Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

September 25, 2012 2:58 PM

2012 Presidential General Election

The following are survey results from media-related polling organizations. [WW tends to find them more consistently reliable. This is not to say that all non-media sources are not reliable. It is to say that the slant of some non-media sources – left and right – leave something to be desired.]

And, since this is the season when the focus should be on “likely voters,” registered voter numbers are listed separately. Certain surveys are testing both registered and likely voters in the same survey, and they will be listed in the separate sections.

Survey Last Date Obama Romney
    Likely voters
PEW 9/16 51 43
NBC/WSJ 9/16 50 45
CBS/NYT 9/12 49 46
Fox News 9/11 48 43
ABC/WP 9/9 49 48
CNN/ORC 9/9 52 46
CNN/ORC 9/3 48 48
CBS 8/26 46 45
ABC/WP 8/25 46 47
CNN/ORC 8/23 49 47
Fox News 8/21 44 45
Gallup 9/17 47 46
PEW 9/16 51 42
NBC/WSJ 9/16 50 44
Gallup 9/11 50 43
Gallup 8/27 46 47
CBS 8/26 46 45
NBC/WSJ 8/20 48 44

Below is a chart of the 8 States which are described as the battleground States. Obama won them all in 2008. Bush won 6 of them in 2004 and 6 of them in 2000.

Obama leads marginally or better in each of these States at the present time, and in 5 of them he has hit 50% or more.

  Current Obama / Romney Polling Obama Approval / Disapproval Rating Unemployment New Voting Law 2008 2004 2000 State-Wide Races Competitive Congressional Races
Colorado 50/45 43/50 8.3   Obama Bush Bush None 2 of 7
Florida 49/44 46/47 8.8 X Obama Bush Bush Sen 8 of 27
Iowa 50/42 46/47 5.3   Obama Bush Gore None 3 of 4
Nevada 50/47 45/48 12.0   Obama Bush Bush Sen 2 of 4
New Hampshire 48/47 43/50 5.4 X Obama Kerry Bush Gov 2 of 2
Ohio 49/42 44/48 7.2 X Obama Bush Bush Sen 3 of 16
Virginia 50/43 46/48 5.9 X Obama Bush Bush Sen 1 of 11
Wisconsin 51/45 49/45 7.3   Obama Kerry Gore Sen 2 of 8

Approval/Disapproval Ratings are from Gallup Daily Tracking, January-June, 2012

All match race poll numbers were the most recent ones available on Real Clear Politics as of September 21, 2012, excluding polls conducted by Rasmussen. Many polls were done during and directly after the two Party conventions, making the poll data less reliable than usual.

Unemployment Rates via BLS for July 2012

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.

  Cook Cook Cook Rothenberg Wash Post
  4/24 7/2 9/2 9/2 9/2
Solid/Likely Dem 182 201 201 196 196
Lean Dem 45 45 36 41 41
Total 227 247 237 237 237
Toss Up 101 85 95 95 95
Lean GOP 19 15 15 15 36
Solid/Likely GOP 191 191 191 191 170
Total 210 206 206 206 206

InTrade Prediction Market

As of 9/20/12, the price per share being bid for Obama shares is $6.96, while the bid price for Romney shares is $3.03. The following are the percentage chances that Obama or Romney will win the election.

  1/12 2/16 3/20 4/26 8/15 9/20
Barack Obama 50.6 60.3 59.9 60.2 56.7 69.4
Mitt Romney -- -- -- 38.2 42.3 30.5

The Money (through August 31, 2012)

Spending limits

If you are at all interested in why Presidential candidates no longer participate in the Federal primary matching funds program, here is one reason: the spending limits that come with the matching funds.

Through August 31, 2012, essentially the end of the primary campaign for both candidates, President Obama had spent $345.7 million and Governor Romney spent $228.9 million.

If they had participated in the Federal primary matching funds program for the 2012 election, they would have been limited to spending $45.6 million plus 35% for the cost of fundraising and compliance, a total of $61.7 million.

Looking ahead to the general election, a candidate accepting the Federal general election grant in 2012 would be limited to spending $91.2 million dollars. Future editions of the WW will report general election spending as compared to this amount.

The following compares the two Presidential campaigns and each of their national Party committees through August 31st of this 2011-12 election cycle. Effectively, Obama has controlled the DNC throughout this period, and Romney has taken control of his national Party mechanism since he became the putative nominee. It also compares the two Super PACs specifically organized to support each of the two candidates. (Other Super PACs, as well as non-disclosing 501(c )(4)s, are playing in this space as well.)

Notable is the cash advantage of Obama over Romney and the national Party advantage of the Republican National Committee over the Democratic National Committee. Obama started September with an $85 million to $35 million advantage over Romney. The RNC began September with a $77 million to $7 million advantage over the DNC. On balance, Romney + RNC had a $20 million advantage over Obama + DNC.

  Obama Romney
Raised $432,197,459 $279,343,000
Spent 345,723,446 228,921,635
Cash net of debt 85,855,201 35,434,404
Total raised $256,945,979 $301,054,269
Total spent 245,459,497 214,311,711
Cash net of debt 7,284,744 77,628,822
  Obama + DNC Romney + RNC
Raised $689,143,438 $580,397,269
Spent 591,182,943 443,233,346
Cash net of debt 93,139,945 113,063,226

Also in play for the Presidential candidates are the two Super PACs which were organized to support them in particular.

  Priorities USA Action (Supports Obama) Restore our Future (Supports Romney)
Raised $35,636,122 $96,667,002
Independent Expenditures 30,098,157 82,491,407
Cash net of debt 4,832,993 6,297,200

The First Debate

The coming debate is Mitt Romney’s third chance to change the dynamic of the Presidential contest.

The first two opportunities did not provide that change. Paul Ryan has faded into the background, as is usually the case with V.P. candidates of non-incumbents (Sarah Palin an exception). The Party conventions did not only not change the dynamic in Romney’s favor, they moved it in Obama’s favor.

The coming debates, particularly the first debate on October 3rd, is Romney’s third chance. Can he stand toe-to-toe with Obama on that stage for 90 minutes? From Obama’s point of view, the question is whether he can avoid lecturing and showing his irritation, a kind of cockiness that the public would be pleased to see lessened.

Do the Presidential debates have an effect on the race? Looking at the first Presidential debate in the last five Presidential elections, the answer is yes and no.

The chart below is based on Gallup data. (Keep in mind that the Gallup number is based on a rolling average.)

In one election, 2004, there was a substantial change from before and after the first debate. Among likely voters, the race went from an 8-point Bush lead to a dead-even race. In 2008, Obama went from a 3-point lead before the debate among registered voters to a 7-point lead after the debate.

There was not an appreciable change in the races before and after the first debate in the remaining elections.

Pre-Debate   1st Debate Post-Debate  

Obama 48 RV

McCain 45 RV

9/26/08 10/2/08

Obama 49 RV

McCain 42 RV


Bush 53 RV

Kerry 42 RV

9/30/04 10/3/04

Bush 49 RV

Kerry 47 RV


Bush 52 LV

Kerry 44 LV


Bush 49 LV

Kerry 49 LV


Gore 47 RV

Bush 39 RV

10/3/00 10/10/00

Gore 45 RV

Bush 40 RV


Gore 46 LV

Bush 44 LV


Gore 45 LV

Bush 45 LV


Clinton 54 RV

Dole 35 RV

Perot 5 RV

10/6/06 10/12/96

Clinton 55 RV

Dole 34 RV

Perot 5 RV


Clinton 54 LV

Dole 36 LV

Perot 5 LV


Clinton 53 LV

Dole 35 LV

Perot 4 LV


Clinton 50 RV

Bush 34 RV

Perot 9 RV

10/11/12 10/14/92

Clinton 47 RV

Bush 32 RV

Perot 15 RV

Odds and Ends on the Campaign Trail

There are signs that voters who earlier in the year were not prepared to vote to re-elect Obama have looked at Romney and decided it is not worth taking a chance on him. As one astute observer said, “They are now working to find a way to be comfortable with voting for Obama.”

Satisfaction with how things are going in the U.S. is at 30%, the highest it has been since August 2009, when it was 36%. Since then it has been as low as 11% in September 2011. [Gallup]

In the most recent NBC/WSJ survey (9/12-16):

* 38% say the country is better off today then when Obama became President. This is up from 31% in August.

* 42% think the economy will get better in the next 12 months, up from 27% who had that view in July, and 36% who had that view in August.

* 47% think Obama will do better than Romney on Medicare, up from 42% in July.

* 45% think Obama will do better deal with taxes than Romney, up from 40% in July.

* 43% think Obama will do a better job in dealing with the economy, up from 37% in July.

The Tea Party

* Only 22% of respondents consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party Movement. This is the lowest support number recorded since the survey started asking this question in September 2010. The high point was 30% in October and November of that year.

Eating Their Young

The Romney campaign has reached what might be called “the eating their young” phase of the campaign. A variety of Conservative/Republican pundits, media commentators, and conservative organization leaders have taken to pummeling the Romney campaign. Little do they realize, or perhaps they don’t care, but they are doing Obama’s work for him. At any rate, when you see or hear their comments, ask one question – has the person doing the talking been willing to expose him or herself to the public report card of running for office. With the exception of Joe Scarborough, if they have run for office, it does not show up in a casual search.

Ann Romney recently said it best, during an Iowa radio interview, in regards to Republicans who have criticized Mitt Romney and his campaign. “Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring.”

Early Voting & Limiting Voting

Early voting has started in half the country. As many as 40% of the total votes cast in the election may be cast before election day, November 6. 34 States and the District of Columbia allow early voting of one kind or another without providing a reason. 33% of votes cast in 2008 were from early voters. This is up from 15% of votes being cast early in 2000. In two states, Oregon and Washington, all voting is done by mail.

The effectiveness of the Obama campaign’s early voting efforts in 2008 resulted in a number of States, led by Republican governors and legislatures, to pass measures which Democrats say are designed to limit early voting. Several Republican legislatures passed voting limit legislation to see it vetoed by Democratic governors.

In addition, in many of the same States, legislation was passed requiring a photo I.D. in order to vote. For a variety of reasons, some people do not have photo I.D.s. For example, senior citizens who do not drive have no particular reason to have a photo I.D. The process of obtaining these photo I.D.s can be time consuming and difficult, and there is usually a fee involved. Some have argued that the fee is equivalent to a poll tax.

The various efforts to limit voting or make it more difficult arguably have a disproportionate impact on blacks and Hispanics. Those who follow this issue in most detail have suggested that these efforts are designed to change the outcome of the election in a number of battleground States.

A number of these laws were and are being challenged in court, and some have been judicially constrained, but others remain in place.

As with all potentially close elections, it comes down to voter turnout. So far, the public interest is lagging the level of interest at this same time in 2008 and 2004.

On a “10” point scale on which ten means you are very interested in the election and “1” means you are not at all interested, here is a September to September comparison:

  Sept 2012 Sept 2008 Sept 2004
10 & 9 combined


78% 78%
10, 9 & 8 combined


87% 87% [NBC/WSJ 9/12]

However, Gallup reports that enthusiasm for voting in the election is growing.

  June September
All Registered voters


Swing State registered voters


Democrats 53% 73%
Independents 25% 43%
Republicans 55% 64%

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