With the tiniest bit of a breather, and the full understanding that we may not see another one, let's look at the path to 270 electoral votes today. At this point, it is fairly evident that the presidential race has been recalibrated. It still is at least a bit of an open question if the shift is permanent or transient, and whether that shift is weaker in the states that will matter most on Nov. 6, of course. That said, supporters of Mitt Romney have to be a great deal more enthused about their prospects than they were at the start of the month.
But can that translate to 270 electoral votes? That is a considerably tougher call.
More on that later. For now, on to the numbers:
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Romney 49, Obama 47 (LV); Obama 48, Romney 46 (RV)DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (IBD/TIPP Tracking): Obama 46, Romney 46
NATIONAL (Ipsos/Reuters Tracking): Romney 46, Obama 45 (LV); Obama 45, Romney 42 (RV)
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Romney 48, Obama 47
COLORADO (SurveyUSA): Romney 48, Obama 47
FLORIDA (American Research Group): Romney 49, Obama 46
MAINE (NMB Research for the Crossroads GPS PAC): Obama 48, Romney 44 (state); Romney 49, Obama 44 (ME-02)
FLORIDA (Rasmussen): Romney 51, Obama 47
MICHIGAN (Rasmussen): Obama 52, Romney 45
NEW HAMPSHIRE (American Research Group): Romney 50, Obama 46
NORTH CAROLINA (UNC/High Point University): Obama 46, Romney 45
SOUTH DAKOTA (Nielson Brothers): Romney 52, Obama 41
VIRGINIA (Rasmussen): Romney 49, Obama 47
FL-SEN (Mason-Dixon): Sen. Bill Nelson (D) 47, Connie Mack IV (R) 42A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump ...
NJ-SEN (Philadelphia Inquirer): Sen. Robert Mendendez (D) 49, Joe Kyrillos (R) 35
OH-SEN (Rasmussen): Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) 47, Josh Mandel (R) 46
PA-SEN (Philadelphia Inquirer): Sen. Bob Casey (D) 48, Tom Smith (R) 38
WI-SEN (Rasmussen): Tammy Baldwin (D) 51, Tommy Thompson (R) 47
NH-GOV (American Research Group): Ovide Lamontagne (R) 46, Maggie Hassan (D) 40, John Babiarz (L) 3
NH-GOV (Univ. of New Hampshire): Ovide Lamontagne (R) 39, Maggie Hassan (D) 35, John Babiarz (L) 3
GA-12 (Benenson Strategy Group for the HMP--D): Rep. John Barrow (D) 48, Lee Anderson (R) 45
IL-10 (We Ask America--R): Rep. Bob Dold (R) 47, Brad Schneider (D) 45
IL-11 (We Ask America--R): Rep. Judy Biggert (R) 46, Bill Foster (D) 44
IL-12 (We Ask America--R): Jason Plummer (R) 44, Bill Enyart (D) 42, Paula Bradshaw (G) 3
IL-13 (We Ask America--R): Rodney Davis (R) 44, David Gill (D) 42, John Hartman (I) 6
IL-17 (We Ask America--R): Cheri Bustos (D) 46, Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) 46
MI-03 (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for the Pestka campaign): Rep. Justin Amash (R) 48, Steven Pestka (D) 44
NH-01 (Univ. of New Hampshire): Rep. Frank Guinta (R) 45, Carol Shea-Porter (D) 35, Brendan Kelly (L) 3
NH-02 (Univ. of New Hampshire): Ann McLane Kuster (D) 38, Rep. Charlie Bass (R) 35, Others 3
NY-19 (Public Opinion Strategies for the Gibson campaign): Rep. Chris Gibson (R) 50, Julian Schreibman (D) 39
SD-AL (Nielson Brothers): Rep. Kristi Noem (R) 49, Matt Varilek (D) 44
The path of the respective candidates to 270 electoral votes, particularly Romney's path, was a subject on which I have already offered my thoughts this cycle.
But, alas, that was in July, and the electoral landscape in October looks quite different, to be sure.
But some things do not change. The majority of the states are still, quite clearly, "base states" for either the Republican or the Democrat. Some may quibble with some of them (Republicans, just today, are claiming a shot at Maine, of course). But few would dispute that over 300 of the the 538 available electoral votes are, at this point, a done deal:
ROMNEY "BASE STATES" (134 Electoral Votes): ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARKANSAS, IDAHO, INDIANA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI, MONTANA, NEBRASKA, NORTH DAKOTA, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH DAKOTA, TEXAS, UTAH, WEST VIRGINIA, WYOMINGThat leaves 16 states. I think, at this point, we can dispense with a couple of others. Let's put Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina in the Romney column. Despite the fact that at least one poll this cycle has shown President Barack Obama leading in those states, those polls are a year old, at this point. They've gone from being dusty to being rusty. So, add 35 electoral votes to the Romney tally. That makes the score Obama 201, Romney 169.
OBAMA "BASE STATES" (201 Electoral Votes): CALIFORNIA, CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, HAWAII, ILLINOIS, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MINNESOTA, NEW JERSEY, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, OREGON, RHODE ISLAND, VERMONT, WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON DC
It also leaves us with a lucky number of 13 states where we will stop and look at the data. What follows is a five-poll average of the most recent data in each of those states, listed in alphabetical order:
Arizona (11 electoral votes): Romney +7.2Taken at their current face value, that would put Obama at 281 electoral votes, and Romney at 257 electoral votes.
Colorado (9 electoral votes): Romney +0.2
Florida (29 electoral votes): Romney +1.8
Iowa (6 electoral votes): Obama +3.2
Michigan (16 electoral votes): Obama +4.4
Missouri (10 electoral votes): Romney +5.8
Nevada (6 electoral votes): Obama +0.8
New Hampshire (4 electoral votes): Obama +4.8
North Carolina (15 electoral votes): Romney +2.6
Ohio (18 electoral votes): Obama +1.6
Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes): Obama +5.8
Virginia (13 electoral votes): Romney +1.0
Wisconsin (10 electoral votes): Obama +4.4
However, it is not difficult to see how a very small further shift in the electorate could both elevate Romney to the presidency, or consign him to the ash heap. With just a shift of two percentage points in his direction, Romney would gain both Nevada and Ohio, that would push him to 281 electoral votes, and with it, the White House. However, if there is a shift of just 2 points in the president's direction, he gets back a raft of states (Colorado, Florida and Virginia). That would put him at 332 electoral votes, making him a decisive winner for a second term.
This is a far more volatile situation than we saw even last month, when it looked like Romney needed a boost of about five percentage points in order to be in position to win. Nationally, in the past week, he has come close to claiming those five points. He is not quite yet there in the battleground states, and Barack Obama's path to 270 electoral votes is still a bit clearer. But, unlike a month ago, Romney no longer needs an unnaturally strong wind at his back to cobble together that coalition.
In other polling news ...
- If the state polls looked a little less satisfactory for Obama today, it does appear that he (very incrementally) staunched the bleeding in the national survey data today. What was a 1.3 point edge for Romney yesterday in national polling receded back ever so slightly today to a 1.0 point edge. Statistically meaningless, of course, but Team Obama has to be somewhat happy that the steady shift in those national numbers over the course of the week did not get worse today.
- Before anyone gets irrationally exuberant about that North Carolina poll showing Obama up by a point, there is one whale of a caveat in the polling memo. They note that the results varied wildly in their (far too large) window where the poll was in the field. Prior to the first presidential debate, Obama led Romney in their poll by nine points. Since then, however, he has trailed by six points. There is reason to be skeptical of this poll (do you really need a dozen days to poll 600 voters?), but the pre-and-post debate disparity is certainly something that has been mimicked elsewhere, as well.
- Finally, let's close the week with an interesting piece that should spark at least some discussion and debate in the comments, as WaPo's Jon Cohen identifies "Five myths about political polls." To be sure, an interesting read.