Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

June 29, 2012 11:54 AM

The Presidential General Election

The Schedule

August 27 – 30, 2012 Republican National Convention , Tampa, FL
September 3 – 6, 2012 Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, NC
October 3, 2012 1st Presidential Debate – Denver, CO
October 11, 2001 Vice Presidential Debate – Danville, KY
October 16, 2012 2nd Presidential Debate – Hempstead, NY
October 22, 2012 3rd Presidential Debate – Boca Raton, FL
November 6, 2012 Election Day

The Conventions

The Watch will include amounts of historical information about the national Party conventions in the August issue. However, there is one point that WW would like to make now.

The national Party conventions, as we know them, should be ended. In the ordinary course, substantial amounts of money spent on political campaigns generally are wasted. It is the nature of the enterprise. But, at this date, the greatest waste of money is that which is spent on the national conventions.

Tens of millions (actually probably 100s of millions) of dollars are spent organizing and running the conventions, and transporting thousands of people to the convention city. Consider the impact if those same dollars were spent on working to increase the national voter pool. [This writer attended and worked in some part of every Democratic convention starting in 1968 and concluding with the 2004 convention. ]

Having said that, here is what WW has heard about the structures of the two 2012 national conventions.

The Republican convention in Tampa will be structured like other recent conventions. There will be two sessions on Monday (morning and evening), and then evening sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. As of now, all of the sessions will be held in the primary arena.

The Democratic convention will have a somewhat different structure than in the past. You may recall that, in 2008, the afternoon/evening sessions of the convention, Monday through Wednesday, were held in the principal arena. The Thursday night session was moved to a local baseball stadium so that tens of thousands of people who were not delegates or otherwise associated with the convention could serve as a back drop for then-nominee Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.

In 2012, there will be no plenary session on Monday night, which happens to also be Labor Day. There will be a festival in downtown Charlotte for the delegates, alternates, guests, and, one presumes, others from the community. On Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be regular plenary sessions of a yet undetermined length.

Following the pattern of 2008, the President’s acceptance speech on Thursday night will be in a football stadium that seats approximately 85,000 people.

The Election

On June 12, 2012, Peter Hart conducted a focus group in Denver, Colorado. WW observed that focus group online. Rather than try to describe what happened, WW will quote from a memo written by Peter describing that evening. The following is the opening paragraph of that memo.

"PRESIDENT OBAMA IS IN TROUBLE! Returning to Denver some 46 months after his triumphal acceptance speech here, in this two-hour session one gets a stiff dose of the harsh reality facing the President. From this focus group, among a dozen voters (10 of whom supported him four years ago), he currently can count on only four votes. These participants were selected because they make up a key group of swing ticket splitters and undecided voters. Yet the story is not in the numbers, but rather, the attitudes behind the numbers and what they tell us about the President, and their greater acceptability to considering Mitt Romney despite having neither particularly warm personal feelings toward him or much sense of his economic plan."

Following are several additional sentences from the memo.

"The Country’s mood is gray, but voters sense foreboding bad weather ahead (chance of thunder, hail, or rain)...."

"The economy is clearly the central issue, as most participants rate it as the most important issue today....."

"Mitt Romney is the remainder candidate of 2012...."

"Romney is credited for being a businessman.....They do not perceive him as a leader or as having a program to which voters have subscribed. For now though, he is not Obama, and he is not half bad...."

"Yet, it all comes back to Barack Obama;...There is no roadmap, no program, and no conviction of where the President wants to lead the country....As one voter put it: "when choosing my President, I want what is best for me and my country, not just someone who I think would be a cool guy to hang out with."

Since the 1st of June, using the surveys below (with the exception of Bloomberg), Obama’s lead over Romney is 3.75 points, 47.5 to 43.75. If one averages the surveys for May and June, Obama’s lead averages 3.10 points, 46.75 to 43.65. [The Bloomberg survey was an outlier during this period.]

The following are general election surveys taken since April 1, 2012.

Survey Last Date Obama Romney
NBC/WSJ 6/22 47 44
Bloomberg 6/18 53 40*
PEW 6/17 50 46
Fox 6/5 43 43
PEW 6/3 49 42
ABC/WP 5/20 49 46
NBC/WSJ 5/20 47 43
Fox 5/15 46 39
CBS/NYT 5/13 43 46
Fox 4/24 46 46
Nat/Journal 4/22 47 39
NBC/WSJ 4/17 49 43
CBS/NYT 4/17 46 46
PEW 4/15 49 45
ABC/WP 4/8 51 44

The last NBC/WSJ survey (6/22-24) is another dramatic demonstration that the Presidential election is not really a national election, but is, in fact, an election that will be decided in 10-12 swing States.

In this survey the swing States are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

While Obama leads Romney by 47% to 44% in the country as a whole, in the swing States his margin jumps to 8 points, 50% to 42%.

In the country as a whole Romney’s image is 39% negative to 33% positive. In the swing States his negative is 41%, while the positive is 30%.

There is no real difference in Obama’s image in the country as opposed to the swing States. His rating is 48% positive to 38% negative in the country as a whole. In the swing States it is 48% positive to 39% negative.

In the country, 32% think that Obama’s economic policies have helped, as opposed to 33% who think they have hurt. In the swing States, 38% say they have helped and only 29% say they have hurt.

Romney’s business experience is viewed more negatively ( 28%) than positively ( 23%) in the country. In the swing States, it is 33% more negative and only 18% more positive.

There is little difference between the two groups of States on the question of whether the economy will get better or worse over the next year. 35/34% say it will get better, while 20% say it will get worse.

Gerry Seib makes the argument that the real battleground States are not the ten or twelve, but the four: Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. [WSJ 6/25/12]

In June, Pew Research found that 50% of voters have a favorable view of Obama, while 48% have a negative view. 47% have an unfavorable view of Romney, while 41% have a favorable view. This latter number is an improvement from 29% who thought favorably of him in March.

Another striking finding of the NBC/WSJ survey has to do with why people are voting for one candidate or the other. And it proves once again that re-election campaigns are really, at the first, a referendum on the incumbent.

When asked "would you say that your vote is more for Barack Obama or more against Mitt Romney?," 72% of Obama voters say they are voting for Obama, while 22% say they are voting more against Romney.

However, when Romney voters are asked the same question, 35% say they are voting more for Romney, while 58% are voting more against Obama.

Here are a number of recent Gallup survey findings related to the Presidential election.

* Obama wins the likability contest, with 81% thinking he is likable, while only 60% having that view of Romney. But the two men are tied when it comes to "changes his positions on issues for political reasons." Each draws 60%.

* Bias against a Mormon candidate, currently 18%, is basically the same as it was in 1967.

* 57% of union members favor Obama, while 35% favor Romney. Conversely, 48% of non-union members favor Romney and 44% favor Obama.

* Support for Obama among whites, 38%, is six points lower than it was in Oct/Nov 2008 pre-election surveys, when it was 44%.

* Romney leads Obama among people with an income of $36,000 – $89,999 and among those making more $90,000 or more, by 49% to 45%. Obama leads among those making less than $36,000, by 53% to 38%.

* Romney leads among U.S. veterans by 58% to 34%, while Obama leads among nonveterans by 48% to 44%.

The Electoral College

Here are cuts at the Electoral College that WW will regularly reprint as we head toward the Presidential election. 270 Electoral votes are needed to win.

This is pretty identical to that printed in April, except that Charlie Cook has shifted 19 Electoral votes from Lean Republican to Toss Up.

  Cook Cook Rothenberg Rothenberg
  4/24 5/31 4/6 6/1
Solid/Likely Dem 182 186 186 186
Lean Dem 45 45 51 51
Total 227 227 237 237
Toss Up 101 120 95 95
Lean GOP 19 0 15 15
Solid/Likely GOP 191 191 191 191
Total 210 191 206 206

(* AP total is off by 4 electoral votes)

InTrade Prediction Market

  1/12 2/16 3/20 4/26 6/27
Barack Obama 50.6 60.3 59.9 60.2 54.0
Mitt Romney -- -- -- 38.2 43.4

A Prediction

In the ordinary course, WW does not try to predict the future. However, this is an exception. President Obama will win re-election in a close race or Romney will win big.

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