Election Trends

Numbers Look Grim for President Obama

Superstorm Sandy has largely passed my area by, and Pepco has been spared another round of calamitous outages. Luckily for you that means I get to write a post digging deep into presidential election statistics.

Though the election polls have produced differing results, a general consensus has seemingly emerged. Mitt Romney is, at worst, tied with President Obama, and has upwards of a five-point lead. The Real Clear average of polls puts Romney up by less than a point. On the other hand, RCP has Obama up 201-191 in the electoral college, with a 290-248 edge in the “no toss-up” scenario. Obama has held a consistent edge in the battleground state of Ohio, though Rasmussen’s most recent poll now has Romney up by two.

In general, I agree with Jim Geraghty that it appears almost certain that Mitt Romney will win the popular vote. It takes polls with rather generous Democrat advantages (in the range of D+7 and up) to even get Obama tied. I trust Gallup’s likely voter screen more than other polls, and Gallup has had Romney with a steady advantage of three-to-five points.

It’s certainly possible that Mitt Romney could win the popular vote and lose the electoral college. It has happened to several presidential candidates in our history, and we are all familiar with what took place in 2000. What is fairly unlikely, however, is for Mitt Romney to win the popular vote by a substantial margin and still lose the electoral college. If Mitt Romney wins the popular vote by more than even just a percentage point, than he will be the next President of the United States. Of course we can never be certain in politics, but it seems like a safe bet that the electoral and popular vote winner will the the same person.

One of the reasons that an Obama electoral college victory in the face of a popular vote defeat is unlikely is that massive swings in national vote totals are reflected in all states. President Obama won the popular vote by seven percent over John McCain in 2008. Assume for the moment that Mitt Romney wins by just one percent – that would signify an eight point swing in favor of the Republicans. Such a huge shift in the electorate is not going to be limited to a small number of states. And as history has shown, when the incumbent party loses support, it loses support everywhere.

I have taken a look at each presidential election since 1976. Since that election, the incumbent has lost twice, the incumbent party has lost two additional times, the incumbent has won three times, and one time the incumbent party has won once. In all but two of the elections since 1980 there has been a net shift of at least eight percent. Let’s take a closer look: Continue reading

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