Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Summing up our 2012 polls to date

Over the last month we've polled on the 2012 Presidential race in eight swing states- Montana, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

Barack Obama won those places by an average of 6 points in 2008, a margin pretty similar to what he earned in the national popular vote that year. Our polls have found wide disparities so far in how the different Republican contenders do against Obama in these states:

-Mitt Romney does the best, trailing Obama by an average of less than 1%. He fares better than John McCain did in all 8 of the states. His most striking results are in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Obama won all of those places by double digits in 2008 but leads Romney by 5 points or less in each of them. It looks like Romney is the GOP's best hope at this point for being competitive in the Midwest.

-Mike Huckabee does the next best, trailing Obama by an average of just under 2%. He improves upon John McCain's performance in all of the states except for Minnesota, where he matches it. The most eye catching thing in Huckabee's numbers is that he wins comfortably in Montana (by 10) and Missouri (by 7) where McCain just barely won in 2008 as well as flipping North Carolina (where he leads by 4) back into the GOP column.

-Newt Gingrich does about the same as Obama did in these right states, trailing by an average of 6.5%. In three of the states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Missouri) he does better than McCain did, in three of them (Ohio, Minnesota, Virginia) he does worse, and in two of them (North Carolina and Montana) he does the same. At this point if Gingrich was the nominee the electoral map would look basically identical to 2012.

-Sarah Palin is the only one of the Republicans who fares a good deal worse than John McCain did across these eight states, trailing by an average of just under 10 points. In 6 of the 8 states Obama's performance is better against Palin than it was in 2008 and in just two of them (Wisconsin and Montana) does Palin match McCain's performance. There aren't any states where she does better than he did. The Palin numbers are most striking in North Carolina where a small victory for Obama in 2008 is a much more comfortable lead for him against Palin, and in Missouri where Obama narrowly lost against McCain but leads Palin by a wider margin.

Taken as a whole these numbers show that if the election was today:

-Romney or Huckabee as a nominee would lead to something pretty close to a toss up race, with perhaps the narrowest of advantages for Obama.

-Gingrich as the nominee would lead to a race very similar to 2008.

-Palin as the nominee would lead Obama to a wider victory margin and allow him to pick up at least one state where he fell short the last time around.

Here's the full data on our swing state polls so far:


2008 Vote

















North Carolina





































Chuck T said...

Overall I'd have to say the results for Obama must be considered encouraging. This is the low point in his presidency having just lost the House. His approval ratings are in the mid 40s, unemployment is at 9.8% and yet he wins most of those states including two--Ohio and Wisconsin which were just horrible for the Democrats this year. He does about as well in Virginia as he did in 2008--a state that was a GOP stronghold for 40 years until Obama won it in '08. He is doing fairly well in North Carolina (only one who wins, narrowly, is Huck). If the economy begins to perform much more strongly in 2011 and 2012 (and signs are encouraging of late, except for the jobless numbers), he has an excellent chance to be re-elected in 2012--perhaps, depending on the nominee, by a comfortable margin.

NRH said...

A great deal will come down to what kind of primary campaign these candidates run. Huckabee starts out with the great advantage of having his base be in the area thickest with extra Republican delegates - the Confederate states. He can run heavily on social values and carry the entire region comfortably, which makes up nearly half of the Republican delegates already. The more easily he wins the primary, though, the harder his road will be in the general, as independents in the upper Midwest aren't big enthusiasts of that kind of message. His unorthodox economic ideas won't win Wall Street to his side, either, something Republicans tend to need to run strongly.

Romney has the potential to pick off a few of the blue-tilting states, but he doesn't excite the base enough to secure red-tilting states like Virginia and North Carolina. He's a much weaker primary candidate due to the location of his supporters (states without many extra delegates for Republican Congressional representation or Presidential voting history) and because he'll have to defend government-run healthcare all primary long.

In either case, having Virginia and Colorado in the (D) column makes for an extremely difficult electoral map for any Republican candidate (and the growth of NoVa isn't going away, nor the Denver growth that flipped Colorado so decisively). A Republican candidate could (relative to McCain's states) pick up North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, the last Nebraska electoral vote, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and still lose 267-271. That would be a near-complete run of the swing-state table plus picking up two states that normally are strongly Democratic at the presidential level, and still losing.

Bottom line, either one (or any other Republican candidate) has to not just run better in the midwest, they have to win it outright, or else find a way to get Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia back into the red. It's mathematically a long-shot otherwise.

DBL said...

I don't know where you're getting your delegate count, but the eight biggest delegate states are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio. While some of Florida and Texas have some of Huckabee's values' base, they aren't like Mississippi or Georgia. Even if you count those two as well as Missouri and Kentucky as confederate states, you only get about 800 delegates, less than 1/3 of the 2,421 out there.

McCain got the nomination with California, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut on Super Tuesday. Romney doesn't need the south.

In the general I think Nevada and Colorado are firmly blue, but the 2009 Virginia election and 2010 congressional elections showed us that the state still exists outside the DC Metro.

Republicans blew the Democrats out in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota this year. While the electorate will be different in 2012, all seven of those were Obama states.

If Romney were to take only Pennsylvania, Michigan (his home state), Florida, North Carolina, and Indiana, he'd have 270.

Bush won 286-252, but, based on 2012 electoral votes that'd be 292-246. Romney could still lose a couple of them. If Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin become toss-ups the Presidency is up in the air.

Greg in Ohio said...

Before Democrats start popping their champaigne corks, just remember 4 years ago today the polls were McCain 60% Obama 35%. The winner of the Republican Primaries will get a boost from winning the Primaries.

Dustin Ingalls said...

Greg, I don't remember it ever being that overwhelming, but that was the case because few people knew who Obama was then. Palin and Gingrich are as well known now, or almost, as Obama is, and Huckabee and Romney are also very well known. They've gotten a lot of TV face time from previous races and from their stints (except Romney) on Fox News.

NRH said...

@DBL - apparently my total count wasn't adding in the 10 at-large delegates each state starts with, just the bonus and congressional allocation. 800 delegates is much closer to half of 1900 delegates than 2400. Excel, thou blaggard, do what I want, not what I tell you to do...

Amar said...

Republicans are going to nominate a dope.

Obama is going to wipe the floor with them (again).

Most 'presidential' (in cadence, and especially temperament) president in a long time.

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