Tag Archives: hispanics

Sobriety, Thy Name is Barone

The only people who are always right are the people who never have opinions until after-the-fact.  Anyone dismissing Michael Barone for erroneous election day predictions will do so at their own peril.  His latest in the Washington Examiner is a sober reminder about the political realities for both parties:

Neither of our two political parties is going to be annihilated. Both have suffered far worse defeats than Mitt Romney and the Republicans suffered in 2012. Both have figured out how to adapt and win over voters who used to vote against them. Or at least to position themselves to win when the other side’s president is seen to have massively failed. The 2008-2012 Obama campaign — it never really stopped — did an excellent job of turning out just enough voters to win 332 electoral votes. But Obama carried just 26 states to Mitt Romney’s 24, which is relevant when you look at future Senate elections. As for House elections, Obama carried only 207 congressional districts to Romney’s 228. That’s partly because Republicans had the advantage in redistricting after the 2010 census.

Core constituencies:

Obama core constituencies — blacks, Hispanics, gentry liberals — tend to be clustered geographically in central city neighborhoods in big metropolitan areas. His big margins there helped him carry many electoral votes but not so many congressional districts. [But] Obama’s in-your-face liberalism, so apparent in last week’s inaugural speech, antagonized some groups in a way that may hurt Democrats for some time to come.

Changing constituencies:

The Obamacare contraception mandate helped Mitt Romney carry 59 percent of white Catholics — probably their highest Republican percentage ever — and 78 percent of white evangelical Protestants. These groups total 44 percent of the electorate. That’s a counterbalance to Obama’s 93 percent among blacks and 71 percent among Hispanics. They were just 23 percent of the electorate, and while Hispanics will be a growing percentage, blacks probably won’t.

Don’t get too comfortable in that “permanent majority”:

George W. Bush’s 51 percent re-election, with 11.5 million more votes than four years before, got his strategist Karl Rove musing about a permanent Republican majority. That didn’t happen. Now Barack Obama’s 51 percent re-election, with 3.5 million fewer votes than four years before, has Democrats talking about annihilating the Republican Party. That’s not likely to happen either.

Women, Youth and Hispanics = President Obama

The Winston Group identifies key areas where the Romney campaign came up short in November:

There were three key groups that were problematic for Romney: women, younger voters, and Hispanics.

  • Women made up the majority of the electorate (53%) and Romney lost them by 11, 44-55. That was slightly better than McCain, who lost by 13, 43-56, but worse than Bush, who lost them by the slim margin of 48-51. In contrast, House Republicans in 2010 carried women by 1, 49-48.

  • Younger voters increased their turnout again this year. In 2004 they were 17% of the electorate; in 2008 they were 18%, and in this election they were 19%. Romney lost them by 23 points, 37-60, which was an improvement over McCain, who lost them by 34. However, Bush did much better in 2004, losing young voters only by 9.

  • Hispanics have also increased as a percentage of the electorate, going from 8% in 2004 to 9% in 2008, and 10% in this election. Romney lost them by the very large margin of 44, 27-71. In 2008, McCain lost Hispanics by 36, 31-67. In contrast, Bush lost Hispanics by just 9, 44-53. Additionally, House Republicans in 2010 did much better than either Romney or McCain, losing Hispanics by 22, 38-60.

Conclusion:

Despite an electorate that thought the economy was not doing well under Obama, Romney and many Republicans were unable to effectively win the economic argument. This was the case even though many of the policies Romney supported were viewed favorably by the electorate. But the bottom line was that Romney could not counter the Obama narrative that he wanted to go back to the policies that got the country in trouble in the first place. This was largely due to his campaign’s strategic decision to try to make the election solely a referendum on Obama. As a result, there was little clear rationale for a Romney presidency, other than that he would not be Obama. That was not enough to win, as the electorate was looking for solutions and an explanation of how each candidate would govern.

Obama achieved 93.5% of [the vote] he got in 2008. While there are still some additional votes to be added, at this point, Obama got about 4.5 million fewer votes this year than in 2008. Those voters did not vote for Obama this time, but they did not move to Romney either. They were a huge pool of voters that were obviously unhappy with Obama but did not have a reason to vote for his opponent. The inability to identify and reach these disillusioned voters was a significant problem for the Republican campaign.

Why So Many Failed to Predict the Reelection

Lessons from 2012

Karl Rove breaks down the lessons from the 2012 election defeat. In short, don’t believe the hype:

The media’s postelection narrative is that Democrats won because of a demographic shift. There is some truth to that, but a more accurate description is that Democrats won in a smaller turnout by getting out more of their vote. Turnout dropped by 7.9 million voters, falling to 123.6 million this year from 131.5 million in 2008. This is the first decline in a presidential election in 16 years. Only 51.3% of the voting-age population went to the polls. While the Democratic “ground game” was effective, President Barack Obama received 90.1% of his 2008 total while Gov. Mitt Romney received 98.6% of Sen. John McCain’s vote. Neither party generated a higher turnout nationally.

Who didn’t show up:

According to exit polls, turnout dropped among white and black Americans (by 8.3 million and 1 million, respectively) but rose among Hispanics. They added 850,000 votes to Mr. Obama’s total compared with 2008. Millennials (those aged 18-29) were a larger share of the turnout than in 2008, but 176,000 fewer in number. They cast 1.5 million fewer votes for Mr. Obama than last time and 1.1 million more votes for Mr. Romney than they did for Mr. McCain. To win, the GOP must do better—much better—with Hispanics and millennials, and also with women voters.

How to fix it:

Tactically, Republicans must rigorously re-examine their “72-hour” ground game and reverse-engineer the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort in order to copy what works. For example, a postelection survey shows that the Democratic campaign ground game was more effective in communicating negative information. It would be good to know why—and how to counter such tactics in the future. Republicans should also emulate the Democratic “50-state” strategy by strengthening the ground game everywhere, not just in swing states. It will be important for the GOP to erase the data advantage Democrats may have in their targeting of potential supporters for their candidates. And local GOP organizations must persistently focus on adding to the voter rolls the millions of people likely to vote Republicans if they were registered. Strategically, Republicans will need to frame economic issues to better resonate with middle-class families. Mr. Romney had solid views on jobs, spending, deficits, health care and energy. But even among the 59% of voters for whom the economy was their top concern, he prevailed by only four points (51% to 47%).

The Folly of David Axelrod’s Turnout Model

Much of this blog is spent arguing — persuasively I hope — why the polling data and get out the vote activities favor Mitt Romney this election cycle.  But if President Obama wins re-election where could all of this analysis have erred?

Possibly the final remaining question that will determine the election outcome is whether Obama campaign manager David Axelrod is correct on the racial composition of the electorate being 72% White or whether he is fooling both himself and his acolytes in the media? President Obama regularly polls with national support among Whites as low as between 36 – 38%. If Axelrod is correct then Barack Obama has a good chance to eek out a close re-election. But if Axelrod is wrong on the electorate composition and Whites make up closer to 75% of voters then not only will Barack Obama lose this election, he could lose it badly with a final tally in the area of 338 to 200 electoral votes.

The entire Obama campaign is predicated on a voting public with a racial composition that in my opinion is highly unlikely to appear in 2012. The Obama campaign has revealed their assumption that White voters will only comprise 72% of the national voting public this year.  State percentages will vary but those models are not revealed publicly. The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) is the final arbiter on racial make-up of an election. For months following an election, they pour through every precinct and get an accurate read on election statistics before releasing their results which unsurprisingly tend to differ from election night exit polls.

The racial breakdown in 2008 election according to the Census Bureau was White 76.3%, Black 12.1%, Hispanic 7.4%, Asian 2.5%, Other 1.7%.
The CNN exit polls which are still used regularly in news stories reported: White: 74%, Blacks: 13%, Hispanics 9%, Asians 2%, Other 3%.

When you look at the differences, Whites are underrepresented by 2.3%, Blacks overrepresented by 0.9% and Hispanics over-represented by 1.6%. In the last election Whites voted Republican (55 – 43) while both Blacks (95 to 4) and Hispanics (67 to 31) voted Democrat. When national polls reflect the CNN racial make-up they are over-sampling Democrat groups and under-sampling Republican groups.

As outlined previously, 1.7 million White voters (who voted in 2004) did not vote in 2008. This means from a racial composition stand-point the 2008 demographic breakdown is over-generous to the non-White groups and somewhat of an anomaly due to the missing White demographic who voted in 2004 but sat out last time. This is not an argument against the decreasing percentage of White voters in election, because the overall increase in the non-White voting population is very real. The problem with Team Obama’s assumptions, however, is they decrease the White vote -4.3pp to 72% this election cycle when there is no evidence to support such a steep decline.

Before 2008, the average decrease in the White percent of the popular vote was -1.4 percentage points (pp) since 1988.  This was not solely because of decreased interest from White voters in Presidential elections but due to the increasing number of non-Whites both in the population and participating in Presidential elections. The rate of change from election to election was a decrease of -0.4pp in the White composition of the voting public and most of that coming between 1992 and 1996 in another election when white Republicans were less than enthusiastic with their nominee. Something dramatic, however, happened in 2008. The number of whites as a percentage of the voting population dropped -2.9pp to 76.3% from 79.2% (Pew Research, April 30, 2009).

The doubling of the average decrease in White participation was a combination of 2 competing factors: first, non-Whites were excited over the prospects of the first viable non-White Presidential candidate and White voters of the opposition party were unenthusiastic over their candidate and did not participate in the election.  Without the combination of these factors the White vote percentage of the electorate would still have declined but the decline would not doubled. Compared to the recent rate of change of -0.4pp, the change in the decrease of White composition from 2004 to 2008 was -1.4pp, 3.5x greater than the modern trend.

The folly of the Obama campaign’s election assumptions is the 2008 perfect storm that doubled the election-over-election decrease in White participation at a pace 3.5x as great as the norm will repeat itself with another -1.4pp rate of change resulting in a -4.3pp decline to 72%.

This type of assumption is the same as a football team that has a record first quarter outscoring their opponent 35-0 and then game-plans they will repeat that every quarter scoring 140 points.  That is clearly not going to happen.

In the 2012 election neither of the two major factors from 2008 that conspired to dramatically decrease White participation are evident.  Every survey consistently reveals meaningful decreases in enthusiasm among non-White voters while White voters appear substantially more enthusiastic than 2008. To take a record turnout model from 2008 and extrapolate it to the next election and expect a repeat record decrease from the unusually low 2008 turnout is folly bordering on delusional.

Regarding the macro-trend in the US of an increase in the non-White composition of the population, the return of an enthusiastic white voter coupled with the decreased non-White enthusiasm should strongly mitigate the macro-demographic trend of very real increases in non-White voters overall.

But David Axelrod’s entire campaign is predicated on the above assumptions that expect a “White flight” that exists in no poll nationally or in any state. At a state level, it is due to differences of opinion like the above that both campaigns are reportedly seeing dramatically different electorates in Ohio with each campaign completely confident they will win the state. One of them is very wrong.

National polls often use 74% as the representative White vote in this election, but from a historic stand-point 75% is the more reasonable level which would be a -1.3% decline from 2008. With polls today consistently showing Obama’s support between 36-38% with this segment of the electorate comprising 75% of voters, it is easy to see how a tight race can turn into a blowout rather quickly. As for David Axelrod’s turnout model, he is talking his book when every ounce of data says he is blowing smoke. If Axelrod is right on the racial make-up of the electorate, President Obama probably wins re-election in a close race.  But there is little evidence that the 76.3% of White voters in 2008 when combined with a probable return of the missing 1.7 million whites will make up only 72% of the electorate Team Obama needs to avoid a sizable Romney win on November 6.

ABC/Washington Post Poll Makes In-Kind Contribution to Obama Re-Election Efforts

Not to be outdone by the ludicrous NBC/WSJ/Marist Battleground State polls from last week, ABC/Washington Post reveal their national poll today showing President Obama with a 3-point lead 49 to 46. Mitt Romney leads among Independents by 6 points (48 to 42) and locks down his base more so than Obama — Reps support Romney 93 to 7 while Dems support Obama 91 to 8.  Yet Romney trails by 3.  How?  Incredibly, they polled 9% more Democrats than Republicans.  This is not a new phenomenon as I outlined in mid-September in the post “Obama’s National Lead Based Entirely on Over-Sampling Democrats.”  Today’s ABC/Washington Post poll is the crowning achievement this cycle in unrealistic national polls only 3 weeks out from the election.  But these types of advocacy “polling games” are nothing new.

The party identification in the survey is D +9 (Dem 35, Rep 26, Ind 33). This compares to 2008 when party ID was D +7 (Dem 39, Rep 32, Ind 29) and 2004 when party ID split evenly (Dem 37, Rep 37, Ind 26).  Making matters even worse, in their poll just over two weeks ago that survey had a party ID of D +3 (Dem 33, Rep 30, Ind 33).  Did the public tune in to Barack Obama’s debate performance and just have a groundswell of love for Democrat passivity and listlessness and embrace the Donkey Party? According to the Washington Post, pre-Debate the race was 48 to 46 in favor of Obama.  Post-debate the race is 49 to 46 in favor of Obama.  Must have been an uneventful debate right?  Here is over-the-top liberal Democrat Andrew Sullivan’s blog yesterday on post debate polls:

If anyone thought that the feisty Biden debate undid the massive damage the president did to himself in the first debate, the news isn’t great. Biden does seem to have reversed the speed of Obama’s free-fall but not the decline itself. Romney’s debate obliteration of Obama – something that, in my view, irreparably damages a sitting president – does not seem to be a bounce, but a resilient jump. It’s not going away by itself. That is: not a bounce.

Sullivan also provides a devastating chart showing the post-debate Romney surge in polls (red line) and Obama free fall (blue line):

But today the Washington Post and ABC see fit to publish a poll with Democrat affiliation 9 percentage points greater than Republicans. This blog has hammered the issue of party ID time and again. Basically there is a zero percent change the Democrat’s advantage at the polls in 2012 will be superior to their advantage in 2008. Here is what I wrote on October 1st when critiquing the large disparities in party identification:

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.

Over the last month we have seen:

Interestingly many of these above trends actually show up in the ABC/Washington Post poll.  President Obama’s support among Non-Whites is a surprisingly low 73%.  His support is typically closer to 80% so this drop of is a major red flag in the President’s re-election efforts.  But this is where the Democrat over-sampling comes in to save the President.  I went to great lengths to demonstrate that these polls that over-sample Democrats are not simply over-sampling generic Democrats, these polls very specifically over-sample White Democrats.  And in this survey we see Barack Obama’s support among White voters at 43%, the same level he achieved in 2008. If that percentage was accurate Obama would almost certainly be re-elected.  Unfortunately for him that support level is not accurate based on the unrealistic disparity in party identification and the over-sampling of Democrats masks what is far more likely support for Obama among Whites closer to 36 or 37% as I explained in the previous post here.

Despite the mountain of evidence above completely undermining the unrealistic voter turnout models presented by ABC, the Washington Post and others, major news organizations pass off these unserious polls as credible when neither sense nor reason supports such claims.  Today’s disaster is only the latest example of major news organizations weakening the public’s trust by publishing fantastical polls whose sole purpose is to advocate for one candidate over the other.

About that Crumbling 2008 Coalition of Support for Obama — Seniors, Youth, Hispanics

Over the weekend Chuck Todd pointed out what regular readers of this blog have known all along: President Obama’s 2008 coalition is both less supportive and less enthusiastic than they were in 2008. In a Politico Battleground poll today the same enthusiasm trends shine through.  What is even worse for Obama about these figures, is they are all before the disastrous debate performance:

Well, it’s simply an enthusiasm gap. And we’re seeing it across the board. Look at here in this first one. 79% of Republicans call themselves extremely interested in this election. On a scale of one to ten, that means they said they’re a nine or a ten on interest in the election. 73% of Democrats.

Look at four years ago. It was a 13 point gap in favor of the Democrats. Let me go through some various voting groups. This is an important voting group. Seniors are an important voting group to Mitt Romney now. He leads them by about 10 points in our NBC Wall Street Journal poll. Look at this in engagement in the election. Four years ago was 81%, pretty higher. Even higher this time at 87%. And Romney’s doing better among seniors than McCain did.

Let me go to an important voting group for the president, young voters. Look at this engagement level: 52% now they call themselves, voters 18 to 34, call themselves extremely interested in this election. Four years ago it was 72%. That 20 gap. The president wins young voters by huge margins. He’s winning them by some 20-plus points. [ed.- but down from 34 pts in 2008] But if you don’t have this kind of enthusiasm, they’re not going to show up to the polls.

And then let me give you this last one here, because this is, I think, the most important one. And that’s Hispanics. The President’s winning Hispanics by 50 points. He hit the 70% mark. However, look at this in terms of interest in the election. 59% now, it was 77%. What does that mean? President got 65%, I believe, of Hispanics four years ago.

So even though he’s going to get more Hispanics, if less of them turn out, it’s a net zero. And yet, you look at Republican enthusiasm, up, senior enthusiasm, up. It’s a huge problem. And by the way, all of this, pre-debate.

Romney’s Nevada Problem

Nevada, to me, has been one of the bigger surprises this election cycle.  I fully expected this state to trend for Romney throughout the general election and fall into his column much like the trends we are seeing in Florida.  But for a myriad of reasons, Nevada remains stubbornly leaning towards Obama and plenty of tea leaves say Romney will likely underperform here relative to his national performance.  He may still win the state, but it will be closer than I expected it to be.  Scott Conroy at Real Clear Politics takes a look at what’s going on in Nevada that has buoyed the President:

If the key issues in the election are jobs and the economy, there should be no easier venue for Mitt Romney to make his case than in a state where it has been harder for residents to find work than anywhere else and where more than 60 percent of mortgages remain underwater. “Nevada gives us a lot of opportunities because people know that if they’re voting for Barack Obama, they’re voting for the same thing they have today,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. “The promises of Barack Obama matter, and he hasn’t followed through on housing. He hasn’t followed through on making it easier for people to get loans.” But so far, at least, that simple message has not been enough for Romney to overtake the president here. Obama leads his challenger by 4.6 percentage points in the latest RCP average of Nevada polls, and the Republican has not led in a single Silver State survey in the last year.

Housing comments haunt Romney

“As to what to do for the housing industry specifically, and are there things that you can do to encourage housing, one is don’t try and stop the foreclosure process,” Romney told the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal in October 2011. “Let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.” As soon as Romney’s “hit the bottom” remark was published, the sound bite became a linchpin for the Obama campaign’s effort to portray their opponent as insensitive to the struggles faced by the majority of homeowners here. With that one comment, Nevada Democrats had the ammunition they needed to make what might have otherwise been an impossible case: that the candidate who should be blamed for the state’s housing woes is the challenger, not the incumbent who has been guiding national policy for the last four years.

Voter Registration

Nevada Democrats have expanded the 60,000-person advantage in voter registration they enjoyed over Republicans in 2010 to about 75,000 this year. [ed. — It’s silly they didn’t compare it with the 100,000 advantage Democrats had on 2008 or if they wanted to show Romney struggles they could have used the wave of Democrat resurgence the last few weeks]

Hispanics

[T]he Obama campaign has invested heavily in reaching out to Hispanic voters, who composed approximately 15 percent of the state’s electorate in 2010 — a number that Democrats expect to be surpassed this November. Recent polls have shown Romney’s support among Nevada Latinos to be between the mid-20s and the mid-30s. Even if the higher end of the range is more accurate, that level of support among the state’s largest minority group likely would not be enough to push Romney over the top here on Election Day.

State party infrastructure

[T]he president’s biggest trump card in Nevada may be organizational rather than demographic. Jon Ralston — a longtime political reporter and analyst for the Las Vegas Sun, who recently founded his own Web site chronicling the state’s political scene — credits the Democrats’ sizable advantage on the ground as a major reason Obama appears to have an edge. “The Republicans here have to be upgraded in order to be classified as inept, and you just have this situation that goes against what the economic conditions are,” Ralston said. “The RNC has come in here, to their credit, and realized that the Republican Party here is a joke, and so they’ve essentially set up a parallel organization with the Romney campaign [Team Nevada]. And they do have some good people who understand the state, but you can’t just erect that type of infrastructure overnight and be able to get a ground game going.” It was Democrats’ infrastructure that proved particularly successful turning out members of Nevada’s powerful service industry unions in 2010, propelling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to victory despite favorability rating that hovered in the low-30s and a state unemployment that year rose above a grisly 14 percent.

About That Crumbling 2008 Coalition of Support for Obama — Hispanics

I made a number of blog posts on demographics and the Hispanic vote when this blog began a few months ago.  My main thrust was a) The Obama campaign misrepresents which demographics’ vote won them the 2008 election, and 2) Hispanics enthusiasm is way down from 2008 so even if they support Obama by greater numbers, that support may not show up on election day.

The first point remains as true as ever, but it is the second point that gets curiouser by the day. The brunt of my time is spent blogging Battleground polls but occasionally I’ll delve into a national poll or two. The national polls regularly reveal the trend the Obama campaign had been gunning for — Hispanics prefer Obama by a greater margin nationally than they did in 2008.  This is good news for Obama and his “coalition of the ascendent” argument for why he will win re-election. State polls often don’t provide demographic preferences so I haven’t spent time combing through the numbers since they’re rarely there to begin win.  But one of Jim Geraghty’s confidential sources has looked at these numbers and points out many intriguing surprises:

Conventional wisdom holds that Mitt Romney is faring so badly with Hispanic voters that he cannot possibly win. A recent CNN/ORC poll of Hispanics nationally finds President Obama has the support of 70 percent Hispanic voters compared to 26 percent for Mitt Romney. By comparison, John McCain got 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008. National polls can be deceiving because they survey Hispanics from populous states like California and New York, who are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. Let’s look at the polls of Hispanics in the key battleground states of Florida, Nevada, and Colorado.

Florida

  • PPP Florida Poll this week shows Romney with 47% of Hispanics and Obama with 49%.
  • In 2008, Obama took 57% of the vote compared to McCain’s 42%.

Nevada

  • WSJ/NBC/Marist Nevada Poll this week shows Romney with 36% of Hispanics and Obama with 62%.
  • In 2008, Obama took 76% of the vote compared to McCain’s 22%.

Colorado

  • ARG Colorado Poll this week shows Romney with 38% of Hispanics and Obama with 53%.
  • In 2008, Obama took 61% of the vote compared to McCain’s 38%.

Why the improvement?

Team Romney has made some very smart adjustments in both the tone and substance of Romney’s stance on immigration, which is a gateway issue for Hispanics

  • Romney announced that he would allow undocumented “Dreamers” who were offered a two-year deferral on deportation by Obama to stay in the country if he becomes President
  • he would seek a permanent legislative solution for these undocumented young achievers who pursue higher education or serve in the military

Hispanics — who have experienced sharply higher rates of joblessness under Obama than the general population — are increasingly receptive to Romney’s core message of promoting upward mobility and creating 12 million jobs through pro-growth policies

  • a new Latino Decisions national poll has Romney at 33 percent among Hispanics, a seven point increase from a month ago.

The bottom line: Obama is not where he was with Hispanic voters in 2008 and Romney is steadily improving on McCain’s showing, which will be critical in carrying these battleground states. Mitt’s strong debate performance the other night will no doubt boost his numbers among independent Hispanics voters. I am going to go out on a limb and predict that Mitt Romney will do at least as well as George W. Bush did among Hispanics in 2000 (35% of the vote nationally), and he will win a majority of Hispanics in Florida.

10 Quotes that Haunt Barack Obama

Politico has a fun re-cap of quotes from President Obama that have dogged him throughout this re-election process and may well get a rehearing in Wednesday’s debate:

[A]s the president and his team well know, Obama in Denver on Wednesday will be defending a first-term record that looks strikingly different than the one he imagined when he took office in January 2009. Obama’s own words, and those of his closest aides, culled from his first campaign and the early phase of his presidency, tell the story. Cumulatively, the quotations are an anthology of lofty aspirations that fell to earth, and boastful predictions that didn’t come true. All presidents have plans that don’t work out. But many of Obama’s off-the-mark quotes echo because—as a president with a short history in Washington and no previous executive experience—he faced an especially jarring collision between his confident assumptions about how he would govern and the reality of what was possible.

“Washington is broken. My whole campaign has been premised from the start on the idea that we have to fundamentally change how Washington works.”

In retrospect, Obama’s exaggerated belief in his own capacity to transform Washington—not to mention his own wavering self-discipline in resisting nakedly partisan politics—looks like his most naïve miscalculation about his own power.

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

Obama biographers and even friends have noted his tendency from a young age to sometimes to let self-confidence curdle into excessive self-regard—a trait he will try to suppress in Denver. But the main problem with Obama’s quote was not that it was immodest but that it was inaccurate. Obama has not presided over an especially skilled political operation. Relations with key members of Congress and with key political figures in states have been frayed, driven by complaints that Obama does not do enough outreach and political fence-tending.

“If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”

In this quote, from a February 2009 interview on NBC’s “Today” show and widely repeated this year by taunting Republicans, Obama was referring to the pace of economic recovery. Obama’s explanation, of course, is that his policies, including the $787 billion stimulus package, averted depression and made possible a slow but still incomplete comeback. But the words haunt Obama because they were a reminder of how profoundly he and his economic team misunderstood the long-term nature of the crisis that confronted them upon taking office.

Continue reading

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.

The Battle for Nevada — The Buffalo News

Interesting story on the state of affairs in Nevada from The Buffalo News. They take and in-depth look at the lay of the land in this Battleground with its cross-currents of issues and needs through the eyes of some Buffalo ex-pats in the Silver State:

CoreLogic, a company that tracks real estate data, says 64.7 percent of Las Vegas-area homeowners were “under water” early this year – meaning the value of their homes plunged so far that they owe more on the mortgage than the place is worth. Welcome to Nevada, land of the endless Great Recession, where the 12.1 percent unemployment rate leads the nation and where President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, are fighting fiercely for six electoral votes and the loyalty of voters like John McGinty. The choice, undecided voters and some experts said, pits a Democratic president who has tried and failed to end an economic nightmare against a Republican who might just make things better – or worse. The real estate collapse that happened here and around the nation four years ago is not Obama’s fault, nor Romney’s. It’s the fault of a nation that turned its real estate market into Las Vegas – and left 60 percent of the homeowners in Nevada, and more than a third of those in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Michigan, under water in the process. All the boom towns went on the same real estate roller coaster ride. As the government encouraged home ownership, banks took to bundling and selling off their mortgages in packages and relaxed lending standards along the way.

Las Vegas

The result was evident in Las Vegas by the mid-2000s. Fueled by such speculation, the median home value in Las Vegas shot up from $205,200 in January 2004 to a peak of $315,000 in June of 2006. But then came the financial crisis. Confidence fell, lending standards tightened, investors started bailing on their properties – and the median home price here plummeted to a low of $118,000 this January. It’s bounced back to $138,000 since then, but signs of the collapse can still be seen everywhere. Two would-be casinos on the Strip have stood unfinished for years. Started and abandoned developments dot the suburban landscape.

Housing bust reality

And at Johnny Mac’s, John McGinty finds himself handing out the occasional free lunch and personal loan to loyal customers in need. “I do what I can to help,” McGinty said. He does this while coping with a downturn in business and mortgage payments on a three-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot home he bought for $495,000 in the mid-2000s that, he reckons, is worth about $210,000 today. Countless Las Vegas homeowners, most of them speculators, have found themselves in McGinty’s situation and walked away, intentionally defaulting on their mortgages. Economic experts say the real estate crash wrecked consumer confidence and crushed the job market, leading to an unemployment rate that’s three full percentage points higher than Buffalo’s.

Frequent visitors, Different ideas

Obama and Romney have had plenty of time for Nevada. The president will arrive here today for three days of debate preparation; it’s his ninth visit of the campaign. Romney, meanwhile, has been here six times. Yet what they’re offering voters could not be more different.

The Obama Plan for Nevada

Obama sticks by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which is aimed at curbing the excesses that caused the financial crisis. In addition, he touts elements of his 2009 stimulus bill that aimed to make it easier for troubled homeowners to refinance, or even to get lenders to agree to reduce the amount of principal on troubled loans, and criticizes Congress for not expanding the refinancing program as he suggested. The trouble is, banks seem to be reluctant to take part in the original Obama refinancing and principal-reduction programs, said Kelley, head of the Realtors group. Besides, many troubled homeowners have second mortgages – and the holders of those loans are not cooperating.

The Romney Plan for Nevada

Romney wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank law, saying it’s so burdensome that lenders are now reluctant to make home loans. He also offers varying free-market proposals for addressing the Nevada housing crisis. “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process,” he told the Las Vegas Review Journal last October. “Let it run its course and hit the bottom.” And on a Sept. 21 trip to Sin City, the GOP nominee went a step further. “The federal government has about 200,000 foreclosed homes they are holding onto,” Romney said. “I’ll make sure we get them sold, so every home is occupied, we fix our neighborhoods,” The trouble with Romney’s comments is twofold, Las Vegas-area economic experts and political pundits said. First off, letting foreclosures move forward, or putting 200,000 more homes on the market all at once, very well could depress housing values further.
On the political side, Romney’s let-them-eat-cake comments on foreclosures reinforced the Democratic caricature of him as an out-of-touch plutocrat. “It’s a very bad sound byte for him,” said Jon Ralston, a Buffalo native and longtime Las Vegas political reporter who now publishes RalstonFlash.com, a political newsletter.

Ground game is key

Ralston finds it “astonishing” that Obama appears to have an edge in a state with a 12.1 percent unemployment rate, but that appears to be the case. The latest Real Clear Politics average of polls in the Silver State finds Obama 3.8 points ahead, and political pundits say there are plenty of explanations for that edge. “The state Republican party is very much a broken party,” said David Damore, a UNLV political scientist. Party control swung to a faction loyal to Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, in May. The result: the Romney campaign has had to build a get-out-the-vote effort from scratch to compete with a Democratic effort honed in Obama’s 2008 victory here and the re-election of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid two years later. “The Democrats have a very effective ground game,” said former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, a Democrat who nonetheless said the race remains “too close for any comfort.”

Demographics

Obama is getting a boost, too, from the state’s Hispanics, who now account for more than a quarter of the state population. Political pros here say heated GOP rhetoric on the immigration issue has helped propel the president to a 43-point lead among Hispanics in a Public Policy Polling survey last month. “A lot of (Hispanics) don’t understand how powerful the vote is,” said Arianni Valencia, 20, a Romney volunteer who specializes in reaching out to the Hispanic community. “They’re not even sure what it is to be a Republican or a Democrat. But they see the other side reaching out to them, and we’re trying to catch up.”

The deciding factor

Sherman Conley, 71, seemed to sum up the thoughts of many of the dozens of Nevada voters interviewed last week by The Buffalo News. “It’s a critical election,” said Conley, a Buffalo native, “and I’ve got to figure out who will do me the least amount of harm.”

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.

Quinnipiac Indicts Itself in Polling ID Debate

National Journal interviewed pollsters on the great party ID debate and Republican complaints that far too many Democrats are being sampled in the surveys. They gave fair hearings to both the polling outfits and critics like Rick Wilson in yesterday’s New York Daily news who observed thusly:

“Far too many of the public and media polls have set their likely voter screens and models to something looking more optimistic than the 2008 turnout model,” GOP consultant Rick Wilson wrote in Sunday’s New York Daily News, “which even Obama’s most dedicated partisans think is highly unlikely.”

But the real loser in this debate was Doug Schwartz, director of Quinnipiac Polling. In addition to childishly dismissing the complaints as sour grapes by Republicans, Schwartz indicts himself in explaining the controversy:

Schwartz, whose institute conducts polls in battleground states for CBS News and The New York Times, asserts that pollsters who weight according to party identification could miss the sorts of important shifts in the electorate that could be determinative.

“A good example for why pollsters shouldn’t weight by party ID is if you look at the 2008 presidential election and compared it to the 2004 presidential election, there was a 7-point change in the party ID gap,” Schwartz said. Democrats and Republicans represented equal portions of the 2004 electorate, according to exit polls. But, in 2008, the percentage of the electorate identifying as Democrats increased by 2 percentage points, to 39 percent, while Republicans dropped 5 points, to 32 percent.

Asked specifically about GOP complaints regarding the party-ID composition of public surveys, Schwartz said: “They’re the ones trailing in our swing-state polls.” “There are more people who want to identify with the Democratic Party right now than the Republican Party,” he added.

Our entire point is party ID changes from election to election yet Quinnipiac and the other polling outfits act like 2008 is the baseline and they are adjusting upwards in favor of Democrats from there.  2008 was a best-in-a-generation advantage for Democrats.  Obama’s job approval is locked below 50%.  The unemployment rate has been above 8% for 3 years and it’s actually higher if you count the people so despondent they simply quit looking for a job. There isn’t one economic indicator that is positive for President Obama and the economy always surveys as by far the #1 issue for voters (there is never even a close 2nd). Every single survey shows Obama’s 2008 coalition is less enthusiastic in 2012 than in 2008 (especially Hispanics and the youth vote).  But Schwartz and other lemmings use 2008 as the norm and add in more Democrats for flavor because according to Schwartz “more people who want to identify with the Democratic Party right now than the Republican Party.”  Few dispute more people identify with the Democrats which is why polls should be D +2 or D +3.  However, no sane person looks at the litany of reasons outlined above and says I think Obama’s going to have even a bigger advantage in 2012 than he had in 2008.  It’s professionally incompetent to reach such an absurd conclusion only the most politically partisan person could reach.

When is a Promise not a Promise?

When it comes from President Obama:

Battleground Counties: Prince William County, Virginia

Prince William County, Virginia was a county mentioned in the very first post that inspired the whole Battleground Counties series but I never had a chance to profile this enormously important county in one of the two key Battleground States this election. If one candidate wins both Virginia and Ohio, they almost certainly win the election and whoever wins Prince William County likely wins Virginia so a lot rides on this burgeoning exurb. Just further west of voter-rich Fairfax County, Prince William only two decades ago would have been considered rural, but between the dramatic expansion of federal workers in Northern Virginia and a solid technology sector in this region, Prince William County has gone from horse pastures to McMansions in short order.  This is an area where the obscure sequestration debate resonates loudly –a quarter of its residents commute over an hour to get to work, most all for federal jobs impacted by the cuts. The county’s election impact is undeniable. Between 2004 and 2008 both the population and voter turnout for the major party candidates increased dramatically, from 131, 047 to 161,056 a 23% increase.  To put this is perspective, George Bush won the County in 2004  by 6% with a total of 69,776 votes.  In 2008 John McCain garnered 67,621 votes (enough to beat John Kerry by 6k votes) but still lost by 16% (25.8k votes) to President Obama. This is a changing and increasingly valuable exurb. Local writers at InsideNoVa.com drill down on their once sleepy but now hopping home county:

In June 2008, Democrat Barack Obama kicked off his general election campaign at the Nissan Pavilion in western Prince William County. Five months later, he closed his presidential campaign with an election-eve rally that drew about 85,000 people to the Prince William County Fairgrounds. This Friday, Obama returns to the area, holding a re-election rally in Manassas, where GOP nominee Mitt Romney campaigned Aug. 11 with his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. Prince William, a booming Northern Virginia exurb of 413,000 residents, is home to some of Virginia’s most prominent conservatives, including Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors. Yet Obama carried Prince William by 25,000 votes in 2008, becoming the first Democratic nominee to win the county — and the state — in 44 years. The political cross-currents that made that possible — affluence, diversity, cul-de-sacs sprouting where there were once country fields — make Virginia’s second-largest county a key battleground in this pivotal swing state. “If you win Fairfax County and Prince William you’re almost guaranteed to tilt the state,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-11th. As for Romney, “He’s got to take Prince William,” says Connolly’s predecessor, Republican Thomas M. Davis III. “He doesn’t need it by a lot, but he needs to carry Prince William.”

Democrat beachhead in Northern Virginia

For decades, Prince William and Loudoun County, its neighbor to the north, were outside-the-Beltway behemoths that gave Republicans something of a firewall in presidential elections. In 2008, that firewall collapsed. Obama swept all of Northern Virginia, winning Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park. Collectively, Obama won Northern Virginia by 234,079 votes. In the rest of the state combined, he edged Republican John McCain by 448 votes. If Republicans hope to retake Virginia at the presidential level, they will have to chip away at Obama’s dominance in the state’s population centers such as Loudoun and Prince William, the fastest-growing localities in the state.

GOP opportunity

If Republicans hope to retake Virginia at the presidential level, they will have to chip away at Obama’s dominance in the state’s population centers such as Loudoun and Prince William, the fastest-growing localities in the state. Virginia Republicans say this election comes in a different climate from 2008. They say they have enthusiasm on their side and much better statewide organization than four years ago. Marshall said that “the present economic difficulties may turn some Democrats into Republican voters or more likely presidential no-shows and congressional-voters only, because whichever party is in power usually is blamed for the state of the economy.” Davis said Republicans “will do considerably better in what we call ROVA — the rest of Virginia,” than in 2008, but “they need to cut those margins down in NOVA. You certainly can’t make up 230,000 votes in the rest of the state.” That is a challenge because Northern Virginia “is culturally to the left of the Republican Party and we’re losing it on culture,” Davis said.

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Making the Case Against Polls Over-Sampling Democrats — Today’s Must Read

Time after time we see polls with funny results invariably in favor of President Obama and get our panties in a bunch that the results have no value while Obama advocates masquerading as journalists trumpet the results as confirming the inevitability of Obama winning this election .

But what is our reason for holding on to this belief when poll after poll says we are losing, even if ever-so-slightly? Jay Cost smartly made the quantitative case. Today I am going to make the substantive case.

First is the set-up: Barack Obama’s 2008 performance.  As we have outlined countless times, in November 2008 the Democrat turnout machine had a banner day when actual voters at the polling booths out numbered Republicans by 7 percentage points (note other exits have it as high as 8-points).  The representative electorate self-identified as the following: Democrats: 39%, Republicans: 32%, Independents: 29% or D +7. Very impressive following 2004 when the split between the parties was dead even (37 to 37).

In 2008, ahead of the election, Rasmussen Reports, who the Left loves to decry as partisan, had party affiliation at Dems +7, Dem: 41, Rep 34, Ind 25 — just as it was on election day. Others showed similar but greater Democrat advantages than what showed up on election day. For example, the generic ballot according to Pew Research showed Democrats with a +10 point advantage 38 to 28 . The generic ballot from Gallup had Democrats +12, 53 to 41.

There were many factors that gave Democrats such an advantage: historic viable candidate (Obama), war fatigue, financial meltdown, divisive incumbent, and inept opponent (McCain — good biography, bad candidate) all factored into a strong Democrat performance in 2008. Today none of those advantages are there for Obama and many of those are now largely working against Obama: 8%+ unemployment, sub-2% GDP, 23 million unemployed, Arab Spring blowing up, historic vote is yesterday’s news.

All of this adds up to a steep change in his own base’s enthusiasm which means Obama’s huge advantages at the voting booth in 2008 will be greatly diminished in 2012, the only question is by how much.  This is why President Obama has spent his entire campaign and Convention on hot-button cultural issues to fire up his base (Quite honestly can anyone outline his 2nd term agenda?).  His coalition for victory in 2008 relied heavily on voters who typically do not show up on election day like they did in 2008. The problem today is that survey after survey comes to the same conclusion:”Democratic Voting Enthusiasm Down Sharply From 2004, 2008.” This is why I title some blog posts: “What happens if Obama’s voters don’t show up?” The simple truth is that the pendulum of party affiliation has swung back from the strong showing in 2008 to a more balanced electorate in 2012.  This is what you see in the weekly generic tracking poll from Rasmussen Reports where either party has a 1-2 point advantage  depending on the week.  President Obama got a bump from his Convention so a 2-point advantage for Republicans shifted to a 2-point advantage for Democrats last week (it’s first lead since January).  The overall trend is unchanged — a very closely divided electorate.

This closely divided electorate is in no way shape or form represented in the relentless drumbeat of polls we get today from NBC, CNN, Fox News, Quinnipiac, ABC, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Marist, etc.

But what happens when you re-weight polls to reflect the last election when all the current data tells you voter preference has sharply changed?  You get stories like this one in 2010:

NEWSWEEK Poll: Democrats May Not Be Headed for Midterm Bloodbath

Obama’s approval continues to slide, but Bush’s legacy still haunts the GOP.

As Democrats prepare for considerable losses in the November elections, there’s reason to believe the party in power may not be headed for the bloodbath it might expect. According to a new NEWSWEEK Poll, President Obama’s approval rating—47 percent—indicates that the party is better off this year than Republicans were in 2006, when the GOP lost 30 House seats, and than the Democrats were in 1994, when they lost 52 House seats. Obama’s approval has fallen 1 percentage point since the last NEWSWEEK survey in June, but the White House has gained ground on several specific issues, specifically his handling of the economy, which has risen to 40 percent (from 38 percent) over the past two months.

Newsweek found a  45-45 tie  for Congressional preference ahead of the 2010 mid-terms. But when you look at the party vote breakdown, Democrats are winning 90% of the Democratic vote and Republicans are winning 94% of the Republican vote BUT Independents favor Republicans by 12 points: 45 to 33 – sound familiar?  It’s impossible to have a tied race when both sides lock up their bases and one side is winning Independents decisively.  So Newsweek re-weighted this poll to reflect the 2008 party identification for Democrats with a 7-point advantage to create a tied race ahead of what became a historic bloodbath at the Federal and State level the likes of which Republicans had never seen before.

This is exactly what is happening today.

In yesterday’s NBC/WSJ/Marist poll Romney led with Independents in both Ohio and Virginia but was losing decisively in both polls. We see this in nearly every state poll.  In the ABC/Washington Post national poll on September 11 Romney led Independents by 11-points but by oversampling Democrats they made the race virtually tied. In the CNN/ORC September 10 poll Romney led among Independents by 14-points but was losing the top-line result by 6-points. These are not surveys of the electorate, they are advocacy pieces pushing an agenda.

Te reality is very simple.  Major blocs of Obama voters are less enthusiastic and increasingly unlikely to show up at the polls in anywhere near the fashion they did in 2008.  This is true for Hispanics and the youth vote while the African-American vote has largely returned to historic voting patterns (90% support for Democrats). At the same time Republicans are greatly enthusiastic about voting in no small part due to the divisiveness of President Obama. The generic Congressional ballots and party affiliation surveys reflect a near 50/50 divided electorate between the parties more reminiscent of 2004 than 2008. Today’s polling, however, for whatever their stated reasons may be continue to report polls more representative of the 2008 electorate than anyone can reasonably argue will be the case. All the “micro-targeting” in the world won’t make up for a 5-6 percentage point shift in the electorate.

In 2008 you had a greatly fired up Democrat Party show up at the polls in droves while Republicans were dejected over a disappointing candidate and horrible confluence of events in the Fall of 2008.  Today Barack Obama has to own the failed economy, the dissatisfaction with his signature achievement Obamacare and meet a rejuvenated Republican Party.  The electorate in November 2012 will look dramatically different than current polling indicates which will leave more than a few “independent” journalists wiping away tears with printouts of these worthless polls.

Governor Susana Martinez Speech

Florida is Key for Romney

The selection of Tampa for this year’s Convention was no accident by the Republican National Committee and then-Chairman Michael Steele.  For all Steele’s missteps, placing the Convention in this vital state for Romney was a strategically brilliant move which contrasts greatly with the embarrassment going on with the Democrats in North Carolina were they can’t even name the stadium they are holding their rallies due to special interest control over their party (it’s Bank of America Stadium for those who don’t know). The Wall Street Journal looks at a state Barack Obama would like to win but Mitt Romney must win:

If Mitt Romney is to win the presidency, he probably needs to win Florida. To that end, his campaign has set out this week to make sure the state’s voters feel a lot more appreciated than its delegates. The convention is peppered with high-profile Floridians as speakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Attorney General Pam Bondi. After the convention wraps up, Mr. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, are set to head to Lakeland, just east of here, for a Florida “farewell” rally Friday. The campaign also will deploy a host of surrogates in coming weeks to barnstorm the state. The race in Florida currently is a dead heat. The Real Clear Politics average of state polls shows President Barack Obama leading the former Massachusetts governor by 1%.

Romney’s advantage

In Mr. Romney’s favor are a sluggish economy and higher-than-average unemployment, both of which have put Floridians in a sour mood and possibly amenable to change. The housing market continues to hurt. And Republicans dominate the state, holding the governorship, both houses of the legislature and every statewide office but one.

Vaunted (and Expensive) Obama ground game

To counter that, the Obama campaign has been organizing for almost a year and a half and has 73 offices in the state. The president also is benefiting from long-term demographic changes that are making Florida more racially and ethnically diverse.

Demographics play a major role

In 1996, the state’s registered voters were 81% white, 10% black and 7% “other”—primarily Hispanic. Today, registered voters are 68% white, 13% black and 14% Hispanic. The Hispanic growth has been fueled largely by non-Cuban Latinos, who tilt Democratic. The totals don’t equal 100% due to “unknown” and similar answers by voters.

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Quick Hits

I expect slow news ahead of the convention so blogging may reflect that.  Below are a few interesting items though:

Michael Barone reflects on the specifics from the many national conventions he has attended.  Great read.

National Journal looks at Nevada and Hispanic voters on the fence this election due to the all too slow  economic recovery

President Obama gives a long interview with the Associated Press showing some different rhetoric that we see on the stump

A large swath of voters are still undecided and remain unexcited despite the unprecedented early spending in this election cycle

 

Obama +2 in Nevada (with a really big caveat) — SurveyUSA

Only a day after we posted the “Democrat Perspective” that Nevada is already in the bag for Obama, The Las Vegas Review Journal publishes a SurveyUSA poll showing the race neck-and-neck.  There were a number of really interesting things in the poll.  The party ID was D +3 which is a fair split between 2008 (D +8) and 2004 (R +4).  The Hispanic vote was 19% of the survey which is 4% higher than the 15% record in 2008, but immigration is a key in the state so plausible. The strange part is Romney polled EVEN among Hispanics in this likely voter poll. The only way that is possible is if the enthusiasm gap is very real (I believe it is) and Romney supporting Hispanics are incredibly fired up.  Despite that, I’m not buying Romney being even among Hispanics until I see it in multiple polls but it is something to watch:

President Barack Obama edges out GOP opponent Mitt Romney 47 percent to 45 percent in a new Nevada poll that shows Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, evenly splitting voters in the battleground state, too.  The first Nevada survey taken since Romney added Ryan as his running mate showed the pick didn’t shake up the presidential race here, but it appeared to further harden the partisan divide that shows Nevadans split on whether to return Obama to the White House or replace him on Nov. 6 with Romney. As a result, Obama continues to run on shaky ground in Nevada, which is economically the nation’s hardest-hit state with unemployment at 12 percent and record home foreclosures and bankruptcies. Obama easily won Nevada by 12 percentage points four years ago but has been struggling to regain traction here.

Ryan impact? Neglible

About 42 percent of likely Nevada voters polled said Romney’s selection of Ryan as his vice presidential pick doesn’t influence their presidential choice. But 28 percent said they’re more likely to vote for Romney with Ryan on the ticket, while 29 percent said they’re more likely to vote now for Obama, who is campaigning in North Las Vegas today and was in Reno on Tuesday. Independents narrowly favored the Ryan selection, with 32 percent saying they’re more likely to vote for Romney with him on the GOP ticket and 25 percent saying they’re more likely to pick Obama. Overall, Romney is leading Obama among independent voters statewide, 44 percent to 39 percent.

Ryan impact on medicare debate?  Evenly split but remember, a draw for Republicans is likely a win in the voting booth  in November:

On the Medicare question, 70 percent of those surveyed said they’re “familiar with Paul Ryan’s thinking on Medicare,” which was not described in the poll question. Asked whether they backed Ryan’s Medicare plan, 48 percent said they supported his ideas, 47 percent said they were opposed and the rest weren’t sure.

This is true of almost all running mates.  However, Ryan most likely sured up any soft support for Romney among the Republicans.

Now for the strange part of the survey, Romney was EVEN among the Hispanics polled:

The new SurveyUSA poll showed Obama and Romney dividing the Hispanic vote 48 percent for the president and 47 percent for the former Massachusetts governor – a result even the pollster questioned. In June, a Latino Decisions poll showed Obama leading Romney among Hispanics, 69 percent to 20 percent. “We were surprised by the Hispanic result, too,” Leve said, adding it’s difficult to accurately survey Latinos. “It raised some eyebrows, but that is a snapshot and that is what we see.”

Democrat Perspective: 3 Reasons Why Mitt Romney Will Lose Nevada

Keith Boag is a Canadian journalist who thinks California is the greatest state in the US and he loves DC.  As someone who has lived in California and was raised in “DC”, that’s Democrat enough for me.  He’s traveling across the country on his way to the Republican Convention and logging reports from the places he stops along the way. He spent a few days in Las Vegas and found a conservative columnist crying that Romney is going to blow Nevada:

What I learned, though, is that Nevada isn’t really up for grabs this election. It’s spoken for. You might think I’m suggesting that its unemployment rate, the highest in the country at 12 per cent, and its significant Mormon population means this election it’s Mitt Romney’s turn to win Nevada, but that’s not so. Curiously, in spite of those facts, Nevada seems poised to give its six electoral votes to President Obama again.

Local columnist and newspaper publisher Sherman Frederick told me over drinks that he is stunned by this fact. The dismal economic realities of Las Vegas seem not to matter. “I look at the polls and Romney’s going to get his head handed to him here,” he says. One man’s view, perhaps, but Frederick is a conservative and he finds what’s unfolding, or more accurately, what’s not unfolding, hard to take. He believes in a natural order of politics, where incumbents pay a price when the economy is tanking on their watch.

So one conservative is pulling his hair out because Romney hasn’t put the hammer down on Obama yet.  That opinion is not unique.  But it’s mid-August and the campaign has barely begun so let’s move on:

Nevada’s Brookings Institution scholar David Danmore agrees there’s something counter-intuitive happening here. “Why is Romney not walking away with Nevada?” he asks rhetorically in my direction. And then he attempts an explanation that it’s clear he’s not fully satisfied by himself. “Nevada as this traditional, sparsely populated, rural, white state doesn’t really hold anymore. And that’s led to a lot of changes in our politics.”

Some basic facts about Nevada:

  • It’s an overwhelmingly urban state. There is lots of wide-open rural space on the physical map, but almost no one lives out there. The political map of Nevada is different. On that map Nevada is a densely populated urban area growing out from Las Vegas in the south and Reno in the north. Almost nothing else shows up on the political map.
  • Nevada has one dominant economic driver, the gaming industry. Gaming is a service industry. It’s heavily unionized and those union jobs (dealing cards, cleaning hotel rooms, waiting on tables, etc.) can’t be outsourced to the other side of the world.
  • Migration into Nevada has been heavily Hispanic and African American.

These are the basic ingredients of a Democratic stronghold, and the polls show Obama consistently with a four to six point lead over Romney in Nevada. That’s not a landslide, but for this President in this economy, it’s remarkable. Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking of Nevada’s as an “up for grabs” swing state.

The three points outlined above are the exact Democrat talking points for why they will carry Nevada.  Talk to me in mid-September and we’ll see if Obama is really leading by 4 – 6 points as alleged.  For what it’s worth, the Dean of Nevada journalism is with me thus far.

The Skinny

So many things fly through my twitter feed that I find interesting but not enough to expand into a blog post, I thought I’d combine then into one post:

  • jimgeraghty: Unemployment is 8.3%, no press conferences in eight weeks, and President Obama is doing an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
  • BuzzFeedAndrew: Joe Biden in 2001 praising Paul Ryan personally:”I don’t want to hear Democrats say he is a bad guy.” http://t.co/hnDLWCWD
  • TheFix “We want this debate. We need this debate.” — Paul Ryan in Ohio on Medicare.
  • Mike O’Brien@mpoindc Ryan on Biden’s ‘chains’ comment: “These are the kind of things you say when you’re desperate in a campaign.”
  • Jon G.@ExJon The Wisconsin unrest and Occupy movement were test runs for November. It’s going to get ugly.
  • Jon G.@ExJon The left will get a lot more violent the closer we get to the election. Especially if Romney starts pulling ahead in the polls. #BePrepared
  • Jay Cost@JayCostTWS  This is why those polls of Hispanics showing historically unprecedented leads for O should be doubted. http://bit.ly/N3Xwrq
  • Gabriel Malor@gabrielmalor  L. O. L. RT @politico Obama is preferred by people who don’t vote, according to a new poll out today: http://politi.co/Pl8exH
  • Jay Cost@JayCostTWS   Price of gas is up three cents in week. Dunno where predictive models suggest it’s going, but if prices don’t break soon…HUGE campaign issue
  • zerohedge@zerohedge  Brent over $116

Battleground Counties: Washoe County, Nevada

The Battleground Counties series makes a return as we head out west with Paul Ryan into Nevada and Washoe County. Although most of the population in Nevada rests in and around Las Vegas, once you head to heavily Republican Northern Nevada, Washoe County becomes the destination for politicians of all parties:

Washoe is the battleground county in the battleground state of Nevada. Rural Nevada is safe Republican terrain. Clark County is where 70 percent of the state population lives and where more Democrats thrive. So it’s Washoe County where the political wrestling is happening, a swing county in a swing state. “To boil it down, Washoe is probably the biggest target area of the state,” said Ryan Erwin, an adviser to the Romney campaign in Nevada.

Fast facts:

  • It is Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller’s home Northern Nevada turf
  • GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama were both in Reno [recently], addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention and sparring over national security
  • The Romney campaign opened a Reno “victory office” in late July
  • So far, more than $4 million worth of political TV ads have aired in the Reno market

The lay of the land

In 2008, Obama won Washoe on his way to his Nevada victory and the presidency, gaining 55 percent of the vote versus 46 percent for GOP presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. In 2012, Romney must beat Obama in Washoe to have a shot at winning Nevada and the White House. That is what former President George W. Bush did in his two successful Nevada campaigns, winning Washoe with a little more 50 percent of the vote in 2004 and just under 50 percent in 2000. James Smack, vice chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, said it comes down to this: For Republicans, Washoe is a must-win county while Democrats can afford to lose it and still win Nevada. “If a Republican is going to win the state, he has to win the 16 counties that are not named Clark,” said Smack, who also is the incoming Republican National Committeeman for Nevada.

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Marco Rubio to Campaign for Romney in Colorado and Nevada

Our pick for Vice President, Marco Rubio, who lived in Las Vegas during his youth will head to the Silver State to campaign for Mitt Romney:

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is set to make some high profile surrogate appearances on behalf of Mitt Romney next week in Colorado and Nevada, campaigning solo for the presumptive GOP nominee for the first time, ABC News has learned. A source with knowledge of the events told ABC News Rubio will campaign for Romney at a rally at Rubio’s old elementary school in Las Vegas, Nevada, Saturday followed by a rally in Denver, Colorado, later that day. Rubio also will participate in finance events for Romney while in the area.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio was born in Miami but his family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada for a brief time where his father worked as a bartender. While living in Nevada, the family, except for Rubio’s father, converted to Mormonism. Rubio wrote about attending C.C. Ronnow Elementary School, where Saturday’s rally will take place, in his autobiography, “An American Son.”

“Veronica and I began our new life in earnest in September 1979, when we entered second and third grade at C.C. Ronnow Elementary School,” Rubio wrote. “Our new school was only a few blocks from our house, close enough that we could walk there every day with the Thiriots and other neighborhood kids, while my mother trailed a few steps behind us. In Miami, our schoolmates had all been like us, the sons and daughters of Cuban exiles. But C.C. Ronnow had an ethnically diverse student body. We went to school with white, non-Hispanic kids like the Thiriots, with African-American students who were bused in from a neighborhood several miles away and with Hispanic children, mostly of Mexican descent, as well. At first, it was an unfamiliar environment, but one we quickly adapted to and enjoyed.”

Is Nevada a Blurprint for an Obama Victory?

Harry Reid’s improbable re-election in 2010 is giving Democrats hope for a repeat in 2012 at the Presidential level. The author, John Dickerson, is very good but I seriously question his statement that “Nevada is Obama’s to lose…”  I’d like to know which ostensible “republican strategist” concurred with that whopper. Either way, Democrats hope lightening strikes twice and they can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat:

Nevada should be a state Barack Obama has no chance of winning. In an election about the state of the economy, no state has been harder hit. The unemployment rate is 11.6 percent, the highest in the nation. Sixty-one percent of the homes are worth less than the mortgage on them, also the highest in the nation. Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert, but everyone there is underwater.  Still, Barack Obama has a shot in Nevada. He won Nevada by 12 points in 2008 and an average of polls right now shows the president ahead by 5 points (and perhaps more if you believe pollsters underestimate the Hispanic vote). Analysts in both parties say the state is the president’s to lose. Nevada is the most acute example of the key political dynamic in this election: The weight of a bad economy should sink the incumbent, but a combination of fortunate demographics and superior organization in the battleground states might rescue him in the end.

Broken economy

The economy in Nevada isn’t just bad, it’s broken.  At the height of the boom in 2006, construction represented 12 percent of the workforce. Since the housing bubble burst, 90,000 construction jobs have been lost. Construction workers now represent only 4 percent of the workforce. No one expects the industry to return to earlier heights. Anyone who might want to swing a hammer in another state can’t leave, because they’d lose money on their house. In the first quarter of 2012, Nevada had the No. 1 foreclosure rate in the nation. The rate of debt to house value in Nevada is 114 percent. People aren’t just hurting, they’re imprisoned.

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2,500 Words on Rob Portman

It seems plenty of people used the extended holiday week to crank out some serious verbiage. Robert Costa at The National Review takes a long look at today’s odds-0on favorite to get the Vice President call from Mitt Romney, Ohio Senator Rob Portman.  It’s a long worthwhile read, but I’ll bullet point the highlights:

  • As a student Portman perfected his Spanish on a 6-month kayak trip down the Rio Grande, which he still speaks fluently.
  • Portman served in two Cabinet-level posts for Bush 43, including budget director from 2006 to 2007. His budget tenure has dogged him throughout the veep season, and many Washington observers see it as his biggest liability.
  • Portman took care to defend his record at the Office of Management and Budget, talking up his push for a balanced budget and his efforts to make data about congressional earmarks available online.
  • Any fiscal hawk who examines his record, he argued, shouldn’t have a problem with it. “I served at a time when we had a strong economy, when we had deficits that we would die for today. I was able to propose a balanced budget, not over ten years, but over five years….I’m proud of that record.”
  • Portman also defended the Romney campaign’s senior team, which has come under fire in recent days for how it handled Romney’s follow-up to the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare.
  • On whether Obamacare’s “penalty” is a tax, he echoed Romney’s comments to CBS News last week: “It’s not up to me. It’s up to the Supreme Court, and it’s a tax.”
  • He spoke about his late father, Bill Portman, who founded Portman Equipment Company a half-century ago after graduating from Dartmouth. “My family comes out of that background… My father left his job as a salesman to start his own business.”
  • About those Bain attacks? Portman was incredulous: “I frankly wonder why the Obama campaign wants to talk so much about [Romney’s] private-sector experience.”
  • Portman is a favorite of many within Romney’s inner circle, because of his political diligence, his fundraising prowess, and his policy acumen. “He knows how to work the details, and he probably understands the budget better than anyone running for president or vice president.”
  • Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney aide, told me after Romney won Ohio by a narrow margin that Portman put the campaign over the top: Thanks to Portman’s push, Romney came to Ohio “a week before the election, down eleven points, and quickly caught up.” And a Politico analysis of the exit polls shows that a quarter of Ohio Republicans made their decision during the final days of the campaign, when Portman and Romney were travel companions.
  • He has been a fundraising machine, raising millions for Romney from southwestern Ohio. Last month, he hosted a series of events with big-dollar donors, including one reception that netted more than $3 million for Romney and other Republicans.
  • Portman “passes the crucial test of preparedness.” If the Ohioan is selected, there will be “widespread consensus among Republicans, the media, and Democrats that he’s qualified from Day One to be commander-in-chief.”

Whoops: Obama’s Immigration Move Backfiring?

Below we talk about how Obama’s immigration executive order was designed to improve the enthusiasm gap among Hispanics — they already support him overwhelmingly.  While those poll numbers demonstrate that Obama’s move has this far failed to energize Hispanics, an even more concerning development was revealed in today’s Quinnipiac Swing State polls:

President Obama’s decision to exempt young illegal immigrants from deportation may not be the electoral boon it’s cracked up to be. And in fact, it appears to be turning off more voters than it mobilizes in three key states, according to new polling from Quinnipiac University.

Who are you more likely to support following Obama’s Immigration Executive Order?

Florida Ohio Pennsylvania
Barack Obama 17% 11% 12%
Mitt Romney 22% 27% 27%

While most voters still like the policy and Obama continues to lead Mitt Romney in all three states, the opposition to the move appears to be significantly more motivated by it — particularly in the two Midwestern states. In both Ohio and Pennsylvania, more than twice as many respondents say the decision makes them less likely to support the president (27 percent in both) as say it makes them more likely to back him (12 percent in Pennsylvania, 11 percent in Ohio). In Florida, the split is less pronounced, with 22 percent saying the move makes them less likely to support Obama and 17 percent saying it makes them more likely to support him.

Still, though, the opposition wins the day, even in a heavily Latino state (though we should note that Florida’s Latinos — many of them Cuban-Americans — tend to be more conservative than in other states). What’s most remarkable about the results is that, in all three states, a majority supports Obama’s immigration policy by a significant margin: by 25 points in Florida, 14 points in Ohio and 10 points in Pennsylvania. So how can a popular policy be a political loser? Put simply, voters who care about the issue most tend to disagree with Obama’s policy.

Whoops!

Obama’s Hispanic Vote Problem and Why He Made His Immigration Move

The demographic changes in the US and the growing Hispanic vote has been the topic du jour in the early election season. A consistent theme among punditry is the overwhelming lead Obama has among this voting bloc.

However, a strange problem for Obama is that every demographic group he outperformed with in 2008 has largely reverted to the norm this election cycle — except for Hispanics.  But if Obama still leads overwhelmingly among Hispanics, and might even be outpacing his 2008 performance, why was he concerned enough to make such a bold (and likely unconstitutional) move with his executive order on immigration and deportations? Because consistent with Gallup’s findings (linked above), Hispanics may simply not show up at the polls like they did four years ago:

Hispanics overwhelmingly approve of President Obama’s recently announced immigration policy and give him a 40-point lead over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, according to results from a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Telemundo poll. Obama’s job approval among Latinos has also seen a four-point boost, within the poll’s margin of error, since the immigration announcement. But the president still faces a challenge in energizing Latinos to vote. Hispanics — the largest-growing demographic group in the country that could also hold the key to Obama’s re-election bid — are not as interested in this election, so far, as they were at the same point during the 2008 election. The poll was conducted June 20-24 after the president’s immigration pronouncement.

Their interest in this election remains far below 2008 levels, and lags well behind other key groups this cycle. To measure enthusiasm, the pollsters asked respondents to say how interested they are in this November’s contest, on a scale of one to 10. Adding up the 8s, 9s, and 10s gives a good measure of who the most likely voters will be this fall.

***Two-thirds – 66 percent – of Latinos put themselves in this high-interest category. Last month, it was 68 percent. That’s much lower than the average of 80 percent in this poll for all adults.***

It’s particularly problematic for Obama’s re-election chances, considering some of the highest-interest groups are ones likely to vote for Romney – Tea Party supporters (89 percent), McCain 2008 voters (88 percent), conservatives (84 percent), those 65 and older (83 percent), Republicans (83 percent), and whites (81 percent). Several key Obama voting groups come in above 80 percent – post-grads (87 percent), urban voters (86 percent), college-educated women (84 percent), Democrats (83 percent), liberals (83 percent), Obama 2008 voters (83 percent), African Americans (81 percent). But Hispanics and young voters, two key pieces of the puzzle, see a big drop off. Young voters are even lower than Latinos, at just 61 percent.

Consider that in July 2008, four-out-of-five Hispanics – 80 percent – were in the high-interest range. That rose to 100 percent by November, with 92 percent saying they were a 9 or 10. In this poll, just 52 percent of Latinos said they were a 9 or 10, below the 68 percent of all respondents. In July 2008, 64 percent of Hispanics said they were 9s and 10s.

Battleground Counties: Hillsborough County, Florida

One of my favorite topics this election season are the Battleground Counties that will truly decide this election.  We’ve covered a few of these so far and here is an extensive look at one of the more important players due to the electoral votes at stake: Hillsborough County, Florida which includes Tampa, home of the Republicans National Convention this year.  Travelers advisory warning: this write-up is full of a lot of great data.  But the author veers off into wholly inaccurate information and some partisan opinion writing when it comes to Obama’s organizational operation in the state.  It’s unfortunate because these inaccuracies and biased rhetoric mar what is otherwise a great look at an all-important Battleground County:

In 2008, Hillsborough became the only Florida county that had backed Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 to flip to Barack Obama. A surge of minority voters, young people, and independents helped Obama wring 68,000 more votes out of Hillsborough than John Kerry had, propelling him to a 7-point victory over Republican nominee John McCain in the county. How closely divided is Hillsborough? Of the 1.95 million votes cast in presidential elections since 1992, Republican nominees won only about 14,000 more than Democratic nominees. The outcome in the Tampa Bay market has run within 2 percentage points of the statewide result in every presidential election since 1992. The campaign here will pit Obama’s organizational power and his capacity to take advantage of the region’s shifting demographics against Romney’s message of fiscal prudence, backed by the state’s all-powerful GOP establishment, and played against the backdrop of a still-sputtering local economy.

How South Florida’s eastern and western counties achieved their ideological split

Liberal Northeasterners headed south on I-95 to Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, turning South Florida into a Democratic stronghold, while folks from Michigan and Ohio took I-75 to Florida’s west coast. The influx bestowed on Hillsborough County a Midwestern sensibility that’s more practical than ideological.

Fiscal conservatism in the county

In one obvious sign of the county’s penny-pinching mind-set, tea party activists help lead a successful battle in 2010 against a 1-cent increase in the sales tax to pay for light rail and other transportation projects in the county. The Democratic nominee for governor that year, Alex Sink, hailed from Hillsborough County but won here by only 10,000 votes. That slim margin of victory helped Republican Rick Scott, a former corporate executive who promised to create 700,000 jobs in seven years, narrowly win statewide.

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