Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To Bounce or Not To Bounce: Did Romney Get Anything?

As the Democrats step up to the plate everyone is looking at the post-Republican Convention numbers: how much, if anything, did Romney pick up?

First, let's level-set: here's some RNC material from before the convention:
Incumbent presidents get seven-point bump from convention
So ... Obama's Getting a 7% Increase!? But Wait ...
Challengers get 11-point bump from convention
Romney Will Get A Towering +11!!
So, Okay: I can tell you right now that Romney didn't get anywhere near a +11% convention bump and if Obama somehow gets +7% out of this ... it's over (even after the, uh, swelling goes down). However, this--like most campaign infographics (from Both SidesTM) --is basically either "a lie" or, if you prefer, the most biased possible interpretation of "a truth" (and notice I do not say "the truth" ... and in some cases, even that is generous). So what'd he get?

Let's Ask FiveThirtyEight!
Nate Silver writes in Sept: Par or Bogey?
We’re reaching the point of diminishing returns in analyzing Mitt Romney’s convention bounce. But we can say two things almost for certain. First, Mr. Romney very probably got a bounce. And second, it’s a below-average bounce by historical standards.
He looks at the polls in two different ways: the first is just taking the all and averaging them. That yields +Romney 3.1. The second way is to take those polls from their long-term average. That yields Romney +2.6. He finds this below average but notes that, coming out of Tampa, the Romney campaign has been on-message and has improved Romney's favorability ratings.

Analysis: + Romney 2.75

Let's Ask RealClearPolitics!
Real Clear Politics gives us the race at DEAD-EVEN for the first time in forever.
What Happens If We Cross The Streams?
At the start of the Republican National Convention on Aug 27th, RCP had Obama at +1.1 so now, if dead even? For what it's worth, give Romney +.6 during the same time-frame and also finds them "dead even."

Analysis: Romney +1.1

On The Other Hand ...
The Princeton Electoral Consortium finds a ... negative bounce:
That Line Going Up? Obama's Projected EV-Count!
And we can also throw in Internet-Influence "IT Score" from PoliticIT that suggests the RNC helped Obama ...
Did Mitt Romney experience a boost from the Republican National Convention? The data indicates that he did, but not as much as President Obama. Romney experienced a 5.9 It Score increase while Obama enjoyed an 8.4 increase. This is surprising data considering that Romney enjoyed nearly double the exposure from mainstream media relative to his Democratic contender.

Analysis: Romney Lost Ground (not sure exactly how much)

How About Internet Betting Markets?
PredictWise, which combines several Internet betting markets finds ... nothing:
That Red Line Going Up Isn't Romney ... It's Obama's Chance To Win Ohio ...
That's right--this is more or less another "negative bounce." By the end of the convention things were looking slightly up for Team-O.
This does not mean the Republican convention was unsuccessful. Sure, there were some strange moments, but most of the events went off without a hitch. It simply means it was not a homerun. Romney is challenging an incumbent president, so anything less than a picture-perfect convention is going to give the market a sense that he's running out of time to make his case for a change of leadership.
Analysis: No Bounce At All

What Do I Think?
I think that PEC makes a very good case that the "elasticity" of this race is historically tiny: nothing moves the dial anywhere. Everyone's mind is already made up. This is quite different from 2008 and seems to be, as I said, perhaps historical:
The Meta-margin standard deviation (MMSD) has been about 1.0 percentage point. To put it another way, the Democratic-Republican margin has spent two-thirds of its time in a 2.0-point range. If the range is an indication, as many as 98-99% of us are certain of who we want as President (with 51% for Obama).
Looking at FiveThrityEight's graph (de-biased polling numbers) it's almost flat enough to sleep on from the very start.

So here's what I think: Romney did a good job and did, indeed, get a small bounce in public perception (regardless of what PoliticIT or the betting markets say). This moves things slightly closer to victory for him--but so far, not close enough. If his campaign remains disciplined and his re-tooled message targeted at swing-voters who feel disappointed with Obama and want "permission" to vote against him takes hold he may well be able to shift things onto his side of the line by November. We just haven't seen that yet.

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