Path to 270: A More Optimistic Outlook for Obama
by Spencer Lindsay | UW-Madison
Those of us who are proud to call ourselves political nerds are all too familiar with poll watching, electoral map making, and creating a new set of predictions every week. I finally got around to making my first good map of this election cycle, and I noticed something odd. The well-respected election predictors such as the Cook Political Report and Real Clear Politics are making maps that are very generous to Republicans.
The numbers coming out of Texas and Tennessee, states which in the past have been the “reddest” of red states, suggest President Obama might just have a shot. In Texas, Public Policy Polling has released several polls suggesting that Mitt Romney has a modest 6-8 point lead. Just four years ago, in a dark age for Republicans, the state went for McCain by 11 points. These numbers suggest Obama is doing better in the state to the point that it may be competitive come November.
In Tennessee, Gov. Romney’s lead (based on two polls in February) is likely in the 3-6 point range. Based on these numbers, Tennessee is a very competitive state. Real Clear Politics, Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball all say that both states are safely Republican. The polling numbers out of these two states show very clearly that this is not the case.
Larry Sabato has put Missouri and Arizona in the Leaning and Likely Republican categories. While polls have consistently shown Gov. Romney leading in Missouri, the lead appears to be very fragile. Rasmussen’s last poll, which typically puts out numbers generous to Republicans, showed that Romney’s lead was only 3 points. The last non-Rassmussen poll out of Missouri had the race tied. The last two polls out of Arizona both show that the state is in contention. Arizona State’s poll had Romney ahead by two points, and Behavior Research put Obama ahead by two points. Regardless of who is leading, it is clear that both of these races are tossups and not leaning towards Romney in any significant way.
For some reason unbeknownst to me, Charlie Cook has New Hampshire Leaning Republican. New Hampshire has voted in the Democrat column in four of the last five elections, and a recent poll done by WMUR and the University of New Hampshire has President Obama leading by 9 points. The poll is admittedly an outlier, but the race is by no means leaning toward Romney, as most other polls show Romney leading by one to three points.
In Maine, recent polling has suggested Obama’s lead in the neighborhood of 20 points. Maine has not voted Republican since George H.W. Bush’s landslide victory in 1988. Real Clear Politics, Larry Sabato and Charlie Cook all have the race in the ‘leaning Obama category.’ This is simply a misrepresentation of where the race stands.
Obama’s leads in Ohio and Pennsylvania are larger and have been more consistent than Romney’s leads in Arizona (which may not even be a lead) and Missouri. While both Sabato and Cook have Missouri and Arizona in either the likely or leaning Romney categories, no one has put Pennsylvania in the leaning Obama category. Furthermore, Pennsylvania has a longer streak of voting for Democrats than either Missouri or Arizona have of voting for Republicans. I understand the reluctance of analysts to rate Ohio or Pennsylvania as leaning Obama, but their corresponding eagerness to side with the Republicans in the other two states is ridiculous.
Granted, race ratings are not the most important thing, but numbers don’t lie, and these ratings simply do not reflect the numbers. In reality, Romney will need to do serious work on the map to win this election.Spencer Lindsay is a NGJ Voices Contributor, and a member of the class of 2015 at The University of Wisconsin-Madison.