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In the last few days there has been a good amount of discussion about state and national polling.  Some of it is designed to understand why Obama seems to have a battleground state advantage but trails in some polling by 3.   One explanation offered is that Romney is generating large margins in southern states that don't effect the Electoral College.  But the real answer is much simpler.  All you really need to do is look at the results from 2008.

Think of this chart as the Romney campaign's target list.  Based on the results from 2008, these are the states that you should target in order to win. Remember: Obama won by 7.28% nationally. In order to win, Romney needs to get Obama under 270.

I have highlighted Colorado - in order for Romney to get to 270, he needs to win all of the states above the line including Colorado.  Now look at the 2008 margin: Obama won Colorado by 8.97%.  This means Romney would need a national shift of 8.98%, or about a 1.7% margin over Obama to win.

Think about this for a second.  Electoral Votes are not awarded on a continuous distribution - you have to win a state to get them.  In essence, it takes the Romney campaign an additional 1.7% beyond a simple majority for Romney to win.  

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But the situation is actually worse for Romney than even that suggests.  Note that the current polling is far less in three of the states above the line than national polling suggests.  In Ohio, Florida, Virginina and North Carolina the swings from 2008 have been far less than is suggested in national polling.  This is why when I ran 20,000 simulations based on current polling, I get the following results:

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For the methodology used, see below.

Here is my version of Charlie Cook's cheat sheet - updated as of 11:00 AM.  

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One issue I have had with much analysis on this subject is that for much of the last month you could not square the state and the national polling.  The difference between the two has declined somewhat in the last few days, though the polling, whether you include right wing pollsters like Gravis and Rasmussen or not, still shows Obama leading by .5%

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Finally, one explanation offered for the difference between state and national polling is that Romney is building up huge and useless margins in the South.  The state polling does not support this theory.  In fact, Obama is actually outperforming in polling from Arkansas and Georgia since the debate, and was outperforming accross the South in September when more southern polling was available.  

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In 2010 Chris Bowers did a detailed analysis of past election results.

Essentially, what that work found was the empirical odds of winning a race with a certain lead in the polling average. To summarize:
 A candidate with a .5% lead wins 56% of the time
 A candidate with a 1% lead wins 64% of the time
 A candidate with a 2% lead wins 78% of the time
 A candidate with a 3% lead wins 83% of the time
 A candidate with a 4% lead wins 89% of the time
 Go here for more detail:
http://www.openleft.com/...

I take these odds, and run 20,000 simulations.  The odds presented are if the election was held tomorrow.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (31+ / 0-)

    The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

    by fladem on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 08:36:23 AM PDT

  •  Interesting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NormAl1792, Sylv

    You actually have lower Obama odds than 538, which I wouldn't have expected from your methodology.  Why do you think your results differ from Silver's?

  •  Normally i'm a numbers guy (0+ / 0-)

    but man this diary just made my head spin.

    I'll just give you a "i see what you did there" benefit of the doubt.

    95% of all life forms that once existed on earth are now extinct. It is only a matter of time until the Republicans follow suit.

    by PRRedlin on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 08:46:21 AM PDT

    •  Not sure I understand what (0+ / 0-)

      you are getting at.

      The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

      by fladem on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 08:47:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What it boils down to (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fladem, exterris, A Runner

        I would summarize this as follows:  there has been much talk of why national trackers may have a slight edge for Romney while state polls have a slight edge for Obama.  Two explanations floating around are 1) Obama's getting killed in the South (even more than last time) and 2) state trackers are somehow more (or less) accurate than national trackers.  It is likely the case that neither explanation is true.  In fact, Romney has to win the national vote by about a full 2% in order to win the EC if the relative state margins from 2008 hold.  This rings true to me.

        •  Dead right (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Runner

          though in the past state averages have proven more useful than national ones - the prime example being 2000.

          The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

          by fladem on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:14:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  What chances (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fladem

    do you give of a 2000-type result?

    "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

    by TLS66 on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 08:49:44 AM PDT

    •  Great question (0+ / 0-)

      If I use RCP, Romney as of this writing has a .9% lead. That gives him a 64% chance of winning the popular vote.  However, Obama has a 71.8% chance of winning the Electorial College.

      Good god: I get a 45.9% chance of a split between the popular vote and the electoral vote.

      This assumes that the current relationships between state polling and national polling hold.  

      Holy crap - I never would have dreamed the odds would be that high.

      The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

      by fladem on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:20:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bleah.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fladem, ChicDemago

        On the one hand, a split would be poetic justice for 2000.  I'd be able to sneer "Get over it!" to my winger friends and see how THEY like it. On the other, a Romney PV win and we'd never hear the end of it from Repugs. I hope Obama is able to convince disaffected voters from 2008 to come home in order to prevent that.  Makes me conviced that my own New York vote is absolutely needed.  Hopefully this is just a Romney PV boomlet that will fade. Nate Silver gives a 2000 result at 6%.

        "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

        by TLS66 on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:52:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fladem

    Do you exclude any state polls?  And do you include the RAND national poll?

    I'm not sure I understand this but it seems this is a similar method to Nate and others.  I just wish the election would be over before Romney can tell another 100 lies to Ohioans.

    •  I exclude no state polls (0+ / 0-)

      though I do recalculate excluding rw pollsters.  I am not including the RAND poll in the national poll.

      The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

      by fladem on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:27:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think your assumption (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fladem

    of a uniform swing in determining the "line" doesn't pass muster under the circumstances. Also, do I understand you to actually predict a Romney PV win?

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:04:32 AM PDT

    •  The uniform swing is a starting point (0+ / 0-)

      not an end point.  There are always states that swing more or less.  The point is that for Romney needs larger swings in battleground states than he does nationally to win.  

      The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

      by fladem on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:13:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think the starting point is potentially (0+ / 0-)

        a problem now. That's because, apparently, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Iowa are very much swing states now. And they seem to have swung almost as far as necessary.

        Ok, so I read the polls.

        by andgarden on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:42:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If this was supposed to cheer me up, it didn't. (0+ / 0-)

    Anything that needs this much modelling to show why we're just barely winning, is heavily subject to blow up on us.  I don't feel good about this at ALL.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:51:30 AM PDT

    •  Frankly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp

      I am scared as hell.

      The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

      by fladem on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:55:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Especially since they have amply demonstrated (0+ / 0-)

        that they are willing to interfere with the process at every conceivable stage:  purging registered voters from the rolls, discarding registration forms, harassing minority voters for ID, disseminating false information about polling, and of course just flat-out diddling the totals.  It's horrifying.  

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 10:00:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  winning the popular vote is not irrelevant (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WisJohn

    if obama wins in the electoral college and loses the electoral vote it will be a very terrible situation.

    •  I agree with you, it will be terrible. (0+ / 0-)

      But we can rub it in to their faces as they did to us in 2000.

      Farm boy, 20, who hit the city to go to college, WI-03 (home, voting), WI-02 (college), -6.75, -3.18, I finally got a chance to do something my parents have done for years- vote against Tommy Thompson!!!! Tammy Baldwin for US Senate!!!!!

      by WisJohn on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 10:27:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  let me put it like this (0+ / 0-)

      unless the margins for Obama in CA/IL/NY are smaller than they appear, he will win the popular vote if he wins the electoral college.

      CA/IL/NY should make up around 20% of the popular vote.

      Obama leads by around a 20pt margin in those 3 states combined (He leads by around 15-20 in CA/IL and leads by over 25 in NY).

      That means that the scoreboard would say around 11-7 out of that 20% of the vote. Which means Romney would have to make up those 4% in the other 80% of the country, which would require a win of 5% in those 47 states (and DC).

      Romney leads in the other 47 states, but not by near enough to make up that 4% margin coming out of just 3 states.

      The National Polls mean nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. They are only accurate in the sense that the results won't be outside of the margin of error. Aside from that. Not really much meaning.

      If Romney wins the PV, he'll win the electoral college. There won't be a split.

      The Republican Party isn't a party of small government, it's a party of a government for the few. @bhindepmo

      by RBH on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 09:50:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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