A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

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

Tag: obama debate

Breaking Down The Crosstabs Of The Crosstabs Of Obama’s Debate Win

by evanmcmurry

Public Policy Polling has Obama winning tonight’s debate, 53-42.

But! Looking at the crosstabs, this part is much more worrisome for Obama:

Q4 Did tonight’s debate make you more or less likely to vote for Barack Obama, or did it not make a difference?

More likely                                 37%
Less likely                                  31%
Didn’t make a difference           30%
Not sure                                       2% 

Q5 Did tonight’s debate make you more or less likely to vote for Mitt Romney, or did it not make a difference?

More likely                                  38%
Less likely                                   35%
Didn’t make a difference            26%
Not sure                                       1%

So for all that Obama won the debate, he didn’t bring voters over; they ended moving as much for Romney as for Obama. If you buy the narrative that Romney has the “momentum” of the race—a highly contestable theory, but one with a lot of believers—then Obama did nothing tonight to change that.

But! Most polling indicates that the race has stabilized, and while Obama and Romney are tied nationally, Obama still leads in key swing states, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Nevada, is tied in Virginia, and still close in Florida. Women voters are important in Ohio, elderly voters in Florida. With that in mind, take a look at these numbers:

More/Less Likely to Vote Obama?

                                              Base     Woman     Man
More likely:                           37%       40%         34%
Less likely:                            31%        29%         33%
Didn’t make a difference:      30%       31%          29%

More/Less Likely to Vote Romney?

                                              Base     Woman     Man
More likely:                           38%        36%        41%
Less likely:                            35%         38%        31%
Didn’t make a difference:      26%         25%        28%

That’s women breaking for Obama by +11, a decent margin, and leaving Romney by -2, for a total swing of 13 points. Movement like that secures a state like Ohio, and could tip a state like Virginia.

Now elderly voters:

More/Less Likely to Vote Obama?
    Base        18 to 29     30 to 45     46 to 65     Older than 65
More likely:                                 37%            35%            31%           38%               43%
Less likely:                                  31%             30%           26%           34%               32%
Didn’t make a difference:            30%            30%          40%            28%               25%
Not sure:                                      2%               5%            3%              0%                 0% 

More/Less Likely to Vote Romney?

    Base        18 to 29     30 to 45     46 to 65     Older than 65

More likely:                                 38%            50%             31%           37%             40%
Less likely:                                  35%            30%              37%          34%              36%
Didn’t make a difference:          26%             20%              31%          28%              23%
Not sure:                                      1%                 –                –               0%             1%

That’s elderly voters +11 points for Obama, the same margin by which he swayed women voters. Romney only swayed them by +4, for a total of +7 for Obama. That alone may not tip a big state like America’s Wang, but it sure keeps Florida’s 30 electoral votes in play for Obama.

Again, this debate probably won’t do much to change the overall national picture. But if you’re an Obama strategist, and you’re looking at women voters in Ohio and the Midwest in general, and elderly voters in Florida, you have to be happy with these numbers.

Postscript: What’s up with the youngins breaking for Romney by +20? Did only five of them watch the debate, two with Romney surnames?

The Two Numbers To Watch In The Post-Debate Polls

by evanmcmurry

Romney gained in numerous ways from his strong first debate performance, but the two most important were his favorability ratings and his performance among women voters. Before two weeks ago, Romney’s favorability ratings had been underwater in multiple swing states, largely due to a successful push by Obama’s campaign to paint him as a heartless, offshoring plutocrat. Romney managed to flip those numbers with his debate win, and his rise in the polls, especially in states like Florida and Pennsylvania, followed his rise in favorability ratings; only in Ohio, where the Bain attacks hit especially hard, has Romney not seen a significant increase in his favorability, though he has still gained there. Per Greg Sargeant, Romney also significantly closed the gap among women voters, which, during the legendary contraception wars of the spring of ought-12, was almost comically large.

In Tuesday night’s debate, Obama hit Romney hard in both these areas. Obama’s constant, Biden-like interruptions about the mendacity of Romney’s claims, his reminders that Romney has often held differing positions for differing audiences, his resuming the vulture capitalism trope, his Bain attacks, his nice line about Romney’s pension—all of these were in the same key as the attacks that kept Romney in the high-30s to low-40s favorability for much of the general election. Obama also brought up Planned Parenthood four times (even when it wasn’t particularly relevant); had one of his strongest answers when speaking on the Lily Ledbetter Act and women’s health access; and quite insightfully spun a question about Bush economic policies onto Romney’s arguably more extreme social policies—all points aimed at reminding women voters why they were turning from the GOP in droves a few months ago.

Last night’s debate is unlikely to change the national polling numbers—as Kevin Drum points out in a spot-on post, the national polling is exactly where we thought it would be given the dynamics of the race and is unlikely to change. But just as Romney’s general rise in the polls has been the aggregated result of specific* gains in certain categories, look for Obama’s strong debate performance to be felt not in the national poll averages but in targeted areas like Romney’s favorability and women voters—areas that, however narrow they may seem, could be pivotal in important swing states.

* The first and last time Mitt Romney benefited from specifics in this race.

The Obama’s Alive Narrative Is Alive

by evanmcmurry

Here’s Pareene at 9:09 p.m.:

Obama has “woken up” or at least guaranteed that the pundits will say he “woke up.” He said “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” But his list no longer has anything to do with this kid (energy independence???). Kid, these men cannot guarantee that you will have a job, unless Mitt Romney decides to just pay you.

Here’s Andrew Sullivan at 9:14 p.m.:

Thanks, Mr president, for calling a lie a lie. Finally. That 2nd round was a knock-out for Obama. Thank God he’s alive!

So, called it.

Obama Needs An Answer On Libya, Quick

by evanmcmurry

The Obama Administration has gotten itself into a bad pretzel over the Benghazi attacks. The opening question on Libya struck me as particularly bad for Biden in last week’s debate; sure enough, even as the rest of Biden’s performance has since faded into general lore, his answer on Libya has lived on in specifics. Romney has made hay of the fact that Biden et al didn’t know about additional security requests. And especially with conflicting statements from the State Department, he’s actually got a good case for criticism.

Moreover, I don’t think Clinton taking a hit on this is going to convince anybody, and it opens Obama up to exactly what John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham fired at him immediately following Clinton’s late-night emergence from under the bus:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and two of his colleagues said that “the buck stops” with President Obama with respect to the terrorist attacks in Libya, but they praised Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her willingness to claim the blame in the absence of the White House taking responsibility.

“The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the Commander-in-Chief,” said McCain in a joint statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. “The buck stops there.”

[…] The senators took issue with her statement on two points. “If the President was truly not aware of this rising threat level in Benghazi, then we have lost confidence in his national security team, whose responsibility it is to keep the President informed,” they said.

If you’re a fired-up Mitt Romney, you hit Obama with this all night. Romney has gotten nowhere all campaign with his “Obama = apologizer” foreign policy line; now, just weeks before the election, he has a legitimate FP gripe with the administration. All of Obama’s increased debate prep may be for naught if he can’t find a good answer to Romney’s challenge.

Tips For Coaxing Your Local Obama Supporter Back From The Ledge

by evanmcmurry

Obama supporters are notorious overreactors, and sure enough one just asked me if “they’ve managed to steal another one,” they meaning Republicans and another meaning election. All this is based on Romney’s post-debate poll bounce, which was admittedly sizable. So if you need to coax your local Obama supporter back from the ledge, here are a few talking points:

1) Romney’s bounce is already dissipating. Obama’s post-convention surge in the polls never fell back to earth (and therefore wasn’t actually a bounce), but became the new reality of the race. But daily tracking shows Romney’s numbers trending downward the farther we get from the debate; Gallup, which has a noted right lean, found Obama back up by five points today, exactly where he was before the debate, completely erasing any Romney bounce. That’s one poll, but significant since it’s Gallup. Romney will emerge at best with a +1.5 gain from the debate, a good get in a close race, but nothing game-changing.

2) The PEW poll that shows Romney up by four points nationally—the best he’s ever polled, per Nate Silver—appears to be an outlier. (PEW also showed Obama with an outsized lead of +8 before the debate. I blame this on the fact that PEW employees listen to Lulu.) Silver has commentary, and Dave Brockington has the numbers in detail here.

3) Most important: the bounce is not coming from independent voters, but from Republicans. Jon Cohen breaks it down in a much linked-to article at WaPo:

Who moved in Romney’s direction?

Well, not political independents, for one. There was no meaningful change in their support for Obama or Romney in either poll.

All of the change in both polls came from the composition of each sample. In pre-debate interviews by Gallup, self-identified Democrats outnumbered Republicans by five percentage points, according to Gallup’s Jeff Jones. By contrast, in the three days following the debate, the balance shifted in a GOP direction, with 34 percent of registered voters identifying as Republicans (two points up from pre-debate), 33 percent as Democrats (four points down).

So voters who had been denying their Republicanism due to either the GOP’s noxiousness or Romney’s uninspiring existence were energized by the debate to reclaim their party affiliation. Long story short: Romney’s performance motivated his base. That’s good news for Romney, as they were about to sleep through the election, and it certainly improves his chances in swing states.

But it doesn’t change the underlying electoral math. There aren’t enough Republicans in swing states to get Romney to 270, which is why his and Obama’s campaigns have been fighting so hard over undecided voters/independents/whateveryoucallem. And as Cohen notes above, there was no shift in independent voting trends, which means Romney’s debate didn’t change anybody’s mind, but merely awoke his own somnolent party. Sure enough, polls in swing states show the race tightening some, but not changing. For a couple weeks there, Obama looked to be running away with Ohio; now he’s only four points ahead. Those four points all but keep him in the White House.

This makes sense historically. Debates have rarely had anything close to a cataclysmic effect, but instead served to rally base support. More proof that that’s what we’re seeing: Romney had his highest favorability rating so far in an ABC News poll—but so did Obama, even after his woeful debate performance. And Romney still has not crested the 50% where Obama now regularly resides.

To be sure, Romney has some wind at his back right now. If Paul Ryan turns in a good debate performance (not bloody likely), perhaps momentum really could shift. But as of right now, the forecast still favors Obama. Tell your local Obama supporter to calm the eff down. (Or, as Obama said at a campaign rally the other day, “Don’t boo. Vote.”)