A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Tag: mitt romney poll

Why Is The Media Covering The Election As If Romney’s Winning? He’s Not.

by evanmcmurry

John Cook had a prescient take on the media’s* coverage of Romney a few weeks ago: namely, that they were covering him as if he were a loser. It’s doubly prescient now that the press is doing the same for Obama.

A trio of articles from The New Republic, The Daily Beast, and New York Magazine all ask the same question: why is everybody writing about this race as if Romney’s winning? Via Jon Chait:

This is a bluff. Romney is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Over the last week, Romney’s campaign has orchestrated a series of high-profile gambits in order to feed its momentum narrative. Last week, for instance, Romney’s campaign blared out the news that it was pulling resources out of North Carolina. The battleground was shifting! Romney on the offensive! On closer inspection, it turned out that Romney was shifting exactly one staffer. It is true that Romney leads in North Carolina, and it is probably his most favorable battleground state. But the decision to have a staffer move out of state, with a marching band and sound trucks in tow to spread the news far and wide, signals a deliberate strategy to create a narrative.

Chait’s right. For all the bluster, Romney still trails in almost all important metrics. Romney significantly narrowed the gap between himself and Obama following the first debate, and the race nationally is tied. But if the election were held today, Obama would win handily, taking every swing state but North Carolina and Florida. If “momentum” or “trajectory” are what matters—a take Alec MacGillis defenestrates—even that doesn’t get you anywhere: far from Romney surging, the race has actually stabilized in the past ten days, with Obama maintaining a small but demonstrable lead in most swing states, more than enough to get to 270. Hell, there are even signs via early voting that North Carolina isn’t as in the bag as Romney’s camp wants us to think.

But Chait’s also right that a media narrative that Romney’s winning could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Michael Tomasky points to Politico credulously reporting that Romney could take New Hampshire merely because a Romney aide said he might—despite the fact that Romney’s never led there, and a poll yesterday had Obama up by nine in the state. Enough articles like that and Democratic voters could become discouraged, thus creating a reality that follows Politico‘s reporting of it.

As a friend of mine put it last night, the media* was all too happy for a Romney comeback, as it looked like he was going to sleep through the election and take everybody’s ratings with him. But we might want to be careful how much we participate in such a comeback: if Romney does win, and it turns out that his campaign was a bait and switch in which Romney costumed himself as a moderate to win centrist votes only to implement a far more extremist budget that savages popular programs to pay for tax cuts for the rich, then people will begin asking why this wasn’t unmasked more in the general election. And the media* will have to answer why it let Romney’s continual claim to create 12 million jobs—to pick just one of many examples—go without comment. As MacGillis puts it:

It doesn’t matter if we have failed in achieving many of the basics of campaign coverage, like getting a candidate to cough up a critical mass of tax returns, release his bundler list, and account for his proposals and position shifts with a minimum of detail and coherence. No, we have our trajectory. And dammit, we’re sticking to it.

* There is, of course, no such thing as “the media.” Except, of course, when there is.

Joe Biden Would Like To Interrupt This Post To Talk About Medicare

by evanmcmurry

This morning’s polling generally finds the “bleeding stemmed”—to use the agreed-upon MSM phrase—from Obama’s poor debate performance two weeks ago. In sum, Romney saw an overall lift in his positives, and he’s polling closer to Obama, but Obama has regained a couple point lead in the national polls.

As always, national polls are—not meaningless, exactly, but not revelatory either. Breakdowns in the polling, though, can tell us more: Greg Sargeant has a whole slew of areas in which Romney showed no gain since the debate, especially on the question of which candidate voters think better represents the middle class, providing an opening for Obama in tomorrow’s debate to do nothing but bring up Romney’s 47% remarks.

But in one area, Obama has actually increased his lead since the polls two weeks ago:

Obama’s advantage on who is more trusted to handle Medicare has actually gone up, from 47-43 to 53-38. This was a major topic at both debates, and recall that Joe Biden made a strong appeal to voters to trust their “instincts” on who is better for the program. [Emphasis Sargeant’s]

Recall that before the first presidential debate, Romney was losing serious ground in states like Ohio and Florida, somewhat due to Paul Ryan’s Medicare-killing inclusion on the ticket; since the debate, however, Romney’s rebounded in both states, especially in Florida. If there’s an issue that will remind Floridians why they were leaning against the Romney/Ryan ticket, it’s Medicare, and it looks like Joe Biden got that across loud and clear; in fact, it’s entirely possible that that was Biden’s primary job going into the debate last Thursday, and he smiled so much because he nailed it. It would be nice and poetic if Joe Biden interrupted Romney’s rise as figuratively as he literally interrupted Paul Ryan, and on the same issue, no less.

Obama Now Up By Five Among Likely Voters, Convention Bounce Or No

by evanmcmurry

Though the headline says Obama’s lead “narrows,” he still is ahead in Monday’s Reuters/Ipsos poll by five among likely voters, the group most likely to tend rightward.* Keep in mind, the two candidates were statistically tied at the beginning of the conventions. As we’re almost two full weeks past the convention, there’s good reason to think this is no longer a long convention bounce we’re seeing, but a reflection of Romney’s stumbles: the public did not view his response to the Libya attacks favorably at all. And this is all before the Politico story on Romney’s shambling campaign or the revelation of a video showing Romney disparaging half the country as moochers, the former of which likely won’t matter to voters, but the latter of which could be devastating.

All of this means Obama’s five point lead is not likely to fade in the next week, at least. This has historical precedence, as Ezra Kelin explains:

The least-stable period of the campaign isn’t early in the year or in the fall. It’s the summer. That’s because the conventions have a real and lasting effect on a campaign.

“The party that gains pre- to post-convention on average improves by 5.2 percentage points as measured from our pre- and post-convention benchmarks,” write Erikson and Wlezien. “On average, the party that gains from before to after the conventions maintains its gain in the final week’s polls. In other words, its poll numbers do not fade but instead stay constant post-conventions to the final week.”

In other words, Obama’s five point lead is dead on, statistically, and likely to be permanent.

Also noteworthy: Obama is now leading Romney on who would do a better job on the economy, one of the only areas on which Romney has been beating the president, and the logic for his entire campaign.

* In contradistinction to registered voters, or the public in general.

Do The Ryan Bounce!

by evanmcmurry

Nate Silver reads the post-Ryan polls with what he calls a “Vice Presidential Bounce adjustment”: namely, the increase in the polls every candidate gets thanks to the excitement of and exposure from a VP announcement, a bounce that fades over the next few polls. Silver calculates this as +4 points; in his words, “subtract four points from any poll conducted in between the naming of the running mate and the party convention” to get the candidate’s true polling position.

Applying this to Romney’s post-Ryan polls gives

a rather pessimistic forecast for Mr. Romney — giving him just a 24 percent chance of winning the Electoral College, rather than 31.3 percent as in the official version.

The intuition behind this is simply that, under this theory, it’s a bad sign for Mr. Romney that Mr. Ryan has produced a below-average bounce so far. Among the polls that allow for a direct comparison, Mr. Romney has gained an average of about one percentage point since his selection of Mr. Ryan.

[…] From what we can tell, most other candidates have gotten larger bounces after naming their running mates.

Of course, the story of polling is in the states, specifically the swing states, which tell a slightly different story. As Silver notes, even a one-point change in a swing state can look meaningful, and Romney did get a bounce in those states—though once adjusting for the VP announcement, the bump rarely exceeds one point.

Long blah short: it looks like Ryan is giving Romney a slight boost in swing states, which was his role. But if this is the best he can do—i.e., if Ryan’s actual campaigning is unable to sustain the excitement of his arrival, or if he (very probably) gets bogged down in a Medicare back-and-forth—the total benefit to Romney will be slim.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the appearance of a bounce can be spun into “momentum”—the exact phrase the Romney campaign is using this morning—to convince voters that Ryan really is the game-changer they want him to be, in which case reality will follow its statistical derivation. But given that, as Greg Sargeant points out, we’re only five days past Ryan’s announcement and still talking about Romney’s taxes, the idea of any long-term momentum seems unlikely. More likely: this, and the post-convention bounce, will be the highest Romney polls until November.

Happy Friday, Everybody: Even Fox News Can’t Make Obama’s Nine Point Lead Go Away

by evanmcmurry

I’m not a mathtometrist. How many Voter ID bills does it take to erase a nine point lead?

Mitt Romney has had a tough couple of weeks on the campaign trail — and it shows in the latest Fox News poll. After a barrage of campaign ads, negative news coverage of his overseas trip and ongoing talk about his tax returns, Romney’s favorable rating and standing in the trial ballot have declined. As a result, President Obama has opened his biggest lead since Romney became the presumptive Republican nominee.

The president would take 49 percent of the vote compared to Romney’s 40 percent in a head-to-head matchup if the election were held today, the poll found. Last month, Obama had a four percentage-point edge of 45 percent to 41 percent. This marks the second time this year the president has had a lead outside the poll’s margin of sampling error.

(That’s from Fox News, which explains why it’s the “negative news coverage” of Romney’s overseas trip that caused his numbers to slip, and not simply Romney’s overseas trip.)

As Greg Sargeant points out, CNN also has Obama up considerably, and for the second week in a row*, which means it looks like Romney’s whole “You didn’t build that” line of attack amounted to squat. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to try again:

The Drudge Report wins this week’s Lee Atwater award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Blatant Misrepresentation. Here’s Obama’s original quote, in Colorado yesterday:

I said I believe in American workers, I believe in this American industry, and now the American auto industry has come roaring back and GM is number one again. So now I want to do the same thing with manufacturing jobs not just in the auto industry, but in every industry. I don’t want those jobs taking root in places like China. I want them taking root in places like Pueblo.

As Media Matters notes, Drudge’s headline on this was “Let’s Repeat Auto Bailout ‘With Every Industry’,” even though the context makes clear the president was saying he wants to replicate the auto bailouts’ssuccess with every industry. The RNC is now pushing this falsehood as well. (via)

Keep at it, guys. Maybe next week, Obama will be up by 11.

(Eternal poll caveats: national polls are meaningless, margin of error, etc.)

Americans Want A Small Government That Invests Heavily To Grow The Economy But Maintain Economic Freedom

by evanmcmurry

Via Greg Sargeant:

 The NBC/WSJ poll also finds that Romney holds the edge on who has good ideas for improving the economy, 43-36. But 80 percent say they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who will fight for fairness and encourage investments to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class, versus 68 percent who lean towards restoring “economic freedom” and “small government.” And Obama leads on who would fight for the middle class, 49-33.

Here’s the actual question:

Q22 Now, I’m going to read you some statements you could hear about government and the economy from candidates running for president. After I read each statement, please tell me if you would be more or less likely to vote for that candidate, or if it would make no difference in whether you would vote for that candidate. (IF MORE, THEN ASK:) And would you be much more likely or just somewhat more likely to vote for this candidate? The (first/next) one is a candidate for president who…

Will fight for balance and fairness and encourage the investments needed to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class

July 2012+ ……………………………….   80

Wants to restore the values of economic freedom, opportunity, and small government.

July 2012+ ……………………………….  68

So that means a minimum of 56% want both. Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others, I guess. Memo to future pollsters: it might be helpful to make respondents choose between these two options, so they don’t end up supporting Bamittrack ObRomney.