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Electoral College: Romney’s Balloon Deflating

Three states move between my categories today.  One moves toward Romney, two move toward Obama.  That sounds like a mixed day, but on balance the benefit goes to Obama. As usual, lets look at the states in order by electoral college weight, but now I’ll zoom in to only show 3 months of polls rather than a year since we are getting close to the end (under three weeks!) and polls are coming in so quickly…

First up, Colorado.  According to the five poll average, the state went from an Obama lead of 4.9% on September 23rd, down to a Romney lead of 1.3% on October 8th.  With today’s update, Obama takes a very slim 0.5% lead again.  This is essentially a tie, but with this the state tips ever so slightly back onto the Obama side of the ledger.

Georgia is Romney’s one piece of good news for the day, but there are a bunch of caveats.

Romney’s lead in Georgia hits 10%, so we move it to the “Strong Romney” category.  But this is largely due to one poll from September that looks like an outlier, so absent other movement backing up that poll, Georgia is likely to revert back to “Weak Romney” once that poll ages off.  If we even have enough more polls in Georgia before the election to do that.  It has been pretty sparsely polled.

More to the point though, it doesn’t really matter if Romney’s lead in Georgia is just under 10% or just over 10%.  Either way, Georgia is a Romney state, and there is no realistic scenario where Obama wins Georgia.  Georgia is safe for Romney.  So while winning by a bit larger margin may be “nice” for Romney, it doesn’t actually help him at all in the contest with Obama.

Obama’s lead in Michigan topped out at 9.7% on September 20th.  It declined to a 4.0% lead on October 8th.  It has now popped back up to 6.1%.  It seems that the post-debate movement toward Romney was relatively short lived. In the last three months the degree of Obama’s lead in Michigan has bounced around quite a bit.  It has however always been a lead.  A few isolated polls aside, Romney has never held the lead in the five poll average in Michigan.  For awhile there it looked like Michigan was close.  Not so much any more.

All of this leads us to the new summary:

Romney Obama
Romney Best Case 301 237
Current Status 248 290
Obama Best Case 191 347

Since Georgia doesn’t affect any of these three situations, what we see here is basically just Obama strengthening again.  Some of the gains Romney had made in the last couple of weeks are just slipping back away from him.  Yesterday Obama’s lead in Pennsylvania once again became substantial enough to not call it a close state.  Today the same happens to Michigan.  And Obama retakes the lead in Colorado.

It certainly looks like Romney peaked between August 12th and August 15th and things are now heading back in Obama’s direction, without Romney ever actually taking the lead in the electoral college model.  If initial reactions to the second debate are any indication, at the very least we should expect no further downward plummeting by Obama, and perhaps even more additional upside for Obama beyond that.

Caution needs to be urged in interpreting this though.  Only a small number of states have moved so far, and just barely over the respective category lines. More polls could easily reverse the recent changes.  If these initial trends continue over the next few days though, we’ll get a very solid picture.

None of the polls included so far include the time period after the second debate.  That will of course be the next thing to watch for.  Will there be big noticeable effects from the second debate as there were after the first one?

Of course to win, Romney needs to do more than just hold on to his previous gains.  He actually needs to bring even more states over to his side in order to win.  If he couldnt’ do it last week, then what exactly can he do now to make it happen?

At the moment Obama’s lead is still very narrow.  Romney has many potential ways to win.  It is still a close race.  But the movement seems to be shifting toward Obama again.

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.