Polling character in the presidential debates
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 18:10
American satirist P.J. O’Rourke once said that “in our brief national history we have shot four of our presidents, worried five of them to death, impeached one and hounded another out of office. And when all else fails, we hold an election and assassinate their character.”
Character has certainly come into play for both presidential candidates, incumbent President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee, Governor Mitt Romney - especially after this year’s first presidential debate. The highlights of the showdown in Denver: Romney came guns blazing, Obama played his weakest performance of political offense and defense, and “@BigBirdRomney” gathered more than 10,000 Twitter followers in a week after Romney threatened to cut PBS funding. The Obama campaign even seized that moment with a satirical political ad of its own, starring the “big yellow menace to our economy” (which PBS has since requested the campaign remove the ad from air and noted that Sesame Street gets very little funding from PBS).
Whether or not you hated Romney for what he said about public broadcasting, media correspondents and voters across both party lines essentially declared Romney the winner of the Oct. 3 debate. Political reports blasted the president for a lackluster performance, some almost immediately predicting that this could surely change the course of events in the election.
But has it?
The short answer is no, and that’s evident through a number of polling forecasts, one by the New York Time’s FiveThirtyEight blog. It gives Obama a 67.9 percent chance of winning against Romney’s 32.1 percent chance. Obama is predicted to win in electoral votes (293.5 over Romney’s 244.5), popular vote (50.3% vs. Romney’s 48.7%), and is likely to win in battleground states Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin and Maine. And those are forecast numbers since Oct. 3, when Romney came out against Obama like a freight train attacking him on the issues, but without truly defining any specific plans of his own.
Swing states Colorado and Florida are still toss-ups, but Obama is leading with a respective 1.4 and 1.6 margin lead in both states. Those margins have been tipping in Obama’s favor since last December in those states, although his lead has dipped from above two to seven percent in the PPP, Purple Strategies, and Keating Research polls. The New York Times/Quinnipiac, McLaughlin, and Gravis Marketing polls give Romney the win in Colorado with a nearly 5 point margin. Rasmussen predicts Obama will win in Colorado, but that Romney will take Florida by a little more than a 1 point margin lead. These polls have been tracking the candidates since last December and have polled more frequently, at least two to three times a month, since April 2012. The numbers have not had any high jumps, but typically remain around a one to five point lead.
Romney is likely to take North Carolina with an 82 percent chance of winning, with Gravis Marketing giving him a nearly eight point poll lead. Obama is likely to sweep Wisconsin with a 79 percent projection win and We Ask America gives him an 11 point poll lead. It’s a close battle in Virginia as both candidates have a projected vote share, although Obama leads with a 56 percent chance of winning over Romney’s 44 percent.
Nov. 6 will be here before we know it and the numbers, not necessarily the debates, or the outcomes of them will really matter all that much. Granted, as political columnist Nate Silver wrote in his post “Oct. 10: Is Romney leading right now?” Romney did see a bounce in the polls after the presidential debate, but those numbers have since cooled off, potentially making his shot at the White House even weaker. Romney will say anything to try and win, even if he’s already lost, and my personal prediction is that the American people, in the end, won’t buy it.
“But here’s another way to think about the issue...”, Silver wrote, “if the national polls are right and the state polls are wrong, then Mr. Romney might be favored right now. If the state polls are right and the national polls are wrong, then Mr. Obama is ahead. And if you take them both very literally - meaning Mr. Obama is ahead in the Electoral College but behind in the popular vote - then he’d win another term, after a very long election night.”
So character attacks and political satire aside, the outcome of the presidential race will come down to the numbers and, as with every candidacy, the numbers simply don’t and won’t lie.