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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.

 

Electoral College: Four States Get Tighter – Romney Can Win Again!

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.

Four states change categories today.  In all four cases, the races look a little closer than they did.  The impact is different in these cases, so lets look at each one.  In order from the smallest number of electoral votes to the greatest…

South Dakota (3 ev):  South Dakota has been very sparsely polled.  The poll added today is only the 3rd one in the last year and only the 4th since the 2008 election.  With this update the 5 poll average (which includes the 2008 election to fill out the average) drops to a Romney lead of 9.9%.  This is less than the 10% threshold I use, so I move the state from “Strong Romney” to “Weak Romney”.  But obviously South Dakota is nowhere close to being a competitive state.  It would take a move of epic proportions to actually make South Dakota a competitive state.  But the three polls this year do seem to show that Romney’s lead is a bit less than it once was.

Virginia (13 ev):  Obama’s lead in the five poll average had touched 5%, moving it out of the close state category, but it didn’t last.  The latest poll added to the average brings Obama’s lead back down to 4.3%.  This means Virginia is once again one of the states I consider close enough that it could easily go either way depending on the events of the campaign.  This will improve Romney’s “Best Case” in my models.  Virginia has been close for most of the last year so it is not surprising to see it here again.

Georgia (16 ev):  With two new polls added today, Romney’s lead in Georgia drops to 9.5%.  Since this is below 10%, we move the state to “Weak Romney”.  As with South Dakota, this is still a pretty substantial lead, and absent a major Romney collapse, it is unlikely to see Georgia actually become a competitive close state.  But it is once again in the category where perhaps Romney shouldn’t take it completely for granted.  Well, OK, he mostly can.  But his margins do look a little bit less than they did before.

Ohio (18 ev):  Along with Virginia, this is the other one that “matters” to the model.  In my August 1st update the 5 poll average in Ohio jumped to 5.5%, moving it out of my swing state category.  In today’s update we add a new poll…  actually one that ended back on July 24th, prior to the last poll included in my last update, but which I just found (via Darryl at HorsesAss) so it counts for today*…  and that new poll pulls Obama’s lead back down to 4.1%.  So after the brief interlude as a blue state, Ohio is once again where it has been most of the year…  with an Obama advantage, but not a huge one.  So it is easy to imagine scenarios where Romney pulls it back over onto his side of the fence.

When you add up the changes in these four states, what do you get?

Well, South Dakota and Georgia really don’t change anything.  For those two states, it isn’t about who will win, it is just about how much Romney will win by…  which really doesn’t matter.

Virginia and Ohio on the other hand…  they matter, and they are pretty big states.  With both of these states on the table again, Romney’s best case improves considerably:

Romney Obama
Romney Best Case 291 247
Current Status 206 332
Obama Best Case 180 358

With this new configuration, Florida (29 ev) is a must win state.  Romney can’t win without it.  He could lose any one of Ohio (18 ev), North Carolina (15 ev), Virginia (13 ev) or Tennessee (11 ev), but only one of them.  Colorado (9 ev), Iowa (6 ev), Nevada (6 ev) and New Hampshire are more flexible.  There are a number of different “paths to victory” here now.

Now, most of these states (all but North Carolina and Tennessee) are ones where Obama has the lead at the moment, even if it is a small lead.  To actually win, Romney has to actually start pulling ahead in some of these states rather than just reducing Obama’s lead.

That may be next.  With a VP announcement “any time now” and the Republican Convention just around the corner, movement toward Romney should probably be expected.  The questions will be:  “How much movement?” and “Does it last?”.

(Spoilers: Convention bounces usually last about a week before things revert to where they were before, and VP choices only rarely end up making a difference.)

* If there is anybody who cares about the details and wonders why I didn’t do a retroactive adjustment of the historical graphs because I included an older poll that changed things, here is a long geeky explanation of my process:  Basically, if you judge by the “end date” of the polls, polls come in out of order all the time.  It takes pollsters a few days to compile and release their data, then sometimes it take a bit before it shows up on one of the three sources I use to collect poll data.  If a new poll is within the “Last 5”, then I just treat it as current new data, regardless of the end date on the poll and if it is really the most recent to end.  In this case, the poll wasn’t the newest, but it was the second newest.  The last two polls had just gotten to me in reverse order, which happens pretty frequently.  It is a little unusual that by the time I included it, the poll end date was about two weeks old, but it was still the second most recent poll.  So it just got folded into the average normally.  If I become aware of polls that are older than the Last 5, and those polls would have changed the category of any states, then I’ll fold a correction into my next update.  Also while I’m giving esoteric details…  The historical electoral college trend lines are based on the date new polls are included in my model (except when polls older than the most recent 5 are added), while the state polling trend chart uses the end date of the polls, which means they don’t always match exactly.  So, for instance, the peak over 5% in Ohio has indeed disappeared with this new poll, instead now only peaking at 4.9%.  The end dates of the polls are also used to determine just which polls are in the “Last 5” to begin with.  In the case of multiple polls with the same end date, the tie breaker is the time they were added to my model.

Edit: 2012 Aug 8 08:15 to add that last parenthetical.

Edit: 2012 Aug 8 16:31 to add * note.

Edit: 2012 Aug 8 17:50 to correct one detail on the * note.

Electoral College: Georgia goes Deep Red, Arizona Swings Again

Chart and map from the Abulsme.com 2012 Electoral College Prediction page. Both assume Obama vs Romney with no strong third party candidate.  Both 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.

Two states change status today.  One moving toward Romney, one moving toward Obama:

First up, Georgia with its 16 electoral votes.  Like Texas a couple days ago, Georgia is one of those states that nobody thinks will be a swing state, but some polling was showing it closer than one might expect, leading one to think that Romney might have wanted to spend at least a little time and money on shoring it up.  The latest polls though have Romney’s lead there in my five poll average going over 10%.  This moves it into the “Strong Romney” category which generally are quite safe for Romney and therefore can effectively be ignored in the campaign.  These moves from Weak to Strong don’t change the range of outcomes in my model, but they do show Romney’s consolidation of his base states.

Second we have Arizona.  This has been bouncing back and forth, over and under the Romney 5% lead line in the five poll average.  With today’s update, the 5 poll average drops below 5% again, so we once again classify it as a Lean Romney Swing State.  Now, the five poll average in Arizona has never shown Obama actually ahead in Arizona (although a couple individual polls in the last year have), so Arizona is not as swingy as, say, Florida or North Carolina, where the actual lead keeps changing hands.  But it is close enough that the lead could be wiped out in a few days depending on the news cycle.  So, for the moment, Arizona swings again.

In terms of our summary, since Georgia was never considered a real Obama possibility, only Arizona causes a change, improving Obama’s best case by 11 electoral votes:

Romney Obama
Romney Best Case 282 256
Current Status 235 303
Obama Best Case 159 379

Note 2012 Jun 8 15:00 UTC:  A correction noted June 8th moved a Tennessee change from “Weak Romney” to “Lean Romney” from March 2nd to May 24th, which would have been the day before this post.  Updates between March 2nd and this post therefore incorrectly classified Tennessee.

2012 Republican Delegate Count: Georgia Update

Chart from the Abulsme.com 2012 Republican Delegate Count Graphs page.  When a candidate gets down to 0%, they have cinched the nomination.  If they get up past 100%, they have been mathematically eliminated.  Note that these numbers include estimates of the eventual results of multi-stage caucus processes which will be refined as the later stages occur.

A minor update from Georgia today.  My primary source, Green Papers, previously had the results from Georgia as Gingrich 54, Romney 19, Santorum 3.  This has now been updated to Gingrich 52, Romney 21, Santorum 3.

So the net for the day is Romney +2, Gingrich -2.

So Romney’s “% of remaining needed to win” drops from 48.7% to 48.5%.  (And Gingrich’s rises from 75.9% to 76.1%.)

This is a minor change that does not change the state of the race significantly.  But since there is an update today, it gives me a chance to modify something I said in the last update based on new information.  I had said:

Next up is Illinois.  Romney is ahead in the polls in Illinois, but isn’t over 48.7% in those polls, and of course nobody else is close to the numbers above either.  The contest there is a “Loophole Primary” which is a bit odd, but if the delegate results are even close to being proportional to the popular vote result, then we can expect Illinois to be another of the “everybody loses” states where nobody actually gets closer to the nomination in terms of being on pace to win.

Well. two things.

First, recent polls have been moving in Romney’s direction over the last week.  The most recent poll as of this writing was a poll from PPP (pdf)  that has Romney at 45%.  Now, polls predict popular vote, not delegates, and the 48.5% Romney needs is a percentage of delegates, not a percentage of the popular vote.  But assuming at least some correlation between popular vote and delegates, those numbers are getting pretty close to each other.  Which brings us to…

Second, Santorum failed to properly file for delegate slates in some parts of the state.  This means that Santorum’s delegate take will almost certainly underperform his performance in the popular vote.  This implies that Romney’s delegate take may well overperform his popular vote number.

With these two factors together, Romney’s chances of getting to the 48.5% he needs to improve his “% of remaining” number and move closer to the nomination and further away from the scenarios where he doesn’t get to 1144 is much more likely than it looked previously.

By this time tomorrow, we should know how that turned out.

2012 Republican Delegate Count: More Super Tuesday Results

Chart from the Abulsme.com 2012 Republican Delegate Count Graphs page.  When a candidate gets down to 0%, they have cinched the nomination.  If they get up past 100%, they have been mathematically eliminated.  Rather than the date on the x-axis, we show the “% of Delegates Already Allocated” as this better represents the progress through the race.  Note that these numbers include estimates of the eventual results of multi-stage caucus processes which will be refined as the later stages occur.

So it appears that the last 34 delegates from Super Tuesday, a handful each from Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee, have been determined.  17 more to Romney, 8 more to Gingrich and 5 more to Santorum.  But wait, that is only 30!  Well, according to Green Papers, 4 of the 63 delegates that were up for grabs in Ohio end up officially “Uncommitted”, which (I think) means we won’t actually know which way they may go until we know which actual human beings end up being those delegates and those people say publicly who they plan on supporting (which they may or may not actually do before the convention).

All in all, today’s results are once again a win for Romney.  He got 56.7% of today’s delegates, which was way more than the 48.5% he needed to continue to move closer to the nomination rather than further way.  His “% of remaining needed to win” drops now to 48.4%.  For the other candidates, the effect on the other side is more dramatic.  Santorum is still in 2nd place, but his “% of remaining needed to win” moves up from 64.5% to 65.5%.  Romney may not yet be rapidly moving toward cinching the nomination, but the non-Romneys are rapidly moving toward being mathematically eliminated.

Looking at the non-Romney’s for a minute, the next few states are expected to favor them.  Perhaps Santorum will win some.  Perhaps Gingrich will win some.  But to actually be on a pace to win, Santorum has to not just win a state, but win by a huge margin, getting more than 65.5% of the delegates.  For Gingrich it is even worse, he would need to win getting 67.8% of the delegates.  (For completeness, Paul would need to get more than 71.7%.)

Even with Romney expected to not be strong in these states, with four candidates in the race, you don’t expect anybody to be able to pull that kind of level except in winner take all (or winner take almost-all) states.  Of the next few coming up…  in Kansas, Guam, Northern Marianas, Virgin Islands, Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa there are as usual complicated delegate rules (and the territories might only select uncommitted delegates), but none of them are straight up winner takes all.  (Some allow for certain situations that could lead there though.)  Bottom line, 65.5% (or more) is a pretty big ask and seems unlikely.

Which means that even if Santorum or Gingrich win some states (as expected) in terms of delegates they will almost certainly still both be heading closer to mathematical elimination rather than closer to the nomination.  The big thing to look at will once again be looking at how well the non-Romney’s collectively block Romney from getting the 48.4% of the delegates he needs to be closing in on the nomination himself.  With strong performance by the non-Romney’s in the next few contests, they may well be able to achieve this, even if they don’t actually help themselves individually.

2012 Republican Delegate Count: First Round of Super Tuesday Results

Chart from the Abulsme.com 2012 Republican Delegate Count Graphs page.  When a candidate gets down to 0%, they have cinched the nomination.  If they get up past 100%, they have been mathematically eliminated.  Rather than the date on the x-axis, we show the “% of Delegates Already Allocated” as this better represents the progress through the race.  Note that these numbers include estimates of the eventual results of multi-stage caucus processes which will be refined as the later stages occur.

So, Super Tuesday happened.  As of this update, Green Papers has “called” 385 of the 419 delegates available from the Super Tuesday contests.  There are 34 delegates that haven’t been determined yet that will result in updates later, but of the ones we do know, the estimates for Super Tuesday contests are:  Romney 208, Santorum 84, Gingrich 72, Paul 21.  Romney also picked up a Superdelegate, bringing the total for the day to Romney 209, Santorum 84, Gingrich 72, Paul 21.

Compared to the Sabato Crystal Ball projections which we used to game out Super Tuesday over the weekend, Romney performed better than expectations, as did Gingrich.  Santorum and Paul underperformed compared to those predictions.  In any case, where does this put us…

Bottom line, Romney is the big winner today, and this may be the start of him actually pulling away and heading toward the nomination, but he is still not out of the woods in terms of the danger of being blocked from 1144.  Lets look at the details.

The situation for Santorum, Gingrich and Paul is essentially what I mapped out in the gaming Super Tuesday post.  To paraphrase what I said there, it is now absolutely undeniably clear (although the trend was obvious even before today) that none of these three guys are on a path to the nomination.  Of the three, Santorum is doing the best, but with today’s numbers, to be on a path to win, he would need to now get  64.5% of the remaining delegates, compared to the 21.1% he has gotten so far.  For this to even come into the realm of possibility, Gingrich and Paul would both have to stop getting delegates, Santorum would have to pick up all of their support, AND something would need to happen to cause support for Romney to plummet.  This is a very unlikely sequence of events.  It isn’t going to happen.

Oh, I guess I should also note that Gingrich pulled back ahead of Paul for 3rd place.

The remaining question is: “Are the non-Romney’s collectively still in a position to potentially block Romney from getting to 1144?”  If after today, Romney was under 50% of the total delegates, and his “% of remaining needed to win” was heading upward or flat, this is a possibility that would be looking like it was still very much in play.  But Romney exceeded the 49.7% of delegates he needed in order to be on track toward 1144, and did it by a decent margin.  Of the delegates in today’s total, he picked up 209 of 386, or 54.1%.  This reduced his “% of remaining needed to win” from 49.7% to 48.5%.  That means to block, the non-Romney’s collectively need to be getting 51.5% of the delegates, compared to the 46.9% they have managed so far.  So they have to do better than they have been so far, and by a non-trivial margin.  And they have do do this even though it is obvious none of them can win outright.  It has to be about stopping Romney.

Now, the rest of March has a bunch of states that are supposed to be relatively good for the non-Romneys.  So the non-Romney’s managing to get 51.5% in the next few state is very much within the realm of possibility.  After that we hit more Romney friendly states in April.  The thing to watch for in the upcoming states is not who wins the popular vote, or even the delegate count.  The question will be: “Is Romney continuing to get enough delegates to avoid being blocked?”  Right now, that magic number is 48.2%.  As long as he is getting 48.2% of the delegates (or more) then he is marching his way toward the nomination.  If he gets less than that, then blocking will remain possible a little bit longer.  If the rest of March really is friendly to the non-Romneys, we may see that Romney’s “% needed to win” starts heading back up a bit before Romney hits friendly states again and starts fully pulling away.  As long as we see that happening, blocking Romney is still a possibility.  And indeed, if Romney is damaged by the contests in March and his April states start looking not so good after all, then blocking starts looking more real again.

But Romney’s “% of remaining needed to win” is the smallest it has been so far, and none of the other candidates have realistic shots at winning, only a shot at blocking that relies on them continuing to win delegates even though it is obvious they can’t win, so Romney is in a pretty good position right now.  Watch that line though.  Until it starts heading downward decisively, Romney hasn’t got it wrapped up just yet.

So what is next?  Well, first, the last 34 delegates from Super Tuesday (they are from Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee).  Then on Sunday we have Kansas (40), Guam (9), Northern Marianas (9), Virgin Islands (9).  Then Tuesday we have Alabama (50), Mississippi (40), Hawaii (20), American Samoa (9).  And then it goes on and on…