Tag Archives: African-Americans

The Post-Motems Continue to Roll In

The exit polling data around election day has a notoriously wide margin of error, so as the “final” data comes rolling in, most notably through the Current Population Survey, more accurate inferences can be drawn from an election it is still hard to fathom that Barack Obama won.  This AP news write-up draws more of the same conclusions many of us already know: white people stayed home, african-americans voted in droves, wash, rinse, repeat:

America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.

Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.

Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year’s heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, analyzed the 2012 elections for the AP using census data on eligible voters and turnout, along with November’s exit polling. He estimated total votes for Obama and Romney under a scenario where 2012 turnout rates for all racial groups matched those in 2004. Overall, 2012 voter turnout was roughly 58 percent, down from 62 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2004.

The Battlegrounds:

Romney would have erased Obama’s nearly 5 million-vote victory margin and narrowly won the popular vote if voters had turned out as they did in 2004, according to Frey’s analysis. Then, white turnout was slightly higher and black voting lower.

More significantly, the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and Colorado would have tipped in favor of Romney, handing him the presidency if the outcome of other states remained the same.

Why So Many Failed to Predict the Reelection

The Battle for Jacksonville

Previously I blogged Duval County, the home of Jacksonville, but never just this important city in Northern Florida.  It is one of the few competitive area is the state not along the I-4 corridor.  Size-wise the city is the largest in the US but its population density doesn’t match the traditional “big cities.”  At the same time the area retains a better diversity than  other urban areas thanks to its beach proximity and downtown feel.  From a journalistic standpoint there is some subtle comedy in the piece.  The Obama supporters are either campaign staffers or obviously phony “Republicans” while the Romney supporters are all 2008 Obama voters. I guess they tried to get a balance but couldn’t find “man on the street” Obama supporters. Here is the Associated Press look at the Battle for Jacksonville:

Eric Allen was 18 and voting in his first presidential election when he chose Barack Obama over John McCain. Four years older now and looking for a job, he is just the kind of voter Republican Mitt Romney needs to win — and win big — in northeast Florida’s Duval County and take the most coveted of the toss-up states. “I voted for him last time just to see the change,” Allen says of Obama, “and there was no change.”

2008 surprise

The Obama campaign targeted the Jacksonville area with surprising success in 2008, nearly equaling Republican John McCain in Duval County votes as Obama carried the state. Whether Obama can do as well again may determine if he takes Florida a second time — and with it a second term. In GOP regions of swing states, Republicans must turn out in huge numbers to overcome Democratic advantages elsewhere. Republican-friendly regions like southeast Ohio and southwest Virginia share northeast Florida’s mission of overwhelming Democrats at the polls.

Must win for Romney

For both campaigns, Florida is one of the keys to winning the White House. It’s even more important for Romney, whose paths to Electoral College victory are few without the state’s 29 votes. Even though each side has already spent $60 million on TV and radio ads, Republicans are expected to spend even more than Democrats in the campaign’s final weeks. Polling shows a tight race in Florida with Obama slightly ahead in some surveys, making the Democrat’s turnout in Duval County essential to his overall strategy.

Democrat resurgence in Jacksonville

Sprawling and traditionally conservative, the Jacksonville area went for Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980. After that, Democrats all but conceded Duval County, with its Southern feel and strong military presence. Obama, however, persuaded enough moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats and independents to give his message of hope and change a chance to cancel out the usual Republican advantage there. The Democratic campaign was more competitive in 2008 in part because it built excitement in Duval County’s large black community with voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts to support the nation’s first black presidential candidate on a major party ticket. Duval County has more than 516,000 registered voters out of a total population of about 871,000. The percentage of black residents, 29.8, is nearly double the statewide figure. The campaign will have to keep the same enthusiasm among black voters to keep Duval competitive.

Republicans counterattack

Republicans are trying to put more resources toward restoring the overwhelming turnout they’ve enjoyed for almost a generation. “We have to drive up the score here so that we can make sure that we make up ground in other areas,” Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus said in Jacksonville in August. “We’re going to have a plan in this county to not just win, but to try to win as big as possible. Winning here isn’t enough. You have to do great in places you’re strong.” The Romney campaign didn’t wait for the former Massachusetts governor to secure the nomination to set up a presence in the city. Unlike McCain, who was far outspent, they’re matching the huge resources Obama is pumping into the area, said Brett Doster, a Florida-based political consultant who is advising the campaign and ran George W. Bush’s 2004 Florida campaign. Along with a stronger ground game — Doster says it’s bigger and better organized than when Bush carried Duval County by 61,000 votes — the Romney campaign believes it will be able to win back Republicans who supported Obama.

Lost that lovin feeling

Lynn Fernandez, a shoe repair shop owner and a Republican who voted for Obama four years ago. Now she’s voting for Romney. While she blamed Congress for lack of progress in Washington, she’s taking it out on the president and hoping, not so optimistically, that a change can break Washington gridlock. “Whoever gets in there is still going to have a difficult time because we’re in such a mess. No matter how hard a president fights, he still has to fight the Senate and Congress,” said Fernandez, 58. “I voted for Obama last time. Not that he didn’t try. We’ve dug ourselves in such a big hole it’s going to be a long time before we get out of it no matter who gets in there.” Larry Mordecai Jr., a 49-year-old Republican who until recently worked in the mortgage industry, said he was proud to vote for Obama in 2008 because the country was divided and he liked Obama’s enthusiasm. He thought he would be an inspirational president. While he hasn’t completely made up his mind, Mordecai is leaning toward Romney and wants to watch the debates before making a decision. “I’m highly disappointed. It’s going to take a lot of convincing on President Obama’s part to really sway me in that direction,” Mordecai said. “I’m not enthusiastic about either party and most of that would have to do with my lack of confidence in Congress.”

Note, there is one other voter quoted in the piece who is labeled a Republican that supported Obama in 2008 and is doing so again this time.  I will wager any sum of money that person is flat out lying and is a staunch Democrat.  This is much like the many fake Republicans in Obama ads that have been busted time and again.

Hiding the Decline: What Polls Over-Sampling Democrats Mask

The over-sampling of Democrats in today’s polls most likely hides a sharp decline in support for President Obama among White voters. If President Obama’s support level among White voters dips a single percent or two below 40, his road to re-election would be in jeopardy. The national polling results today showing President Obama with support levels among Whites between 40-44% likely over-sample support for President Obama by 4% to 8% among this demographic. Poll re-weighting by race achieves an accurate demographic make-up for the United States in 2012 but almost certainly a wholly unrealistic split between self-identified Democrats and Republicans. Because the accurate re-weighting of polls by race often achieves political splits that are not credible, polling organizations give rise to accusations of bias when in reality better selected sample inputs would most likely achieve more credible end results but also meaningfully worse results for the President.

Problems with polls

The majority of polling critiques this election cycle focus almost exclusively on the amount of Democrats versus Republicans surveyed with the observation invariably there are far too many Democrats in the sample. There is much in dispute around this complaint because most polling organizations do not weight polls by the party identification of respondents. Polling organizations argue the disproportionately high amount of Democrats sampled draws a sharp inference there are more Democrats in the overall electorate, not just in the sample size. While it is possible and even probable there are a few more self-identified Democrats in the American electorate (the average in elections since 1984 is 3% more Democrats), the great dispute is the unusually large disparity of Democrats showing up in today’s polls, often as much as 7 to 12% higher than Republicans among the respondents. There are many reasons to challenge this conclusion which I will discuss later, but if we assume these polls have too many Democrats, an interesting phenomenon appears among which Democrats are oversampled.

Most polling methodologies, including how polls are weighted once responses are collected, mirror the Gallup Organization who has been the standard bearer in the US for over 75 years. According to the organization, “After Gallup collects and processes survey data, each respondent is assigned a weight so that the demographic characteristics of the total weighted sample of respondents match the latest estimates of the demographic characteristics of the adult population available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Gallup weights data to census estimates for gender, race, age, educational attainment, and region.” Based on explanations like this there is little reason to suspect intentional political bias in the disparate party weighting, especially when they do not re-weight polls by party identification. Importantly, though, they do re-weight polls by race. This gives rise to some curious issues regarding support levels for the President today.

Racial demographics and voting preference in the US

In the 2008 election, the racial breakdown of the national voting public was 74% White, 12% Black, 9% Hispanic, 2% Asian, 3% Other. When a survey is conducted polling organization re-weight the respondent answers to ensure the each of these groups has accurate representation in the final results. Most national polls reflect this reality usually within a 1% variation for any group.

If you look how each one of these groups vote, you find outsized rates of support for Obama among the non-White groups: Blacks ~95%, Hispanics ~70, Asians ~65%. These levels of support for Democrats are consistent with most modern elections although President Obama has been able to boost these levels slightly above historic averages. In aggregate, non-White support for Obama is roughly 80% in nearly every survey. At the same time Obama, like Democrat Presidential candidates before him, struggles with the White vote. In these same polls, Obama typically averages 40-44% support among White voters. His 2008 support level was 43% and it is widely believed by the Obama campaign among others that he needs support of at least 40% Whites to win the election.

Low potential for over-sampling non-White support for Obama

If we consider the idea that polling today has large over-samples of Democrats, the consistently high percentage of support for Obama among non-Whites makes it almost impossible to over-sample minority groups. First there is not a lot of room for support increases and second, data on the voting trends in non-White groups is often achieved through demographic specific polling of solely Blacks or Hispanics for example. Hence, any over-samples in the non-White demographic would meaningfully alter the already high levels of support for Obama and reveal itself as inconsistent with independent polling. Additionally, any over-samples in the non-White demographic would almost certainly change the racial make-up of the survey and set off red-flags to anyone scrutinizing polls. Therefore it is highly unlikely over-sampled Democrat polls contain an excess amount of non-White voters.

White Democrats

This leaves only White Democrats as the over-represented respondent in these polls that arguably over-sample Democrats. If the average in election turnout since 1984 is 3% more Democrats and these polls have 7 to 11% more Democrats, that means the polls specifically have 4 to 8% more White Democrats surveyed in their likely voter results. The problem for the Obama campaign is if his support level among White voters (74% of the voting public) is between 40%-44% and that support is based on a sampling that over-states his support 4 to 8%, his real level of support is probably closer to 36% or 37%. This is meaningfully below the campaign’s own magic level of 40% and is a huge danger zone for any Presidential candidate no matter how much anyone may spin the demographic changes in today’s America.

Hiding the decline

The issue with the suspect polling internals and media embrace of the figures is the consistent lead for Obama would be immediately challenged if his support levels dropped dramatically among the outlined racial groups. Support levels of 60% among Hispanics (9% of the voting public) or 80% among Blacks (12% of the public) would jump off the page to poll watchers. The same holds true for support levels of 36/37% among Whites (74% of the voting public). It would be near impossible for Obama to win the Presidency with support levels like the ones I just outlined. Unfortunately support for President Obama among White voters has declined from 43% in 2008 to apparently as low as 36%-37% in today’s polls absent unrealistically high levels of self-identified Democrats. With White voters making up 73-74% of the electorate and support levels in the upper 30s, it is inconceivable President Obama has the advantage these polls lead readers to believe. But the results largely go unchallenged in the media despite the impractical internal party identification make-up.

Polling bias and Party identification

When we reflect on accusations of bias in polling based on party identification, it seems hard to justify when most organizations do not adjust their polls based on this metric. These organizations do, however, run the risk of confirmation bias where the media and polling firms have a predilection towards one candidate and upon achieving results they agree with fail to challenge outlier data like unrealistic Democrat turnout levels in 2012. Inconvenient poll compositions like the fantastical party identification of respondents shake the credibility of desired outcomes but no explanation is given for such oddities. This leaves more fair-minded poll watchers uneasy with the factual reporting on data with obvious internal issues while partisans react more strongly with bias accusations not substantiated based on the available data. The over-sampling of Democrats may not be showing the bias of polling organizations but it is likely hiding the decline of dwindling White support for Obama.

This only raises the question of where the polling firms are getting their samples from — possibly heavy Democrat districts — because the end results are party identification breakdowns unrealistic in today’s electorate. In 2008 seven percent more Democrats than Republicans identified themselves as such on election day, well above the historic average of 3%. This was a big change from 2004 when party identification was evenly split between the Democrats and Republicans. But there were many reasons for the strong Democrat turnout that do not exist today. The top of the ticket was a historic candidate (first Black President), America had war and Bush fatigue, the financial meltdown created an anti-Republican wave, and his opponent wasn’t the strongest (good biography, bad and underfunded candidate). These factors led to a strong Democrat self-identification advantage at the voting booth in 2008. But in the 2012 election, none of the advantages outlined above are there for Obama and many of those factors are now largely working against the President: 8%+ unemployment for three years, sub-2% GDP, 23 million unemployed, Arab Spring blowing up and casting the historic vote in 2008 is yesterday’s news. Additionally the Romney campaign ground game has exceeded the McCain campaign across many metrics as much as 10- to 15-fold.

Despite the stark changes in each of these factors, polling outfits thus far have consistently sampled an election turnout often greater than candidate Obama’s 2008 best-in-a-generation advantage.

That means something else is going on. But the polling organizations shrug their shoulders and have been found to say the losers in the results are just crying sour grapes. This is even though their sample outcomes have party identification splits unrealistic beyond any stretch of reason. Sadly no credible defense is given for the unusual party split in these results which gives rise to charges of bias whether intentional or accidental. If the polling firms believe today’s electorate will exceed the incredible 2008 advantage Obama achieved they should make the argument to justify results that contain suspect internal data. But they would also have to explain why the 2008 election gave Democrats massive majorities in the House of Representatives yet today’s electorate will likely return massive majorities in the House to Republicans. It defies all logic. But very likely due to “confirmation bias” the media and polling organizations report favorable results for President Obama without challenge.

There are many explanations for odd internal data in polls as well as the built in accuracy issues that come with the very nature of polling. As Michael Barone writes, “it’s getting much harder for pollsters to get people to respond to interviews. The Pew Research Center reports that it’s getting only 9 percent of the people it contacts to respond to its questions. That’s compared with 36 percent in 1997.” But consistently unrealistic sample outputs give rise to greater scrutiny from the polling outfits and media organizations who report the results uncritically for whatever their reasons may be.

About That Crumbling 2008 Coalition of Support for Obama — African-Americans

Yesterday we pointed out how support among both the Jewish community and youth vote are down substantially from their 2008 levels.  Now we get a look at the African-American community from the Economist regarding the often rocky relationship between Obama and this group and how it may impact turnout in 2012.  For both sides who either want to reflexively gripe about or use as a baseline the genuinely  incredible level of support in the Black community for Obama in 2008, take a moment to think about what it would be like if you were a minority in a country and experienced usually subtle but occasionally overt racism every day for 20 or 30 or 50 years and you finally get a chance to cast a ballot for someone of your race.  You would most likely crawl a mile over broken glass to cast that vote similar to the way Blacks voted in 2008.  With that historic vote cast, though, many demons are exorcised and 2012 doesn’t exactly have that same meaning. This group is still overwhelmingly Democrat, but the outsized turnout and support level likely can’t match the last election. That is my entire point when I talk about reduced turnout rates among Blacks expected at the voting booth this November:

It is hardly a secret that black voters love the president (though they may love his wife even more), but the relationship has not always been smooth. If Mr Obama is unique among American presidents, his biography makes him an outlier among black Americans too. He was descended not from slaves, but from an immigrant African father and a white mother. His mother raised him in Hawaii (just 2% black) and Indonesia. In 2007 Hillary Clinton had much higher favourable ratings among blacks than Mr Obama did. Many of Mr Obama’s earliest prominent supporters were white and Jewish, and indeed he has faced consistent criticism, first as a candidate and then as president, for being too aloof from the black community. As president, when Mr Obama has made his race an issue, he has often used it to challenge blacks in ways that a white politician could not. Last autumn he told the congressional black caucus (CBC) to “stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying.” Three years earlier, Candidate Obama delivered a Father’s Day speech at a black church in Chicago, telling black fathers that they needed to “realise that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. It’s the courage to raise one.” A couple of weeks later an open microphone picked up Jesse Jackson, a civil-rights icon who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1984, saying he wanted to “cut [Mr Obama’s] nuts off” for “talking down to black people”

[P]ressure from the black community has not entirely faded, and with good reason. The economic downturn has hit black Americans particularly hard. A Pew Research Centre study found that in 2009 the median wealth of a white household was 20 times higher than that of a black one: the largest gap since the federal government began tracking wealth data by race in 1984. The median wealth of black households had fallen by 53% over the preceding four years, compared with just 16% for white households. In August 2012 the unemployment rate for blacks was 14.1%. That was down from a high of 16.7% in August 2011, but it still far exceeded the national average of 8.1%.

Both the current and a former head of the CBC have mused that stubborn unemployment, combined with Mr Obama’s perceived aloofness to the high rates of black unemployment, may cause some black voters to stay at home on November 6th. (emphasis added)

The Reality of 2012 Voter Turnout: The White Voter

The largest divergence among conservative and liberal polling critics this election is the debate over who will actually show up at the voting booth this November. Differences between the amounts of Democrats versus Republicans included in the poll are frequent. But embedded in each of these assumptions are questions on the racial make-up and how that varies from election to election.  Democrats consistently talk about the “coalition of the ascendant” where the fastest growing segments of the population are minorities. As such they make up an ever-increasing segment of the voting population but also vote overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats.  With a shrinking white population and a growing minority population Democrats argue demography as destiny and count on political majorities for the coming generation. That may be true if everything in life moves in a straight line (it doesn’t) but is that true today?

This is the bone of contention between the competing Presidential campaigns and critics of today’s polls.  Democrats want to argue the steep increase in minority percentage of the voting electorate from 2008 election was a fundamental shift in the electorate whereas Republicans want to argue the steep increases were a one-off bounce. Both agree on the general direction of the trend.  Neither agree how severe that trend will be in 2012. This disagreement is the basis for Democrat over-confidence and lopsided polling today in an election where the two candidates are most likely within 1-2% of one another.

What’s missing in all this analysis is who did not show up in the 2008 election: White voters. Looking back at those results, every voter turnout rate by race (relative to eligible population) was up versus 2004 except the white vote according to Pew Research (April 30, 2009). Blacks were up +4.9%, Hispanics were up +2.7%, Asians were up +2.4%.  But the percentage of White voters who showed up at the polls relative to who was eligible dropped -1.1% (Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, May 2010).  This has nothing to do with minorities making up more or less of the electorate.  This is simply saying from 2004 to 2008 White voter registration (which actually dropped 104k) and actual turnout of White voters (which increased 500k) did not keep up with voting age White population increases.

Within this drop of White voter turnout, over 3x as many men as women comprised those voters staying home in the election. This happened for any number of reasons ranging from a disinterested national party to a disorganized Presidential campaign to a demoralized voting block–all are true. But the bottom line is one of the advantages Barack Obama enjoyed in 2008 was that a meaningful percentage of white voters simply stayed home in 2008.  Side note: for anyone who wants to pin the depressed turnout on racism, wouldn’t the opposite have occurred in 2008 if racism really were a motivating factor in the white turnout?

Where this trips up the Obama campaign.

In 2008 Democrats achieved incredible levels of voter registration and turnout of this “coalition of the ascendent” such that Blacks, Hispanics and Asians made up 24% of the voting electorate — all historic highs.  Bolstering the appearance of Democrat advantage are countless media stories reporting on Mitt Romney’s struggle appealing to minority groups. Little attention is paid to Barack Obama’s (and Democrat candidates before him) difficulty appealing to White voters who made up 74% of the electorate. Such historic minority levels for the composition of the electorate are predicated on a demoralized and ineligible (meaning unregistered) white population much like in 2008, as demonstrated above.

If John McCain achieved a white voter turnout rate equal to George Bush in 2004, that would have meant 1.7 million more White votes.  While all of these votes would not have gone to McCain (nor were they all in battleground states), a super-majority of these voters likely would have voted Republican considering the make-up of the missing voter (white male — Obama’s worst demographic) and the motivated nature of the Obama voter in 2008 (i.e. if they were Obama supporters, only a scant few percent would have stayed home). Those missing votes would have been more than enough to flip the results in any of North Carolina (14k), Indiana (28.5k,), Nevada (121k), Iowa (146k), Colorado (195k), Virginia (234k), Florida (237k) or  Ohio (260k) where Obama’s victory margin (in parentheses) is based on a 43% vote share of a decreased turnout.

Today Barack Obama receives approximately 40% of the White vote in polls but often dips below this level especially when polls fail to massively over-sample Democrats. The President is also facing an increasingly enthusiastic bloc of White voters motivated to vote against him (this shows up in every survey) based on his poor record in office. Additionally, Republicans have aggressively targeted the above mentioned states with voter registration efforts reversing or seriously muting the registration advantage Obama enjoyed in 2008. Net gains for Republicans voter registrations in Nevada (53k), Iowa (140k), Colorado (91k) and Florida (240k) all speak to a very different and Republican electorate in those states. On top of registration, voter contacts from the Romney campaign surpassed 26 million eligible voters across the battleground states to date.  This is as much as 10-15x as much as the McCain 2008 campaign. This does not dismiss the aggressive and active Obama re-election effort but it simply points out that compared to 2008 he is no longer battling an unarmed opponent.

All of this is to say when David Axelrod or similar Obama campaign talking heads argue aggressively for polls with a racial composition at meaningfully greater minority levels than the 2008 historic turnout, there is another side of that coin and it works heavily against the turnout models of both the Obama campaign and of the vast majority of polls being published today.

Addendum: Please see this clarification regarding the White vote potential impact on 2008 and 2012. John McCain would not have won in 2008 if the White vote had shown up in 2008 as they did in 2004. But a motivated White vote makes erasing Obama’s leads in the above mentioned states far easier than people are being led to believe.

Romney Supporters Wooing Black Voters

Specifically in Milwaukee. David Fredoso has the goods:

When President Obama arrives in Wisconsin on Saturday, he’ll be greeted by a cable ad buy aimed at black voters in Milwaukee. The spot, funded by the Black Republican PAC, intersperses statistics on the economic well-being of African Americans in the Obama era — “unemployment, home foreclosures and food security” — with clips from Obama’s speech to the Congressional Black Caucus, in which he famously urged his audience to “quit complaining.” The cable ad buy is for $100,000, according to the group, which will cover spots on BET, ESPN, MSNBC, The Oprah Winfrey Network and Oxygen.

Battleground Counties: Duval County, Florida

Florida has maintained national focus since its prominent place in the 2000 Presidential nail-biter.  Although it no longer holds the pole position as the #1 Battleground state in the nation, its high electoral vote count and persuadable voters make the state a prime destination for any candidate expecting to win the Presidency.  As with most Battleground states Florida has its voter rich Battleground Counties like Hillsborough County in the Southwest and Orange County at the top of the I-4 corridor. The Tampa Bay Times took a deep dive into Duval County in the Northeast which is typically considered GOP country, but there are meaningful trends making Duval very much a Battleground County:

One of Florida’s top battlegrounds, this longtime Republican stronghold is also one of the most confounding and unpredictable electorates you’ll find. Drive 30 minutes from any area in this New South, Navy town and you meet every stereotype imaginable: lifelong, white Democrats with horses and pickups, inner-city African-Americans fretting about street crime, social conservatives in a Baptist church encompassing nine blocks, northeastern retirees in flip-flops on the beach, or socially moderate Starbucks Republicans mingling in trendy restaurants. “It’s one of the most misunderstood counties in Florida,” said Democratic pollster Dave Beattie of Fernandina Beach in Duval. In this bastion of conservatism, the past two Republican mayors of Jacksonville raised taxes and fees significantly, while the new Democratic mayor has tea party activists hailing his fiscal conservatism. It’s a county that statewide Republican candidates routinely win by more than 15 percentage points, but can be nail-bitingly close with the right Democrat on the ballot.

Obama minding the gap

George W. Bush beat John Kerry in Duval by 62,000 votes in 2004 [58% to 42% — 16% difference], while former Jacksonville resident John McCain squeaked past Obama in 2008 by less than 8,000 votes [51% to 49% — 2% difference]. Few people expect President Obama to match his performance from four years ago, however. “His supporters are not going to be as fired up this time,” predicted lawyer Kenneth Boston, inhaling a stogie while sporting a bow tie and a glistening Obama watch at a Jacksonville Beach watering hole. “It’s impossible to match the excitement of last time. It was a first then, it was historic.” The question is not whether Obama can win Duval, but rather how close he can keep it. If the campaign can’t keep Duval closer than 7 or 8 percentage points from Republican Mitt Romney, it becomes harder to make up those votes elsewhere in the state.

African-American vote strength

The African-American vote is key. Nearly 28 percent of Duval’s 530,000 voters are African-Americans who overwhelmingly vote Democratic. The data-driven Obama campaign four years ago saw that tens of thousands of registered black voters hadn’t been showing up at the polls and launched the biggest voter mobilization ever in the area. Obama campaigned in Jacksonville three times in 2008, including the day before Election Day. This year, Obama is ramping it up still more, with one campaign office opened in January and two more to open within weeks. Obama and the first lady have each visited Duval County in the past three months. The administration recently sped up the arrival of a battleship, the USS New York, to Jacksonville’s Naval Station Mayport and fast-tracked a study of deepening Jacksonville’s ship channel.

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Quick Hits

Libertarian candidate for President and former Republican Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson stumps in Colorado for legalized marijuana

Maybe state economy improvement compared to then national average isn’t such a big deal after-all

Lies on the campaign trail — Fact-checking both Obama and Romney

Mitt Romney will speak at the annual NAACP convention next month (July 7 – 12) in Houston, Texas

Is it time to start talking about the inevitable demise of the Democratic Party?

Did Mitt Romney’s Wawa remark backfire on MSNBC?

Senator Obama criticized President Bush for “hiding behind” executive privilege before hiding behind executive privilege

The Battle for Virginia

In today’s must read, the LA Times takes an in-depth look at one of the “ground zero” states in this year’s election: Virginia. If one candidate wins both Ohio and Virginia they almost certainly win the election.

A key fact in the piece about the state that cannot be overstated: “Northern Virginia is much wealthier than the rest of the state. It has much more of a connection to Washington, and so it’s unlike any other part of the country.” This is immeasurably important because when much of the country complains of stimulus spending and the incredible expansion of government, it is this geographic area that is THE beneficiary of the spending and expansion. Basically this is where all your money goes. They love Obama and can’t understand why the rest of the country isn’t doing as well as they are. This is the crux of the increasing difficulty for Republicans in the densely populated areas of Northern Virginia.

Nearly the entire article is fantastic so I encourage you to read the whole thing (as a wise man often says). Other than a brief foray into the “demography is destiny” reason for future Democrat dominance (that has been debunked many times) this article is chock full of most everything you want to know about possibly the key state in this election:

President Obama’s reelection depends heavily on young and minority voters. Candidate Obama capitalized on demographic shifts four years ago, mobilizing an army of newly registered voters and becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee to carry the Old Dominion since 1964. If Obama took Virginia again, he could afford to lose Ohio and Florida, larger swing states he also won last time. Romney, on the other hand, will find it very hard to get to 270 electoral votes if he can’t claim Virginia. “Virginia holds the keys to the kingdom,” said Rick Wiley, the Republican National Committee political director, who is working closely with the Romney campaign. Obama has a small lead in recent statewide polling, but Democrats and Republicans expect a close finish. Both sides say Virginia will ultimately be won or lost in the far suburbs of the state’s population centers, where women are a prized demographic — and the biggest worry for Republican strategists.

Serve and volley:

Romney made a campaign stop in northern Virginia last month for an event with female business owners. The Obama campaign responded when First Lady Michelle Obama gave a pep talk last week to campaign workers in Prince William County, an outer suburb that is a bellwether this year. The event revolved heavily around women’s issues and touched on a controversial Republican proposal in the Virginia Legislature that would have required women to obtain a transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion.

Control what you can control:

The unknown in 2012: the course of the economy. Virginia’s unemployment rate, at 5.6%, is the lowest of the 20 most-populous states. Yet parts of Virginia that had been booming and trending Democratic — including the Washington exurbs — are still hurting from the recession, which could reduce enthusiasm for Obama.

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Obama Leads by 5 in Virginia — Quinnipiac

A new Quinnipiac poll in Virginia shows President Obama with a 5-point lead in one of the two most important states in this year’s election. Although a 5-point lead is big news for the President, it is down from the 8-point lead he held in late March. Additionally the largest segment polled were Independents (33% of the total) who also make up a majority of the undecided voters meaning there are many persuadable voters in the Old Dominion state:

 In the first survey since he clinched the GOP nomination, Gov. Mitt Romney now trails President Barack Obama 47 – 42 percent in Virginia, a lead that would not be affected if Gov. Bob McDonnell were the Republican running mate, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Today’s results compare to a 50 – 42 percent Obama lead in a March 20 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University, conducted when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul were still in the race for the Republican nomination.

Virginia voters are divided 48 – 47 percent in their approval of the job Obama is doing, and split 49 – 47 percent on whether he deserves a second term in the Oval Office.

“President Barack Obama remains ahead in Virginia, but he is hearing Gov. Mitt Romney’s footsteps,’’ said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Much of the margin erosion appears to come from men with whom Obama had a 3-point lead in March (48 – 45)  that is now a 5-point gap (44 – 49). Among women Obama expands his sizable lead at 51 – 35 versus the March 13-point gap of 52 – 39.

11% of voters were undecided and 66% of the Undecided voters were Independents. But this could break for either candidate: Obama led among Independents 45-37 but a majority of the undecided appear to be white voters with whom Romney leads 53-37:

Romney wins 53 percent of white voters, according to the poll, 7 percentage points off Sen. John McCain‘s pace among these voters when he became the first Republican to lose Virginia since 1964. Obama captures 37 percent of the white vote, roughly equal to the 39 percent he won in 2008, according to exit polls.

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Poor Jobs Report Creates Opportunity for Romney With African-Americans

No, Romney will not win this demographic nor will any Republican any time soon.  But what a Republican can do is erode the overwhelming support Democrats receive and specifically the astounding 95% support President Obama achieved in 2008.  The Romney campaign is already capitalizing on the disproportionate unemployment impact on Hispanics and the RNC has a web video emphasizing the unemployment impact on various groups like African-Americans while Obama and his elitists worry about his job:

Now we see that Friday’s jobs report disproportionately impacted African-Americans as well:

Last Friday’s unemployment news crashed the stock market and upended the presidential race…Nationally, unemployment in May rose from 8.1 percent to 8.2. This is bad, especially considering how much time has passed since our economic troubles began…Lost in [all] the…news that African-American unemployment, already significantly above general levels, rose by much more. As The Root reports, for African-Americans, however, the news was much, much worse. Unemployment among Blacks rose from 13.0 percent to 13.6 percent. This is serious news for a population that is already under great economic strain, but it is in line with some trends we’ve been following here.

This creates an undeniable opportunity should the Romney campaign choose to capitalize:

The decline of the blue social model is a challenge to the survival and dignity of the Black middle class. Heavily invested in government employment and well represented in organizations like the Postal Service, African Americans are vulnerable to changes in the structure of government and the cutbacks now rippling through traditionally stable employers like the USPS.

We are already seeing reduced support for Obama within the African-American community:

Obama is winning the African-American vote by gargantuan proportions: 90 percent to 5 percent in the first half of the survey and 88 percent to 6 percent in the second, not far off his 2008 showing (95 percent to 4 percent).

The opportunity is there for Romney but it won’t be easy. George Bush made concerted campaign efforts to court African-Americans despite the often hostile reception from activists within the African-American community.  This yielded 11% of the their vote nationally in 2004 (and 16% in Ohio), far better than McCain’s dismal 4% in 2008. Those Bush totals in 2004 and Obama’s incredibly 95% in 2008 swung all-important states like Ohio for each candidate.  With that state being ground zero for this year’s election, it would behoove the Romney campaign to get on this.

Demographic Watch: Everyone (and None are Good for Obama … Really)

While nearly every post in this blog will be about the Battleground States, when I see something uniquely impacting the election outcome  or on slow Battleground state news days (like today), it’s helpful to see what’s going on underneath some of the national poll numbers. The incomparable Charlie Cook digs down deep into six full weeks of Gallup tracking data and unearths more than a few takeaways that should send shivers down the spines of the over-confident campaign in the Windy City:

Gallup has now finished its first six full weeks of tracking surveys for the 2012 presidential campaign, interviewing 20,565 registered voters. Yes, you guessed it: President Obama and Mitt Romney are tied, 46 percent to 46 percent.  On the surface, the race looks tight. But voter enthusiasm numbers are a headache for the president’s reelection team (emphasis added). This week, Gallup released six full weeks of results. The first half of these were interviews between April 11 and May 6; the second half were from May 7 through May 27.

2008 versus 2012

Although polling was consistent between genders across the two time frames sampled (Romney +8 among men, Obama +7/8 among women), things begin to unravel for the President when you compare these results to his 2008 margins.:

[I]n 2008, the exit polls showed that Obama edged Sen. John McCain by 1 point among men, 49 percent to 48 percent. Among women, he beat McCain by a whopping 13 points, 56 percent to 43 percent.

This is a -9 point swing with men and a -5/6 point swing among women. Those are horrific margin erosions to the President’s re-elect chances.

Independents split down the middle; Romney edged Obama by 1 point in the front half, 43 percent to 42 percent, and by 2 points in the second, 43 percent to 41 percent… [In] 2008 Obama carried the independent vote by 8 percentage points, 52 percent to 44 percent, and the overall election by 7 points.

A -9/10 point swing among Independents. Ouch!

African Americans too?  Yep

Obama is winning the African-American vote by gargantuan proportions: 90 percent to 5 percent in the first half of the survey and 88 percent to 6 percent in the second, not far off his 2008 showing (95 percent to 4 percent).

Wait, “not far”?  I love Charlie Cook but come on. This is a -6 point swing among African Americans.  That is HUGE.

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