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Electoral College: Florida flips back to Romney, Other Movement on the Edges

Three states change category today, but before I get to those, let me highlight changes to the chart showing the trend over time. I’ve zoomed in to show only the time period since August and have annotated some of the notable events of the campaign in these last few months. So a few thoughts on what you can see here…

First of all, you can easily see that the two events that seem to have the most visible impact are the 47% video and the 1st debate. But it is also clear that Obama’s peak was quite a bit before the first debate. I searched for specific news events around the date of that peak, but I didn’t find anything particularly memorable. So one interpretation is simply that folks who had moved based on the 47% video started to bake that in and think maybe the whole thing was overblown, so movement back toward Romney began.

Second, it is pretty clear that Romney peaked between the VP debate and the 2nd presidential debate. Obama began to recover slightly before the 2nd debate. The overall trend has been toward Obama since then. (Even with today’s movement toward Romney on the “Current” line.) Romney’s October peak was beyond his beginning of September high, and therefore higher than I thought it would be. But at this point Romney has still NEVER taken the lead in my analysis. The “Current Poll” line has always shown an Obama lead. Romney has never been ahead in this race. Never.

Third, for all but a few short periods of time, Romney’s best case, if he were to win all the swing states, includes winning. Romney can indeed win. It is not out of the realm of reasonable possibility. It is close enough that either campaign events that move things in the last week and a half or just Romney over-performing the polls by a few percent on election day could result in a Romney win.

But Obama’s lead is real and persistent, and has been in place all year. If we just have a ho hum continuation of the campaign as it has been straight through election day, then Obama wins. Something has to happen to push Romney into the lead.

Obama has to make a big mistake, or Romney has to do something outstanding that is unexpected, or some news event has to make Obama look bad on the eve of the election. Something. With the status quo, Obama wins the electoral college. (As we mentioned Wednesday, the popular vote is another story.)

OK, now lets review the states changing categories today:

Not much to say here. The five poll average had briefly topped 10% in Montana. Now it drops below that line again. This puts Montana back into the category it has “normally” been in. Romney has a 9.0% lead in Montana. Romney will win Montana. This state is not in contention.

Same kind of thing here. Romney’s lead in the five poll average goes over 10% in Indiana. This is a big move compared to 2008, when Obama won the state by 1.0%, but Indiana has never been close in 2012. It is just an even bigger lead for Romney now. Romney is ahead by 11.0% in Indiana. Romney will win Indiana. Indiana is not in contention.

Unlike the others, Florida actually is moving from one candidate’s column to the others. And it is a big state. So this is significant, right?


Prior to today’s update the five poll average had Obama up by 0.6%. With today’s new data, the five poll average has Romney up by 0.8%. These numbers both reflect the same thing… Florida is too close to call.

Florida has moved back and forth across the line many times this year. There has been no significant movement in either direction to indicate that Florida is moving definitively toward one candidate or another.

It is close. We’ll know which way Florida goes on election day.

So, this gives us a new map and summary:

Romney Obama
Romney Best Case 301 237
Current Status 235 303
Obama Best Case 191 347

Once again, since the best cases include both candidates winning, we need to look at the specifics of the close states:

  • North Carolina (15): 2.4% Romney lead – 2/5 polls after last debate
  • Florida (29): 0.8% Romney lead – 5/5 polls after last debate
  • Virginia (13): 0.2% Obama lead – 5/5 polls after last debate
  • Iowa (6): 1.2% Obama lead – 2/5 polls after last debate
  • New Hampshire (4): 2.2% Obama lead – 2/5 polls after last debate
  • Nevada (6): 2.4% Obama lead – 5/5 polls after last debate
  • Ohio (18): 2.5% Obama lead – 4/5 polls after last debate
  • Colorado (9): 2.6% Obama lead – 5/5 polls after last debate
  • Wisconsin (10): 3.2% Obama lead – 2/5 polls after last debate

Once again Romney starts at 191 electoral votes with no close states. Add in North Carolina and Florida where he is ahead and he is up to 235. That leaves him 34 electoral votes short.

Going in order by how easy it should be for Romney to pull ahead, add in Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada… all of which Romney is behind in at the moment… and you get to 264. Still five electoral votes short.

And that brings us once again to Ohio. To win Romney has to get most of the states mentioned previously, but then also win Ohio. (If he wins Ohio, he could afford to lose some combinations of Virginia, Iowa and New Hampshire, but generally speaking if Romney wins Ohio, he will probably win those other states too.) Obama’s lead in Ohio has been increasing. On Tuesday Obama’s lead in Ohio was 1.2%. It is now up to 2.5%. Will that hold? Who knows.

But as we get closer to the election, 2.5% starts to morph from looking like a small number, to looking like a large number. In the last year Romney has NEVER been ahead in the five poll average in Ohio. It has usually been close. But Romney has never been ahead. Never. Ohio is indeed looking like a firewall.

A uniform move in the polls of any more than 2.5% toward Romney across the close states would give Romney the election. But Romney is running out of time, and most people have made up their minds.

This is once again looking like a steep uphill climb for Romney. Not impossible. It could happen.

But it is not looking good for Romney.

Note: Chart and map from the 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.

[Edited 2012 Oct 26 23:58 to correct chart of Florida polls over time. While my text was correct, I inadvertently included a chart missing some recent polls. Fixed. I also slightly adjusted some of the arrows on the electoral college trend chart.]

@abulsme tweets from 2012-10-25 (UTC)