News from the Votemaster
While much of the campaign has been going on along the Atlantic coast (New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida) and in the Midwest (Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio), the West has been somewhat neglected. Nominally, there are three Western swing states: New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado, but New Mexico has become so blue that it is really off the table now. Of the others, Colorado is the bigger prize (9 EVs) but Nevada (6 EVs) is also worth having. To emphasize that he hasn't written off the West, right after the third presidential debate, Mitt Romney flew to Nevada for a rally, then went on to Colorado for another one, at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, where he spoke to an estimated 12,000 fired up supporters.
Neither candidate regards Colorado as a "must win" state, in the sense of Ohio or even Virginia, but if Romney wins Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, Colorado will become crucial. If this scenario prevails, the election results won't be known until late in the evening at best, because Colorado is on Mountain Time.
Obama, meanwhile, kicked off a nine-state tour that will cover all the swing states and then some within a span of 38 hours. Since most of that time he will be in the air, he will call voters from the plane and even sleep on it.
With each campaign spending hundreds of millions of dollars of television ads, one might think they were getting really good at it. Not so, say experienced advertising executives. They say that an ad should not run too often in one evening or be too loud and aggressive, lest it annoy viewers, and it should be targeted at the specific audience the advertiser wants to reach. Also, for maximum impact so people remember them, ads should have an interesting story, almost like a minimovie. Political ads violate all of these maxims constantly.
Some political ad makers say that political ads are fundamentally different from ads for consumer products. For one thing, If a consumer doesn't buy a brand of soap by Nov. 6, there is still a chance he will buy it on Nov. 7. With political ads, there are no do-overs. Also consumer ads are rarely designed to trash a specific competing product through and through and make that product completely unacceptable, as some (maybe most) political ads are. As to focus, a consumer products company that wants to target single women in the 20s can probably find a show with the right demographics to advertise in, whereas political campaigns often want to target everyone. Nevertheless, the advertising pros tend to see the folks who make and place political ads as rank amateurs.
The campaigns are going downscale to find votes among women. During the go-go 1990s, political campaigns put a lot of focus on the so called "soccer moms," married suburban women who were socially liberal but fiscally conservative. This year the focus is on the so called "waitress moms," working-class women who are having a hard time economically and might be open to Mitt Romney's pitch that only he can fix the economy, but who also don't want to see decades of progress on women's rights flushed down the toilet. In essence, these women are in the same predicament as the soccer moms, the economy (which makes them want to vote for a Republican) vs. women's rights (which makes them want to vote for a Democrat), only the whole battle is playing out lower down on the economic ladder. As these women struggle balancing their jobs with family life, the economy tends to dominate, then someone like Richard Mourdock says that pregnancy following a rape is part of God's plan and they are jerked back to their concerns over women's rights and what the Republicans might do to them.
The Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision not only freed up corporations to spend unlimited funds supporting or opposing candidates for office, but also loosened the rules about "educating" workers about how to vote. A number of companies, including Koch Industries, Georgia Pacific, and Westgate Resorts, have decided to hand out "voter guides" to workers and even set up get-out-the-vote drives. Romney is clearly aware of the potential here and when speaking on a conference call to the National Federation of Independent Businesses earlier this year said: "I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections," In other words, try to scare your workers into thinking that an Obama victory will result in layoffs. To some extent, unions also have more freedom as well, but only a small number of industries are heavily unionized.
In Florida and Virginia, some voters have received phone calls telling them they didn't have to stand on line to vote on election day because they can vote by phone. There have also been postcards sent out telling people that election day was Nov. 8th or giving them other incorrect information. While well-informed voters won't fall for any of this stuff, there are a lot of what are euphemistically called "low-information voters" who really don't understand a lot about voting and elections, some of whom can be duped. For example, low-income legal immigrants who have only recently become citizens, may not understand voting procedures. A conservative group called True the Vote hopes to train up to a million people to show up at the polls to challenge voters in low-income areas by demanding ID--something private citizens have no right to demand--but some voters may not realize this. On the other side, a progressive group called Election Protection has 10,000 lawyers and others lined up to help voters with election day problems.
The F.B.I. is investigating fraudulent letters written on official election office letterhead paper sent to people in 23 Florida counties questioning their eligibility to vote. There are no doubt many more incidents like this, but few of them ever get investigated.
Both parties are working on massive get-out-the-lawyers campaigns to monitor the election and be ready to challenge irregularities. As Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report wryly noted recently: ""On Election Day, there are really only two guarantees: Someone will win and someone will sue."
Just when Republicans were hoping that everyone would forget Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's comments that pregnancy following rape is God's will, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stirred the pot and kept the story alive. On CNN yesterday, he said that his continued support for Mourdock depends on Mourdock's providing a fig leaf by saying he didn't really mean it. McCain's state is 2000 miles from Indiana and his support or lack thereof probably won't change a single Indiana vote, but having this story in the news for another day reminds women of the Republicans general position on abortion and distracts everyone from Romney's economic message. Romney made an ad endorsing Mourdock that is currently running in Indiana. Romney has come out against rape but has also refused to demand that the ad be pulled. If some pundit had predicted 6 months ago that two Senate seats (Missouri and Indiana) and control of the Senate would be determined by the politics of rape, he would have been declared mad. But here we are.
No less than $29 million in independent expenditures has gone into Senate races in the past week. The top two states targeted were Ohio and Virginia, with Indiana and Arizona next. That gives an idea of where the smart money (OK, well, the big money) thinks the action is. Other states that got blessed with a lot of cash are Wisconsin, Montana, Connecticut, Nevada, and North Dakota.
Enough presidential polling data is now available to analyze Rasmussen's data. Here is the methodology. The database contains 119 Rasmussen state polls from Jan. 1, 2012 until yesterday.. For each poll, a check was made to see if at least one poll from a different nonpartisan pollster was in the data base within a week either way from the Rasmussen poll. For example, for Rasmussen's poll of North Carolina on Oct. 2, a check was made for any other polls of North Carolina whose midpoint was between Sept. 25 and Oct 9. In this case, polls from PPP, ARG, SurveyUSA, and High Point University were found. For 82 polls, comparison polls within a week were found. For the other 37 Rasmussen polls, no other nonpartisan pollster surveyed the state within a week of Rasmussen's poll, so those polls were not used in this analysis.
For each remaining poll, the Obama - Romney score was computed. The arithmetic mean of the other polls' scores was then subtracted from the Rasmussen Obama - Romney value. Ideally, the result should be zero, but statistically that is very unlikely. A positive result means Rasmussen is overestimating Obama's standing and a negative one means he is underestimating it. For example, for the North Carolina poll cited above Rasmussen said Obama was 4 points behind but the average of the other pollsters put Obama 0.2 behind, so Rasmussen gets a bias score of -3.8 here. Averaging all 82 polls, Rasmussen's mean bias is -1.91 points, that is, Rasmussen appears to be making Obama look almost 2 points worse than the other pollsters.
As a simple example, look at the top line in the table below. on Feb. 16 (before Romney even got the nomination), Rasmussen gave Obama a 22% edge in California, but another poll within a week said Obama was 20% ahead. In this case Rasmussen has a positive bias (for Obama). On the line below, Rasmussen's bias is -2%, that is, against Obama.
Note that this does not necessarily mean Rasmussen is wrong and the others are right. It could be that Rasmussen is right and the others are painting too rosy a picture for Obama. There is no way to know now. Below are the scores for the 82 polls. Here are the results in .csv file. If you want all the 82 polls and the surrounding ones that were averaged, here it is.
|New Hampshire||Oct 09||0.0%||0.7%||-0.7%|
|New Hampshire||Oct 15||1.0%||0.4%||0.6%|
|New Hampshire||Sep 18||-3.0%||10.8%||-13.8%|
|New Hampshire||Jun 20||5.0%||4.0%||1.0%|
|New Mexico||Oct 08||11.0%||10.0%||1.0%|
|New Mexico||Sep 27||11.0%||9.0%||2.0%|
|North Carolina||Aug 01||-5.0%||3.0%||-8.0%|
|North Carolina||Oct 02||-4.0%||-0.2%||-3.8%|
|North Carolina||Oct 09||-3.0%||-2.0%||-1.0%|
|North Carolina||Apr 10||-2.0%||2.5%||-4.5%|
|North Carolina||Sep 13||-6.0%||2.0%||-8.0%|
|North Carolina||May 14||-8.0%||0.0%||-8.0%|
|North Carolina||Jun 25||-3.0%||-1.5%||-1.5%|
|North Dakota||Oct 18||-14.0%||-25.0%||11.0%|
|Arkansas||31%||58%||Oct 09||Oct 14||U. of Arkansas|
|Connecticut||49%||42%||Oct 15||Oct 17||Mason Dixon|
|Connecticut||55%||41%||Oct 19||Oct 22||Quinnipiac U.|
|Florida||47%||47%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Indiana||38%||51%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Massachusetts||56%||36%||Oct 21||Oct 22||MassINC|
|Montana||41%||47%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|North Dakota||39%||49%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Nebraska||41%||51%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|New Hampshire||48%||50%||Oct 23||Oct 23||Rasmussen|
|Nevada||50%||48%||Oct 23||Oct 23||Rasmussen|
|Nevada||51%||47%||Oct 22||Oct 24||PPP|
|New York||61%||35%||Oct 18||Oct 21||Marist Coll.|
|Ohio||47%||44%||Oct 20||Oct 22||SurveyUSA|
|Ohio||48%||48%||Oct 23||Oct 23||Rasmussen|
|Ohio||49%||44%||Oct 22||Oct 23||Abt SRBI|
|Ohio||50%||45%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Pennsylvania||49%||46%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Virginia||49%||46%||Oct 21||Oct 23||Zogby|
|Wisconsin||48%||46%||Oct 15||Oct 17||Mason Dixon|
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||I||I %||Start||End||Pollster|
|California||Dianne Feinstein*||53%||Elizabeth Emken||38%||Oct 15||Oct 21||USC|
|Connecticut||Chris Murphy||44%||Linda McMahon||44%||Oct 15||Oct 17||Mason Dixon|
|Connecticut||Chris Murphy||49%||Linda McMahon||43%||Oct 19||Oct 22||Quinnipiac U.|
|Florida||Bill Nelson*||52%||Connie McGillicuddy||44%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Indiana||Joe Donnelly||46%||Richard Mourdock||46%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Massachusetts||Elizabeth Warren||50%||Scott Brown*||44%||Oct 21||Oct 22||MassINC|
|Montana||Jon Tester*||48%||Denny Rehberg||46%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|North Dakota||Heidi Heitkamp||49%||Rick Berg||48%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Nebraska||Bob Kerrey||46%||Deb Fischer||48%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Nevada||Shelley Berkley||44%||Dean Heller*||44%||Oct 22||Oct 24||PPP|
|New York||Kirsten Gillibrand*||68%||Wendy Long||24%||Oct 18||Oct 21||Marist Coll.|
|Ohio||Sherrod Brown*||48%||Josh Mandel||44%||Oct 23||Oct 23||Rasmussen|
|Ohio||Sherrod Brown*||52%||Josh Mandel||41%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Pennsylvania||Bob Casey*||52%||Tom Smith||42%||Oct 19||Oct 21||Pharos Research Group|
|Virginia||Tim Kaine||50%||George Allen||43%||Sep 19||Oct 17||Old Dominion U.|
|Wisconsin||Tammy Baldwin||47%||Tommy Thompson||45%||Oct 15||Oct 17||Mason Dixon|
* Denotes incumbent
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