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How Does the Presidential Race Compare to Previous Ones?

One way to measure the presidential race is to compare the national Gallup poll now with national Gallup polls taken on or close to this date in previous years to see their predictive value. Talking Points Memo has collected the data and here it is. The notation D+6 means the Democrat was ahead by 6 points, etc. Incumbents are marked with an asterisk.

Year Democrat Republican Gallup Final
2012 Obama* Romney D+6 ?
2008 Obama McCain D+5 D+7
2004 Kerry Bush* tied R+2
2000 Gore Bush tied D+1
1996 Clinton* Dole D+21 D+9
1992 Clinton Bush* D+16 D+6
1988 Dukakis Bush R+5 R+8
1984 Mondale Reagan* R+16 R+18
1980 Carter* Reagan D+4 R+10

In the previous eight elections, Gallup had a clear leader six times. Of those, it picked the correct winner in every year except 1980, when Reagan upset Carter. The two years, 2000 and 2004, where Gallup had it tied were in fact very close. Looking at the numbers, 2012 looks a lot like 2008. The ball is now in Mitt Romney's court and he needs to do something powerful with it. Merely to continue pointing out that unemployment is 8% is probably not going to change much since people already know that. A potential game changer would be for him to crush Obama in the first debate on Oct. 3. Failing that, he could finally lay out a detailed plan of how he is going to fix the economy and what he is going to do to the Internal Revenue Code. If he does nothing new, probably nothing will change. Einstein once defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Romney Campaigns Half-Heartedly in Pennsylvania

Mitt Romney campaigned in Warren, PA, yesterday and declared the state a battleground he was going to win. The strange thing is that he hasn't visited Pennsylvania in more than 2 months. Furthermore, neither his campaign nor his allied superPACs have advertised in the state since August. Either it is a battleground state or it isn't. If it is, why isn't Romney advertising there? If it is hopeless, why bother spending a critical day before Wednesday's debate there? It is an odd mixed message. Our current average, based on five recent polls, puts Obama ahead there 52% to 41%. Unless Romney's internal polls are telling him something completely different, he is wasting precious time he should be spending in Central Florida, where his fate may well be decided. If Romney loses the election, the postmortems are going to feature blunders like this--wasting time in places where he should have known he was doomed instead of fighting hard in states where more campaigning could have made a difference.

GOP Donors Might Desert Romney

Political guru Charlie Cook sees the presidential race looking more and more like 1996, when Bob Dole's challenge to the incumbent Bill Clinton began to falter in September. As the forecasts got worse, the money dried up and the forecasts got even worse as it all went downhill. Cook believes that unless Romney can turn things around quickly, the donors, RNC, NRSC, and NRCC, may de facto adopt as their slogan: "Give us money so we can control Congress and block Obama during his second term." It's not a message Romney wants to hear. It could also backfire if enough discouraged Republicans don't feel like standing in line to vote for someone they expect to lose. As an aside, Dole still retains his famous sense of humor after his loss and move from elections to erections. For evidence, see this piece he wrote yesterday about his life since 1996.

What Obama Has to Do in the First Debate

A lot has been written about what Romney has to do in the first debate. It all comes down to somehow changing the game. For Obama the situation is different. The Christian Science Monitor gives him this advice. First, be the President and act it. Take responsibility for your actions and don't blame George Bush or anyone else for anything. Remember Harry Truman's little sign: "The buck stops here." Second, be humble. Nobody likes an arrogant candidate or leader. Don't put Romney down. Convince people that you are working your tail off for them day and night. Third, channel Bill Clinton. Try to explain complicated things--like the economy--in ways everyone can grasp without talking down to them. In other words, act like an Arkansas pol rather than a professor of constitutional law. Finally, don't make any mistakes. For an incumbent President leading in the polls, a tie is good enough. For the challenger, it is not good enough. Keep that in mind.

DSCC Buys Ad Time in Maine

The DSCC is in somewhat of a bind in Maine. Chairwoman Patty Murray probably doesn't want to openly support former governor Angus King, who is running as an independent against both Democrat Cynthia Dill and Republican Charlie Summers for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). On the other hand, King is dropping in the polls and Dill has no chance to win, only to be a spoiler by splitting the Democratic vote two ways. So Murray's $400,000 ad buy for Oct 2-12 is probably for an ad attacking the Republican rather than supporting King. It would be easier for Murray to explain to her donors why she is attacking the Republican than why she is not supporting the Democrat.

In contrast to past years, control of the Senate could hinge on battles in New England. In addition to the Maine race, in Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) is fighting for his life in a contest with consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. If either party wins both of these, it is likely to control the new Senate.

Republicans Drop Voter Registration Company that May Have Committed Fraud

In 2008, an organization called ACORN registered a million low-income voters, some of whom were nonexistent. The Republicans screamed about this even though none of the nonexistent voters actually voted. The problem was the minimum-wage workers who were paid per voter they registered, so some of them made up false names.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. The Republican Party hired a Virginia firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, to do voter registration in four swing states (Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, and North Carolina), and now it is being accused of precisely the same thing as ACORN was: fraudulent voter registration. The scandal was uncovered by the Palm Beach, FL, County Elections Supervisor who flagged 106 questionable registration applications bearing similar signatures and incorrect addresses.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Maine 52% 40%   Sep 25 Sep 25 Rasmussen
Michigan 51% 42%   Sep 17 Sep 19 PPP
New Hampshire 50% 45%   Sep 25 Sep 27 ARG
New Mexico 52% 43%   Sep 17 Sep 20 PPP
Pennsylvania 49% 42%   Sep 22 Sep 26 Muhlenberg Coll.
Pennsylvania 52% 40%   Sep 17 Sep 19 PPP
Virginia 49% 43%   Sep 17 Sep 19 PPP
Virginia 49% 47%   Sep 24 Sep 27 ARG

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Montana Jon Tester* 44% Denny Rehberg 42%     Sep 23 Sep 25 Global Strategy
Pennsylvania Bob Casey* 44% Tom Smith 36%     Sep 22 Sep 26 Muhlenberg Coll.

* Denotes incumbent