Friday, September 07, 2012

Election 2012: Post-DNC Update

Now, it's all official. The two parties have confirmed in convention what we've all known for months. The Obama/Biden ticket has been officially nominated by the Democratic Party to face the Romney/Ryan ticket of the Republican Party in November's Presidential election. The conventions have been illuminating. Not always in the ways that the parties expected, but illuminating nevertheless.

For one, Peter Beinart noted at the Daily Beast that the Democrats have acquired the knack for message discipline. Once upon a time, that was a Republican knack. Under Reagan, the Republicans reliably fell in line, heeding his half-joking commandment that Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill Of A Fellow Republican. It's almost impossible to imagine anyone at the 1984 Republican convention going rogue. The 2012 convention, on the other hand, consisted of almost nothing else, with the possible exceptions of Ryan and Romney themselves. The Democrats, on the other hand, all looked like they were pulling in the same direction. Sure, they were interested in making themselves look good. The Democratic National Convention has, historically, been the debut venue for the party's rising stars. The last two Democratic Presidents, after all, used their keynote addresses as springboards to launch their national presences. But their speeches were primarily touting the virtues of their ticket, as opposed to polishing their resumes for 2016. I don't know that it means anything in particular, but I just find it curious that the characteristically disorganized Democrats have discovered unity of message at the same time that the characteristically regimented Republicans seem to have lost it.

The other interesting difference, and one that I did not anticipate, was that Biden and Obama gave their speeches on the same night. Which is why I said last week that I'd be missing Biden's address. Instead, I missed Bill Clinton's. This leads to an interesting national variation in television ratings. Bill Clinton's speech won the ratings battle in most markets, with the exception of Texas. It's not that Texas hates Bill Clinton. It's that the Dallas Cowboys were playing the New York Giants. We'd probably skip a live broadcast of the Second Coming if the Cowboys were on the other channel. So, while most of the nation was watching Bill Clinton do what he does best, most of us were watching Tony Romo tear the Giants' secondary a new one. While I'd make that choice again with no regrets, I do kind of wish I'd seen it. Clinton was in rare form. He showed his skill, not just at communicating but at connecting, and reminded us how he won two terms.

Speaking of sports, James Fallows did a compare and contrast between political reporters and sports reporters. And he's right. You know who's brutally honest? Who tells it like it is, no matter if he's talking about friend or foe? The guy on your local sports radio station. You do find the occasional "homer", who finds no fault with his favorites, but they get no respect and hardly ever last long. People complain about our reporters covering elections like they were sporting events. Oh, would that this were actually true. Journalism would be better for it. We need for our political reporters to be more like sportscasters, not less.

Another interesting compare-and-contrast data point has come out of the conventions: the Romney campaign's heavy investment in air time versus the Obama campaign's heavy investment in the ground game. Romney's Super-PACs are producing ads and buying time like there's no tomorrow. Obama's campaign has far more local offices and workers in the swing states. It will be interesting to see how these divergent strategies play out against one another.

And now, let's have a look at the numbers. As usual, I'm drawing my information from Intrade, FiveThirtyEight, and Pollster. The data are current as of Friday evening.

From Intrade:

Barack Obama (D): 57.9%, 285 EV (+0.5%, +4 EV)
Mitt Romney (R): 41.9%, 247 EV (-0.7%, +15 EV)

From FiveThirtyEight:

Barack Obama (D): 78.1%, 314.2 EV (+6.5%, +11.8 EV)
Mitt Romney (R): 21.9%, 223.8 EV (-6.5%, -11.8 EV)

From Pollster:

Strong D: 211 (+/- 0)
Lean D: 36 (+16)
Tossup: 100 (-16)
Lean R: 16 (+/- 0)
Strong R: 175 (+/- 0)

I wish now that I'd pulled a set of numbers immediately prior to the RNC. Then, we'd have a better idea of exactly what the effect of each convention was. Obama has definitely gotten a poll boost, as seen in the Pollster data, but the Intrade numbers haven't moved much. Granted, Intrade is still giving him 3-2 odds for re-election. But FiveThirtyEight is quoting 3-1 odds at this point, with the convention giving Obama a quick +6.5% jolt. Another interesting point is what Pollster seems to be telling us this week: that Obama has picked up sixteen electoral votes from toss-up states as part of this boost. Even with a relatively lackluster economy, he's still chugging along.

What Romney Must Do: He basically has to run the table in the toss-up states. Add his "strong" and "lean" votes together, and he's still eighty electoral votes short, with only 100 on the table. Which is to say, all of them but Ohio. That's a pretty tall order. Not impossible, but he's got to run a flawless, error-free campaign from here on in. There's no margin for error. And one of the go-to tropes for Republicans, weakness on national security, is simply laughable now. Obama hasn't exactly been shy about handing out the explodium Candygrams and bullet fiestas for people he thinks need killing. They might try painting him as a weakling pacifist ... but Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi would probably disagree. If they could, which they can't. So, Team Romney has to hit the economic message hard. Without reminding the voting public that he looks like the guy who fired them.

What Obama Must Do: But this is no time for Team Obama to be complacent. If the electorate gets sufficiently discontented, they may well give Mr. Romney a tryout. And he's facing a pretty steep differential in available cash for advertisements. But he's got a few things that Romney doesn't. For one, he's got the Oval Office, and Air Force One. All the advantages of incumbency. And the public's deep distrust of Mitt Romney, the man. He's also got to run a fairly error-free campaign, but he's got more of a margin for error than Team Romney does. While Romney has to win 80 out of 100 toss-ups, Obama only has to win twenty-one. That's Florida, by itself. Or Ohio, plus any one other state. He's betting on his superior ground game to even out Romney's money advantage. That may prove the way to bet.

And The Winner Is: Obama still enjoys 3-2 odds on Intrade, much like most of the last year and a half. The next month bears watching. By the end of September, we should have a pretty good idea of how the air-versus-ground strategies are working. By the middle of October, we should have a really good idea. But for now, I'd take 3-2 odds on Obama/Biden for the win, and I'd still take 290 electoral votes for the over/under.

Remember, vote early, and vote often!

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