Thursday, November 1, 2012

Obama’s Electoral College ‘Firewall’ Holding in Polls

On Oct. 11, this blog posed the question of whether President Obama’s “firewall” in battleground states was all that it was cracked up to be.

At that point, Mr. Obama still technically held the lead in the FiveThirtyEight forecast in enough states to give him 270 electoral votes. But Colorado, Florida and Virginia had turned red in our map, meaning that our forecast suggested that Mitt Romney had better-than-even odds of winning them. Iowa was just on the verge of doing so. And Mr. Obama’s lead was down to just a percentage point or so in Ohio, which would have collapsed his firewall at its foundation.

Theories that the decline in Mr. Obama’s polls that followed the first presidential debate in Denver would somehow skip the swing states were not looking good — as dubious as the idea that tornadoes “skip” houses.

Instead, at that point, Mr. Obama’s position in the FiveThirtyEight forecast had declined for seven consecutive days. If he stopped the bleeding there, he might still be the Electoral College favorite, albeit a narrow one. But it wasn’t clear where the bottom was.

It turned out, however, that the worst was almost over for him. Mr. Obama had one more terrible day in the polls, on Friday, Oct. 12, when Mr. Romney’s chances of winning the Electoral College rose to almost 40 percent in the forecast. But that was when Mr. Romney’s momentum stopped.

Since then, Mr. Obama’s standing has rebounded slightly. His position in the national polls has stabilized; although the national polls continue to tell a different story about the race than the state polls do; it can no longer be said that they have Mr. Obama behind. (More about that in a moment.)

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama continues to hold the lead in the vast majority of polls in Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin, the states that represent his path of least resistance toward winning the Electoral College. This was particularly apparent on Wednesday, a day when there were a remarkable number of polls, 27, released in the battleground states.

There were 12 polls published on Wednesday among Iowa, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. Mr. Obama held the lead in 11 of the 12 surveys; the exception was a survey by the University of Iowa, which had Mr. Obama down by about one point there, but also had a very small sample size (about 300 likely voters). On average, Mr. Obama led in the polls of these states by 3.9 percentage points.

None of this ought to have been surprising, exactly, if you have been attentive to the polls rather than the pundits. It was a pretty good day of surveys for Mr. Obama but not a great one: for the most part, the polls were coming in close to FiveThirtyEight forecasts in each state, give or take a modest outlier here and there.

Rather, the polls in these states confirmed what we already knew: that Mr. Obama remains the favorite in the Electoral College.

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