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November 4, 2012 / Political Fluency

The Electorate is Willing to Fire Obama

“Cause the good news is You’re Fired.”

–          Glengarry Glen Ross

Back in mid-April, Sean Trende created a very helpful chart that detailed President Obama’s Job Approval percentage and matched it up with Obama’s percentage head-to-head against Mitt Romney for all polls from January through April 8th where both questions were asked.

It showed further evidence that this election is just like every other election with an incumbent where the voters ask themselves two questions. The first is “Do I approve of the job the incumbent is doing?” and if the answer is “Yes” for 50% + 1 (or more) then the incumbent will almost always win. If the answer is “No” then voters ask themselves “Is the challenger an acceptable candidate for the job?” and if the answer to that second question is also “Yes” for 50% +1 (or more), then the incumbent will almost always lose.

In mid-April, President Obama was running, on average, .93% better than his Job Approval rating – almost exactly the increase George W. Bush saw in his final Approval rating average of 49.8% and his actual share of the vote the next day of 50.7% in 2004.

However, the majority of those polls in the first quarter of this year were of Adults let alone Registered Voters let alone Likely Voters. Seven months later with exclusively Likely Voter screens is showing Obama in a very different position.


Taking Trende’s chart, I updated the data from the past month beginning with the polls taken after the first debate on October 3rd.

Looking at just Obama’s Approval Rating over this time period, it seemed that Obama was going to win reelection as he averaged a 49.4% – just shy of George W. Bush’s 49.8% number that secured his reelection. But Obama’s vote percentage decreases from his Approval, on average, by -1.9%. Even taking out the -4% outliers from Fox News and the Associated Press still shows a decrease in Obama’s vote compared to his Approval of -1.4%.

Unlike the disparity from the polls in the beginning of the year, not one poll over the past 30 days showed an increase in Obama’s share of the vote from his Job Approval. There are 1.4 – 1.9% of Likely Voters literally telling pollsters they approve of the job Obama is doing, but were hesitant to say they were voting for him in the same conversation. It seems that whatever Obama’s Approval rating is tomorrow on November 5th, we can expect him to lose a point or more in the popular vote the next day.

Maybe the electorate is saying, “You’re a really great guy, but I met someone else and I need to see where it goes.”  And they’re only going to say that second part if Romney closed the deal, which will be discussed in the Election Prediction post.

October 29, 2012 / Political Fluency

Obama’s Firewall

[Heavily armed soldiers reach their enemy target]

Rabinowitz: [Reaching over a picket fence] It’s locked. From the inside.
Harbinger: Blow it.
Rabinowitz: It’s not our property.

–          Hot Shots Part Deux

President Obama has overperformed in many swing states compared to national polling against Mitt Romney. A number of these states were being called Obama’s Firewall because even though Romney was surging in the popular vote, he wouldn’t win the electoral college according to polls conducted in the swing states where Obama was still holding a lead. However, states poll less frequently than national polls so those polls lagged the national trends by several days. Once Romney began surging over Obama in those swing state polls, pundits began to doubt the strength of the Firewall.

Nate Silver called the Firewall brittle. Mike Murphy on Meet the Press called it a picket fence and inspired the quote above.

While the Firewall has been broken through in most swing states, I ultimately disagree with both of them. I think Obama’s firewall is substantial in Ohio. Take a look at Obama’s loss of support in swing states:

Let me explain the one column that’s seemingly out of place. Gubernatorial elections usually have the least correlation to the choices the voters make for their federal representatives in the House, Senate, and the Presidency. For example, Republicans won 4 consecutive gubernatorial elections (1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002) with 3 different candidates in Massachusetts!

But we can combine data analysis with intuition and experience. With President Obama not “let[ting] a crisis go to waste,” he signed the controversial $787 billion stimulus with almost no input or support from Republicans in March 2009 and plans were quickly hatched for a massive health care bill that has been a Democrat dream legislation for 70 years before finally passing it without any Republican support and through controversial means in March 2010. With the rise of unprecedented activism of conservatives through the Tea Party movement, the 2010 gubernatorial races were much more nationalized than in typical off-cycle years and just the fact that 2010 was an excellent Republican year affects races at all levels in that year.

This sets up the most salient point of the data above: Obama has lost massive support in the Midwest and in Pennsylvania, Ohio’s neighbor to the east that shares its concern for the coal mining industry that Obama has shown lukewarm support to. All of the states highlighted followed the trend of voting to change their governor from Democrat to Republican during Obama’s Presidency. Ohio is in the middle of these states, but Obama has significantly mitigated his loss off support there compared to surrounding states. How?

Most pundits’ explanation for the Ohio Firewall is the auto bailout supported by Obama that saved the largest number of auto industry jobs in Ohio compared to any other state except… Michigan! Even though Michigan retained the most auto jobs, the state still reduced its support for Obama by triple the amount that he has lost in Ohio. So how is Obama retaining enough support to still win the state if the election were held today?

Let me separate myself from the other pundits by saying, “I don’t know.” It certainly isn’t that Ohio polls are lagging the national polls as there has been a plethora of polling in that state. And it’s very surprising to see the state that voted 1.5% lower than Obama’s 2008 national vote percentage to suddenly be supporting him at 1.6% above his current national polling number. Note that this 3.1% swing in Obama’s favor is well outside the margin of error because RCP’s average might have a .5% margin of error or less since the sample is so high when they combine so many polls.


A clearer way to show the Firewall is in the race to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the Presidency. These are the most updated polls that show what would happen if the election were held today.

Romney’s electoral college gains are read from top to bottom. In other words, he’ll win Indiana to attain 181 electoral votes “before” he wins Missouri when he’ll then have 191 electoral votes up until he likely wins Virginia to attain 257 electoral votes.

Obama’s electoral college gains are read in the opposite direction from the bottom to the top. He’ll win New Mexico to attain 201 electoral votes “before” he wins Nevada for his 207th electoral vote up until he likely wins Michigan for his 263rd electoral vote.

Let me explain why Ohio is the demarcation at 48.6%. The 2012 election is like the previous two presidential elections in 2004 and 2008 where there isn’t a credible 3rd party challenger this year that would take a significant percentage of the vote as there was in 1992 and 1996 (Ross Perot) and in 2000 (Ralph Nader). In the close election of 2004, only 1% of the vote went to a candidate outside of the two major political parties and even in the landslide election of 2008, which afforded voters an opportunity to voice a protest to the Two Party System, only 1.5% of the vote went to 3rd party candidates.

The narrowest victories by state in the 2004 and 2008 Presidential elections actually went to the loser. John Kerry managed to win Wisconsin by .38% with 49.70% of the vote. And the closest state in 2008 was John McCain’s victory in Missouri by .13% as he garnered 49.36% of the vote.

The expectation for 2012 should be the same as the prior two elections. That means a candidate must at least acquire about 49.3% of the vote to win the state. Ohio at 48.6% for the incumbent is close enough to give Obama the edge while the other states might be out of reach.

We only have one point of reference of a final RCP average of all polls for an incumbent President before the election and that is in 2004 when George W. Bush finished with a 48.9% average and received 50.7% of the actual vote. That’s a 1.8% increase, if that same amount is given to Obama’s RCP average in each state that would put Colorado and Virginia above the 49.3% needed to win both of them along with Ohio. I’m not giving him that much and that will be explained in the next post.

One last thing to note is this chart is indicating Romney to win the popular vote and just barely lose the electoral college vote as Obama wins Ohio by the slightest of margins.

October 28, 2012 / Political Fluency

Event #6 – The Disappearing GDP Report

This was going to be the least-important event of the month to begin with and it was buried so badly by Hurricane Sandy coverage that it won’t affect the race at all.

The report itself was a Rorschach test of 2% growth. President Obama will continue his meme of slow, steady growth moving us Forward and that “we can’t turn back now.” Governor Romney will continue his meme of “this is not what a recovery looks like. We need a real recovery.”

This was better than the expected 1.8% growth forecasted by economists so a slight win for Obama on this event.

October 23, 2012 / Political Fluency

Event #5 Review – Reasonable Romney


With the two candidates physically sitting and the tertiary topic of foreign policy for the entire 90 minutes, we didn’t see any of the fireworks we saw in the other debates over the economy. Since Obama continued a lot of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, both men share a lot of the same opinions on military strategy such as the timetables exiting Iraq and Afghanistan.

Romney and his campaign have done an excellent job this month of prosecuting the case against Obama’s four years in office. However, the Romney campaign has only done a good job of explaining a vision of what the next 4 years would look like under a President Romney. He took his few chances to do this last night including in his closing statement and by repeatedly stating his 5 point plan for America to: become energy independent, have more favorable trade policies, better educate and train workers, reduce the size of government and its debt, and champion small business.

One of the chances he missed was to elaborate point 1 on becoming energy independent with an emphasis on the Keystone Pipeline that we would share with Canada. Another chance he missed was to also get off the mechanical script of just listing point 2 by emphasizing specific countries besides China that we would have better trade with.

Add in that Romney described the Middle East as being in “tumult” 5 times – including twice in one answer – all makes me feel like Obama won on points again.


It’s very easy to get caught up in politics and root for your side at the expense of observing what is actually going on with the undecided electorate. This happened with Democrats who were rightfully enthused about Obama’s second debate performance when he beat Mitt Romney, but neglected to realize that Romney’s answer explaining how he was different than George W. Bush may have made him the decisive favorite to win the election.

Having followed politics since 1992, I have tried my best to not let my conservative instincts override my objectivity in analyzing the Greatest Show on Earth. Unfortunately that didn’t happen when I thought for sure that Romney would attack Obama on the assassination of our ambassador in Libya. It was something I looked forward to in order for Romney to make up for his worst moment in the debates that coincided with Obama’s best moment with an assist from Candy Crowley. It just felt like the drama of the past month was leading up to a segue of the second debate into the third debate to begin with more arguments over Libya and this time, Romney would be ready with at least the timeline and a zinger or two to get Obama rattled in the very beginning.

Instead, Romney did the smart thing and didn’t get into the Libya controversy. While watching last night, I thought he flailed during his answer and missed an opportunity to attack Obama on a recent vulnerability. It soon became obvious that Romney wanted to just look reasonable and even agreeable to increase voters comfort level with him.  Foreign policy is very low on the voter’s priority list and hammering the President on the Benghazi attack may have come across as too aggressive when Romney has already been aggressive in the previous two debates and needed to look calm in this debate.

He had to back off of the Alpha Male routine that he got carried away with in the second debate like when he asked the President a question directly on Libya and they went all the way with this strategy. Romney had potential landmines by seeming hawkish about Syria and Iran. He could very easily have made a gaffe that made it seem like he is a NeoCon that wants to start another war when this country is totally fatigued with war.

As a result, Romney backed off to begin the debate. He is a momentum candidate. You saw it when he got excited right after picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, when he went all out in the first debate, and when he found his footing in the second and third debates after a few minutes. Looking back, it would’ve been a mistake to start out in attack mode and risk being in Alpha mode later on leading to a misstep.

Here’s an elaboration by one of the most politically fluent guys around, Keith Koffler.

October 20, 2012 / Political Fluency

Event #4 Review – Obama Did Better, But Not Better Enough

It’s sometimes

October 16, 2012 / Political Fluency

Event #4 Preview – How Romney Can Become the Clear Favorite Tonight

Alexis Simendinger offers a lot of helpful advice for President Obama in tonight’s debate.

One pointer applies to both men:

Town-hall sessions demand storytelling, not PowerPoint slides, and if a candidate tells a story that favors his candidacy while interacting with the audience in front of him, he wins. Reality TV is hugely popular, and Obama and Romney may see Tuesday night’s conversation as a way to tell their stories through the perspectives of the men and women in the room with them.

This is what makes the town-hall difficult for both candidates tonight. Mitt Romney has trouble connecting with average folks while Obama needs to be aggressive and even attack Romney tonight. Similar to how George Lucas spent a lot of time in Episode II – Attack of the Clones just getting his prequel story back on track from the abomination that was Episode I – The Phantom Menace, President Obama’s complete no-show performance in the first debate sets him so far back that Romney may be able to win for two reasons.

The first is that Obama being aggressive and attacking the man sharing the stage with him are two things that could be a turn-off with regular people sitting that close. And the second reason is my advice for Romney.

Romney can win the debate in the first few questions with a statement or series of statements along the lines of

“You saw the President debate me two weeks ago when he wanted to just move on to another topic and didn’t want to discuss his failed record over the past 4 years and his plans for more of the same failed policies in the next 4 years. Last week you saw his Vice President Joe Biden who was laughing and interrupting during serious discussions about our economy and jobs and our foreign policy. What you saw was an Administration that is out of ideas. Their vision for the next 4 years is what happened these past 4 years: bigger goverment, more spending on stimulus plans that don’t work, using federal subsidies to give money to their friends  in companies like Solyndra that go bankrupt, and a job-killing Obamacare plan that gets fully implemented 15 months from now. All this Administration has done in this campaign is attack and demonize me and my running mate Paul Ryan. That’s all they can do with no new ideas and a failed record of the old ideas. It’s time for new ideas and a new Administration to get on the road to a robust recovery with 12 million new jobs and I’m the one that can do that.”

I knew Romney was running a rope-a-dope campaign and that was smart, but I am shocked he took this long to begin punching back. Now that the blows are landing, we are going to have a tight contest that’s going to end in a split decision.

October 14, 2012 / Political Fluency

Event 3 – Vice Presidential Debate – An Increase Your Fluency Post

If you hear politicians cite numbers or statistics, they are lying to you.

If you don’t hear politicians cite numbers or statistics, they are really lying to you.

The Fact Check on Thursday’s debate