If the Election Were Held Today, 10-16-2012

Odd non-sequiter to start this off: while I was preparing this post there was a small (4.5 magnitude) earthquake in southern Maine which could be felt (albeit, just barely) across New England.  So I now have had the very weird experience of typing a post while experiencing an earthquake…

On to the post itself!

Last week we saw a tremendous swing in the electoral math as a result of the first presidential debate the week before.  The second debate is tonight, obviously too soon to know anything about its impact (thought we’ll see that next week, I’m sure).  But the question we might ask tonight is whether the VP debate that happened last week has had any impact on the race.  The short answer seems to be, not much.

Here is the map as it stands now (including toss-ups):

As in weeks past, our criteria (based on the most recent state polls) 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”

What this map reflects is a bit of a stabilization from last week.  The big swings of momentum that followed the first debate have died off and in the traditionally close states the race has once again become very close.  The result, as you can see on the map above, is an apparent loss of ground by Romney (180 votes compared to 206 last week) because many toss-up states that had just crossed the threshold to being counted in his column have now dropped back into the toss-up column.  However, when we do away with toss-ups and look at the most recent trends to assign each state to a column, the map still looks very different than it did two weeks ago:

As you can see, this is an incredibly close race.  At the moment there are no states in which momentum suggests a possible flip from the scenario above, so Obama comes out this week as most likely winning the electoral college.  That may suggest that Biden’s performance in the VP debate helped stop the bleeding, but I don’t think the evidence is conclusive.  My sense is that this “stabilization” would have happened two weeks out whether there had been an intervening VP debate or not.  What this map shows is that while if the election were held tonight it would most likely go Obama’s way, the race is still close enough that it is anybody’s game.  Another poor performance for the President in the debate tonight, resulting in another week of momentum going all Romney’s way, could mean that next week the map looks even more red.

One final bit of interesting analysis to add to this is that based on the most recent national polls Romney has gained the lead (not much of a lead, average of polls in the last week is Romney 48 to Obama 47, but still the lead) which suggests that if the election were held today there is a strong possibility of Obama winning the electoral college and Romney winning the popular vote.

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