Oct 21 2012

Obama Entering The Incumbent Danger Zone

Published by at 10:26 am under 2012 Elections,All General Discussions

Update: Another poll out with Obama at 47% - end update

One reason I feel confident Romney will win this year is the poll standing for Obama. As I have posted many times, Obama seems to have hit a ceiling and is now highly likely to lose on November 6. While some focus on the gap between the two, the real story is on Obama’s ceiling.

Let’s just focus in on one major polling group, Gallup, and see where the President stands relative to the magic 50% level:

This is the Gallup poll from October 20th, 2012. More importantly, it covers both ‘registered’ and ‘likely’ voters’. While the political world is focused on the ‘likely voter’ numbers, the real news here is where Obama is sitting and the fact he is at the same level in both models.

I found this quite stunning, that Obama is stuck at 45-46% in both models. This is the point of no return for an incumbent, especially for the US President who has maximized name recognition and policy positions.

Does the 2% lead for Romney with ‘registered voters’ mean less than the 6% lead with ‘likely voters’? Not really, because these numbers are just exploring the size of Romney’s probable win. It is the fact a sitting president appears to have a ceiling at 45-46% (in an election where undecideds break late for the challenger) – that is the news here.

In fact, if you look at the RCP average Obama has not been able to get above 47% recently.

While some people are obsessed with the gap, they miss this big news:

That method estimates that Mr. Obama would win the national popular vote by 0.8 of a percentage point in an election held today.

I understand Nate Silver’s statistical prowess, but his models sometimes are not connected to reality. For one thing, the election is not today.

To take an Obama ceiling of 45-57% and project a fractional win (well inside the margin of error of all polls)  is to ignore the dynamics of incumbents, late deciding voters and the unique factors of this election (a historically poor economy and a voting block that is monolithic in its opposition to government solutions). If you look at the trends at 538, you see Obama sinking and Romney rising.  That momentum does not appear to be something his statistics can reflect, because he always has Obama winning instead of truly projecting a path. He is focused on ‘if the election were held today’.

Well, we shall see if abstract math or the more insightful human analysis is more accurate in predicting this election. With state polls in VA, FL and OH trending Romney in a serious way, I am feeling pretty good about the numbers going forward.

I still say the 2010 insurgent voter (Tea Party, Libertarian) has been sitting on the sideline, resisting being sampled in polls, until it was time to act. The first debate triggered the start of the serious part of the campaign, and then these voters appears on pollsters radar. And the pollsters are still trying to understand the dynamics. If their models are inflexible and too tied to historical trends, they will miss what is happening in the electorate.

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One Response to “Obama Entering The Incumbent Danger Zone”

  1. [...] less. The point is he is losing support. Also, importantly, he is sitting (on average) at 46% now. As I have noted before, the gap between the two is not as important as the polling level across polls – especially [...]