Friday, October 19, 2012

Election 2012: T-18 And Counting

A pretty big week, all in all. There's a lot that I'm saving for after Election Day, which is less than three weeks out, now. Consider this a preview of coming attractions.

 First, an Austrian named Felix Baumgartner rode a balloon up to 128,000 feet, then took the short way down:

Second, the hits just keep on coming for Lance:

Third, Alpha Centauri has at least one planet! That we can see! And it's about Earth-sized! But holy moley it's hot:

Fourth, the rover Curiosity has found some shiny stuff on Mars. Dare I say it? Dare I? I think I do ... THERE'S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS! Maybe. It could be something else. But, seriously, it'd be pretty odd if Earth wound up with all of the inner Solar System's share, don't you think?

Oh yeah, and there was another Presidential debate this week. Some of you may have watched it.

In the last two entries, I've said that Obama had to bring his "A" game to this second debate, or he'd be in real trouble. And, that's exactly what he did. He turned in as good a performance as I've seen from him in a debate. He didn't let any of Romney's assertions go unchallenged. And he got in some pretty decent jabs of his own. Plus, it looks like we got a brand new meme out of the deal.

I swear, future historians are going to look at our time, and wonder exactly what the Hell we were smoking.

Still, this was a really good debate. Neither candidate gave the other any room to hide. Both men were able to showcase their best qualities. And that was far more important for Obama than for Romney, since it partially offsets his poor performance from the first debate. I say partially, because that bell just can't be un-rung. Look at it this way: if we score this as a best-of-three series, it's one each now, with one more to go. It's a far closer race than it was four years ago, that's for sure.

How much closer? Well, let's have a look. As usual, our data comes from Intrade, from FiveThirtyEight, and from Pollster. It's current as of Friday evening.

From Intrade:

Barack Obama (D): 61.5%, 292 EV (+2.0%, +11 EV)
Mitt Romney (R): 38.4%, 242 EV (-2.4%, -6 EV)

From FiveThirtyEight:

Barack Obama (D): 67.9%, 287.8 EV (+6.8%, +4.7 EV)
Mitt Romney (R): 32.1%, 250.2 EV (-6.8%, -4.7 EV)

From Pollster:

Strong D: 217 (+7)
Lean D: 60 (+13)
Tossup: 55 (-20)
Lean R: 15 (+/- 0)
Strong R: 191 (+/- 0)

To an extent, this represents a reversion to the mean, as far as the odds are concerned. The really interesting thing to me is that Romney's figures on Pollster are unchanged from the last time we checked, a week ago. And that's pretty bad news for Team Romney. Possibly worse news is that his "strong" support is unchanged over two solid weeks. Although you could argue that's good news, insofar as it means his base is rock-solid. But the base won't win him this election. The center wins this election, for whoever stakes it out and holds it. There's not a tossup state that Romney doesn't need ... plus, he has to pry off some of Obama's "leaning" support. That's a bad place to be, with only two weeks to go. I mean, it's possible, but the odds are against it.

What Romney Must Do: Reversion to the mean is a bad sign. He needs to knock it out of the park Monday night, and hope for some blunders from the other side that he can exploit. The good news is that he's nowhere near as bad off as McCain was at this point in 2008. Then, it was pretty much over for all intents and purposes. The McCain campaign was in an inverted flat spin with all engines on fire, with his odds of success somewhere around 5-to-1 against. This is still close enough that a strong Romney performance could convince enough voters that old Mitt might be able to do the job, especially if Obama falters.

What Obama Must Do: Prepare. He's sitting on a fairly solid foreign policy record. Bin Laden and Qaddafi are dead, we're out of Iraq, we're winding up our affairs in Afghanistan, there's a lot of good to tout. But he cannot take any of that for granted. He's got to come out swinging on Monday, just like he did last Tuesday. He's got to defend his record, vigorously, and point out his opponent's weaknesses. He's got an easier job than his opponent does. In some ways that's a curse, because it invites complacency. Complacency kills.

And The Winner Is: The odds are holding pretty steady at 3-2 in favor of re-election. I think they'll hold there for about another week, unless Romney utterly implodes on Monday night, which would surprise me. The hard numbers say that 290 is the over/under for Electoral College votes, but if you're bold, there's a pretty good case to be made for 300.

Remember, vote early, and vote often!

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