Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dueling Narratives ... Who's Winning?

As the summer grinds to a close the political campaign heats up. We were promised a negative game and it looks like this cycle? They're gonna deliver. Right now there are two competing narratives for who's winning.

Romney Is Winning!
Jay Cost looks at the state of the race and concludes "It's Romney's To Win!"
In other words, Obama’s polling right now suggests that he has only locked down the core Democratic vote; what's more, those not currently in his voting coalition tend to disapprove of his job as president. Indeed, the Gallup job approval poll finds him with just 31 percent support from “pure” independents, i.e. those with no party affiliation whatsoever. 
It is extraordinarily difficult for incumbent presidents to win the votes of people who disapprove of the job they are doing. Hence, this race is Romney’s to win.
Dick Morris, political commentator, is even more bullish: he thinks not only is Romney going to win, Romney is currently winning ... and it's going to be a landslide!
On Friday, I saw the real numbers. These state-by-state polls, taken by an organization I trust (after forty years of polling) show the real story. The tally is based on more than 600 likely voter interviews in each swing state within the past eight days. 
The trend line is distinctly pro-Romney. Of the thirteen states studied, he improved or Obama slipped in nine states while the reverse happened in only four. To read the media, one would think that Romney had a terrible month. In fact, the exact reverse is true.
While PowerLine calls this wishful thinking at best,  a recent poll gets analyzed by HotAir and decides that while the numbers may be wonky and they do show Obama leading in Virginia and Washington--but losing in Colorado, the truth ("truth"?) may be that with the sampling it's good for Romney everywhere:
Overall, this shows Romney competing in states Obama can’t afford to lose — after getting bombarded by an avalanche of negative advertising. If Romney is this close in Wisconsin, Virginia, and Colorado, he will be well positioned to answer Obama with his own deluge of messaging when the convention unlocks the general-election funds he’s raised over the summer.
On The Other Hand ... Obama Is Winning!
The counter-narrative is that Romney's popularity has plateaued and his unfavorables are still rising:
According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 40 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of Romney — virtually identical to the 41 percent high-water mark that his favorability rating reached in the ABC/WaPo survey from late May. Compounding matters for the presumptive Republican nominee: the percentage of the public who view him unfavorably has jumped from 45 percent to 49 percent. Romney’s standing is even lower among independents, with only 37 percent of the bellwether voting bloc viewing him favorably compared with 50 percent who view him unfavorably.
It looks like this:

Worse, despite what Dick Morris says, Obama leads in the key swing states (save Colorado):
Romney has to get Ohio and really needs PA and Florida too
Will this turn around by the election? Could be: the narrative that the race will tighten by election time to look like Reagan vs. Carter is how Team Romney is casting it for sure. That appeared like this:
BAM! Right At The End!
But keep in mind that the dominant theme of that election was the Iranian hostage crisis combined with the stagnant economy. With no last-minute change in state (Iran declares it will not release the hostages on the eve of the election) that last minute reversal might not materialize.

What Do I Think?
I think the proof is "in the pudding." On Facebook there was discussion as to whether the polls were accurate or worthless. I took a look at RCP's Walker Election polling--the combined score for the last set of polls. It looks like this:
Looks pretty close
The combined score of the polling seems comes out at "reality" Walker 6.8, Polling Walker 6.7. When the combined average is off by .1 of the tested results I think it's fair to say that if the combined score shows Obama up by +5 in several key swing states that's a real phenomena, however bad the individual polls are.

To be sure, Romney has had a bruising month--but the convention comes at the end of August and that apparently opens his war chest for full-on-fire. I think at this stage of the game Obama is ahead--but there are still more rounds to go.

UPDATE: I like Nate Silver's take on the most recent CNN & Fox polling (which put Obama up at like +7):
Might Mr. Obama have gained half a point, or a point, based on whatever residual factors that voters are thinking about? Sure, and Mr. Romney would rather that movement be in his direction instead. But has Mr. Obama gained three points, at a time when most ordinary Americans are watching the Olympics? Probably not.
I think that's probably right--I don't see anything (the reverse, actually) that would indicate a break-through for Obama. I'll also note his Twindex score has plummeted.  

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