Thursday, September 20, 2012

Campaign by numbers: Surveying the latest polls


THE LATEST WAVE of opinion polls debating the merits of the campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney point to a trend starting to set in, not quite gravitational but increasingly consistent. Most of this latest collection of polls, virtually all of them with bad news for Team Romney, arrived in recent days without polled reaction to the leaked Boca Raton “47 percent” fundraiser videos. That’ll change in the next few days, with more polls expected, one as soon as this evening.

There was one early spot poll of note: A Gallup/USA Today flash survey of independents, released Wednesday, found 36 percent of independent voters were less likely to back Romney in the wake of the Boca videos’ release; 20 percent are more likely to support him despite the videos. For 43 percent, it doesn’t make any difference.

But that split decision is the exception to the rule of bad polling news for Team Romney, results that don’t even include public reaction to the Boca unforced error.

For Obama, the polls point to base Democratic support solidifying for the president, with new inroads in swing states. For Romney, the data's almost uniformly downbeat generally and in the crucial swing states, among women and Latino voters. And just like any toxic liquid seeps to its own level, the fallout of Romney’s recent missteps is trickling into the various down-ticket races in a way that could weaken the GOP’s prospects for the Senate.

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Where do you wanna start? Let’s go with the Pew Research Center general election poll, conducted between Sept. 12 and Sept. 16. Sampling likely voters (the cohort more and more often considered definitive the closer to Nov. 6 we get), Obama enjoys a stunning eight-point lead over Romney.

“Romney has gained no ground on Obama in being seen as more credible or more empathetic, and Obama now leads Romney by nearly three-to-one (66% to 23%) as the candidate who connects well with ordinary Americans – an even wider margin than in June,” Pew reported.

In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 50 percent of likelies back the president, compared to 45 percent for Romney. “In the new survey, the president pulled even with his Republican rival on who voters think is better to fix the economy, after lagging behind Mr. Romney on that question in July,” The Journal reported Wednesday.

A Gallup survey of voters in 12 swing states from Colorado to Virginia gives Obama a two-point lead overall, slim enough to be insignificant regardless of the margin of error, but an Obama lead just the same.

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BUT THEN there’s the new Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS News poll of likely swing-state voters, a survey that gives President Obama a four-point edge over Romney in Virginia (50/46), and a handsome six-point lead over Romney in Wisconsin (51/45).

A Washington Post poll released on Tuesday has Obama up eight points over Romney in Virginia, another critical swing state. “Virginia rode out the recession far better than many other states, in part because of a huge defense sector, and that appears to be working in the president’s favor. A majority of Virginia voters surveyed in the Post poll still say the country is on the wrong track. But the percentage who say it is moving in the right direction has increased nine points, to 41 percent, since May,” The Post reported Tuesday.

Public Policy Polling weighed in Tuesday with a statewide perspective on the national race: “PPP's newest Massachusetts poll finds Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney 57-39, up a tick from last month when the spread was 55-39. A lot of the internal numbers on the poll are pretty brutal for Romney. Only 39% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 58% with a negative one.”

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Among Latino voters, Obama leads Romney by a jaw-dropping margin. A new poll published Monday at LatinoDecision.com, extracted from data in an ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions tracking poll, finds the former Massachusetts governor trailing the president by deep double digits: 61 percent of Latino males will vote Obama, while 32 percent side with Romney. The chasm’s even wider among Latinas.

In the new Marquette University Law poll, Obama tops Romney by double digits, 54 percent to 40 percent. An earlier Marquette survey, conducted before both parties held their conventions, found the president with a narrower lead of three points, 49 to 46 percent. This, mind you was after Romney tapped Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate ... and well before everything went south in Boca Raton.


And in Wisconsin, independents are breaking strong for Obama. The Marquette poll finds “shifts among independents, with Obama increasing his lead of 45 percent to 43 percent in August to 53 percent to 38 percent in September.” So much for any affinities for the local kid from Janesville.

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THE ROMNEY stinktrain is starting to affect the state races that could completely refigure the balance of power in Congress. In the hotly contested Senate race in Massachusetts, challenger Elizabeth Warren has built a solid five-point lead (45 to 40) over incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, according to WBUR and the Massinc Polling group.

In the Senate race in swinging Virginia, Tim Kaine, the state’s former governor, holds a solid eight-point lead (51/43) over his Republican challenger, former Sen. George (Macaca) Allen, according to new polling figures from The Washington Post. The Post poll pretty much dovetails with the New York Times poll of the state’s voters; the Times survey, done between Sept. 11 and 17, finds Kaine with a seven-point bulge.

And in Missouri ... what a difference five weeks makes. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the embattled Democratic incumbent, had been waging an uphill battle against Rep. Todd Akin for months, until Todd Akin detonated his own campaign with his now-infamous statements on “legitimate rape.” Akin’s misstep on this sensitive topic may cost him dearly in November, if trends hold. The latest Rasmussen poll (Sept. 12) has McCaskill leading Akin by six percentage points, 49 to 43. McCaskill’s lead had been 10 points weeks earlier, as Akin’s idiocy began to set in. The senator may still be on the ropes, but Rasmussen reported Sept. 12 that her seat has been moved to “Safe Democrat” status in Rasmussen’s power-balance rankings.

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With numbers like that, up and down the GOP ticket, it’s no wonder that the wailing and gnashing of teeth have begun in earnest for Team Romney, the Republicans and their proxies. “It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one,” said Peggy Noonan at The Journal. “An intervention is in order.”

But an intervention by whom? There’s no point calling for the adults in the room to step forward. By this point in the campaign, the adults in the room are already in the room (or they should be). Conservatives hope the three October debates may be Romney’s saving grace, but if a Gallup survey of swing-state voters is anything like the mood of the overall electorate, bravura debate performances won't make any difference.

“Three in four swing-state voters also believe the upcoming presidential debates will do little to influence their vote, while 25% say the debates could influence their vote "a great deal" or "a fair amount." Gallup reported Wednesday.

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BUT ONE Democratic strategist is looking behind the numbers. David (Mudcat) Saunders, a senior adviser in the Edwards 2008 campaign, and now advising Wayne Powell in his bid to unseat Virginia Rep. Eric Kantor, thinks it all comes down to the human touch.

“Romney doesn’t have a whole lot of street smarts,” said Saunders, who advised Mark Warner and Jim Webb in their campaigns. Saunders talked Wednesday to Rev. Al Sharpton on his MSNBC program.

“I think you’re gonna see the president continue to pull away,” he said, “because he has something that Romney can never, ever, ever capture, and that’s momentum. And he’s also likable. There’s not a whole lot of difference between a third-grade election and a presidential election. People vote for people they like, and Romney is just simply not likable.”

Image credits: Obama: Lawrence Jackson/The White House. Romney: Via ThinkProgress.com. Swing state snapshot: © 2012 Gallup. McCaskill: U.S. Senate (public domain). Logos are the properties of their respective parent companies or founding organizations.

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