If the Election Were Held Today, September 4, 2012

This week’s edition of “If the Election Were Held Today” comes after the Republican National Convention last week and on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.  A national convention is a week of tightly controlled media coverage focused around the stars of each party.  Its a massive celebration of their candidate and their agenda with almost no chance for rebuttal from the other side.  As such, it represents a high tide of sorts.  Not a high tide in terms of the best that a candidate can expect to do in the polls but a high tide in terms of momentum.  That momentum can carry them through to win, but my feeling is that if a candidate isn’t at least gaining ground in a state after their convention, their chances of picking up traction in the last 8 weeks of the campaign are pretty slim.  So with that said by way of introduction, here is the map as it stands now:

As before, our rubric is as follows:

  • Candidate has 20 pt or greater lead in a state:  “Solid”
  • Candidate has between 10 and 20 pt lead in a state:  “Likely”
  • Candidate has between a 5 and 10 pt lead in a state:  “Leans”
  • Candidates are polling within 5 points of one another in a state:  “toss up” or “too close to call.”

We should also note that I am basing the categorization of each state on the most recent polling data available.  Several states in the “leaning” category that have traditionally voted red are states that have not been polled in quite some time.  They are in actuality probably more likely to vote for Romney than I have indicated, but lacking the data to demonstrate that we have kept them in the “leaning” category.

Based on recent updates in polling, we can note that Missouri is back in the “leaning Romney” column and Michigan is back in the “leaning Obama” column.  Nevada has moved back into the “toss-up” column.  Of the toss-up states, only North Carolina shows Romney up in recent polls.  So if the election were held today and those numbers held, the best Romney could hope for would be 206 in the electoral college, with Obama taking  332 electoral votes.

However, given what I said about momentum, I want this week to introduce what we might call a “Best Case Scenario” prediction.  Keeping in mind that we do not have post-RNC polling data for the toss-up states of Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nevada, the polling data we do have indicates that Romney has gained slightly in Florida, Colorado, and Missouri (which we have already moved into the “leaning” column) following the convention.  It wasn’t the bump the Republicans were hoping for (the up-tick in each state is still within the margin of error on the polls, so it might only be a statistical anomaly) but assuming it was real and Romney was able to carry that momentum through to win in those states (plus North Carolina were he is currently still polling slightly ahead) Romney’s Best Case Scenario for this week is to win 244 electoral votes, meaning Obama would win the general election with 294 electoral votes.

The obvious caveat is that our data is very incomplete at the moment.  We will know more next week (and will also get a glimpse of what Obama’s momentum coming out of the convention looks like).  However, the data at the moment does not look good for the Republican candidate.  An important balancing perspective to this, however, is to note that should the election go to Obama 294-244 it represents a significant decline in his support from four years ago when we won against McCain 359-179.

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