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Electoral College: Has Romney Peaked?

After a few days with no changes, one state changes categories today and hey, for the first time in awhile, the movement is toward Obama:

Obama’s lead in Pennsylvania in my five poll average peaked at 9.4% back in mid-September.  On the eve of the first debate, this was down to 8.6%.  By October 11th, that lead had dropped to 3.8%.  Romney actually made Pennsylvania close…  but since then the polls have started looking better for Obama again, and the five poll average rises back up to a 5.4% Obama lead.  This pulls the state back out of my swing state category and into the “Weak Obama” category, but just barely.

Note that even in the dip, not a single poll showed Romney ahead in Pennsylvania.  The last time any poll showed Romney ahead in Pennsylvania was way back in February.  Although Obama’s lead dipped in Pennsylvania in the post-debate period, a Romney win here seems pretty unlikely if this is indeed the end of the downward post-debate trend.   There are too few polls as of yet to know if this is an actual reversal of the recent trend, or if it is just the polls being jittery.

For the moment though, the five poll average pulls the state out of Romney’s best case:

Romney Obama
Romney Best Case 317 221
Current Status 257 281
Obama Best Case 191 347

Romney’s best case is 20 electoral points weaker, but his overall position is still way better than it has been for most of the year.  Obama is still ahead.  Romney has still never actually pulled ahead in the electoral college analysis.  But it is close.  It is still very close.

The question remains what it has been for at least the last few days…  Has Romney peaked?  Or can he pull a little more support in his direction?  Right now Romney is behind, but barely.  Just a LITTLE more movement in his direction would have him in the lead.  But the first debate had already caused a very large movement compared to where the race stood for most of the year.  Is there really room for more movement?  Or has Romney hit a ceiling?

The move toward Obama in Pennsylvania may well be the start of a more general reversion in the polls to something more like the Obama leads we’ve seen most of the year.  Or it might not.  Too soon to tell.

But with the second presidential debate in less than 16 hours, whatever trends may have been underway up through today will get replaced by reactions to the new news cycle.  If Obama puts in another sub-par performance, maybe he drops further and Romney takes the lead.  If so, Obama is in real trouble.

Otherwise, with an “OK”, “Good” or “Great” performance from Obama, we’ll probably start to see some more Obama gains in the polls as those who moved away from him in the last two weeks think to themselves “OK, maybe he’s not that bad after all.”  In that case, Obama retains his position as favorite, and maybe even starts making it look inevitable again if he does really well.

So…  debates almost never make a difference, except when they do…  and this next debate is another critical one.

So we’ll see what happens…

Note: A poll added today in North Carolina that were older than the “last five” changed the date North Carolina last moved from Lean Obama to Lean Romney from October 4th to October 8th.  The historical trend chart has been adjusted starting with today’s update.

Note: Chart and map from the Abulsme.com 2012 Electoral College Prediction page. Both assume Obama vs Romney with no strong third party candidate and show polling as it currently exists. Things will change before election day. On the map red is Romney, blue is Obama, gold states are too close to call. Lines on the chart represent how many more electoral votes a candidate would have than is needed to tie under several different scenarios. Up is good for Obama, Down is good for Romney.

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