.3); Illinois (+14); New Jersey (+12.4); Oregon (+11.3); Connecticut (+11); Minnesota (+11); Maine (+10.8); Washington (+10.8)
Obama lead of 5-10 points (68 electoral votes): Wisconsin (+9.2); Michigan (+9); Virginia (+7.6); Pennsylvania (+6.6); Colorado (+5)
Obama lead of less than 5 points (78 electoral votes): New Hampshire (+3.8); Ohio (+3.2); Iowa (+2.2); Nevada (+2.0); Florida (+1.4); North Carolina (+0.8)
Romney lead of less than 5 points (32 electoral votes): Arizona (+2.6); Missouri (+3.6); Indiana (+4.0)
Romney lead of 5-10 points (88 electoral votes): Tennessee (+5.2); South Carolina (+6.8); Georgia (+7.8); Kentucky (+8.0); Texas (+8.0); Montana (+8.3); North Dakota (+8.7)
Romney lead of 10+ points (71 electoral votes): South Dakota (+11.0); Mississippi (+12.0); Arkansas (+13.2); West Virginia (+13.3); Nebraska (+15.0); Louisiana (+16.0); Kansas (+17.0); Alaska (+21.5); Alabama (+22.0); Idaho (+25.3); Oklahoma (+31.3); Utah (+32.0); Wyoming (+32.3)