The Horserace Hasn’t Changed, but Maybe the Game Has

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BROOKS KRAFT / CORBIS FOR TIME

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a Victory town hall in Bowling Green, Ohio, July 18, 2012.

On Twitter, Nate Silver points out the funny fact that when you type “game changer Obama Romney” into Google News, you get 2,860 results just for the last 30 days. This is funny not because we in the news bidness beat cliches like a dead horse (see?), but because the Obama-Romney contest has been remarkably stable.

Here’s a graph of all the polling from the last 30 days of game-changering action:

Excited yet? Now check out the last 20 months:

The obvious lesson is that we in the press (me included) overreact to statistical noise in day-to-day horserace polling. That’s pretty much human nature. But here’s another: This presidential race is incredibly close, getting closer over time, and a landslide is unlikely. Sure, that means that  Romney releasing or not releasing his tax returns isn’t going to restructure the fundamentals of the race–change the game, if you will. But it also means that the little stuff at the margins could be decisive.

Obama pollster Joel Benenson, who claims Democratic attacks on Bain are having an effect, offered one explanation for the stability of the race at a breakfast with reporters Wednesday in Washington. The number of voters who’ve already made up their minds is higher than usual, he said, and both campaigns are focusing their persuasive power on a tiny part of the country.  “When we look back at this, we may say, `Boy there was more money spent in this campaign, between the PACs and everything else, to influence a smaller number of people than we ever have before,”’ he said. So the game has changed. Maybe the historians will come up with a better phrase.

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Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

http://blackrepublicanandmywor...

I think that people are underestimating the power of money and billionaires. The power that Romney is set to unleash once he is able to use the general election funds.

People are already afraid and in some states, like in mine, we are being hammered with ads already even though we are a red state. We cling to our guns and bibles even in church-(and I am not kidding because in most church services you can see the outlines of many gun holsters on congregants).  My point is that the race might be won by a landslide if one side is massively outspent.  If the polls are right, many people are at the tipping point and need just a little more to get them to vote out of sheer terror for the billionaire savior.  

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

"So the game has changed. Maybe the historians will come up with a better phrase."

As far as I know, only political pundits and journalists use that phrase. The rest of us think it's a little more serious than that.

filmnoia
filmnoia

This country is incredibly divided and most people have already made up their minds no matter which way the economy turns in the next 3 months.

Willard can't afford full disclosure of 10-12 years of tax returns. One can assume that he would rather be damaged politically and not release them, and keep the race close, or release them and then see an electoral landslide.

The Obama team have staked out a handful of swing states to run a heavy amount of ads. They're pros, so I hope they continue to ignore these DNC hand wringers and keep going for the jugular.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 The McCain campaign saw Romney's returns in 2008. Nevertheless, McCain endorsed Romney in January. If there were anything damaging in Romney's returns, why didn't McCain endorse Pawlenty, Perry, or any of the other candidates?

Sage__Owl
Sage__Owl

A fair question. Another fair question: If Romney's returns were so amazing, why didn't he select Romney as his VP?

Sage__Owl
Sage__Owl

Ooh Kevin, excellent point. It's almost like these people had a variety of reasons for choosing who to endorse! If what you say is true, it's almost like the fact that he was chosen by McCain doesn't immunize him from having some problem with his tax return.

To be honest, I think the returns won't reveal anything surprising and Romney is just being difficult..to his own detriment.

Diecash1
Diecash1

BTW, does anyone know how many years worth of tax returns McCain released in 2008?

McCain has been releasing financial disclosure statements for years, as required by law, so it was not necessary to release additional tax returns.  His finances were an open book.  

Romney has obviously done the cost/benefit calculations and has determined that it's better to let people imagine what's in his tax returns than to release them and confirm those thoughts.

 

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 He could have. However, he decided to go with Palin. Choosing Palin is not evidence that there was something wrong with Romney's tax returns.

My guess is that Romney will release more tax returns a week or so before the GOP convention and that they will show that (horrors!) he is a rich guy.

BTW, does anyone know how many years worth of tax returns McCain released in 2008? It the number was two. The Democrats did not make that an issue four years ago, which suggests that they are desperate for things to run on this year.

filmnoia
filmnoia

Duh, because, Einstein,  they were all losers, McCain hates Romney, but considering the resentment he holds against Barack, he would pull for the guy that has the best  chance among the pack of losers the GOP trotted out.  Politics 1A.

rahonavis
rahonavis

Kevin, it is sad how bad you are twisting to try and spin things here.

First the video, the booing comes directly after the video when the soldier asks if any of the candidates would repeal the progress gay rights has made with specific mention to don't ask don't tell and himself. To try and claim that some people in the audience were not booing him because he said he was gay is like saying when fans boo a missed call on a reply instead of in real time that they don't disagree with the refs decision. 

As for the Obama comment here is the full quote (thanks to http://www.slate.com/blogs/wei...

"

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."How can disagree with that? How is that not true? No one, not a single solitary person in the past century has raised themselves on their own, not only was self educated but learned everything from first principals (i.e. not read it in a book because that is a transfer of knowledge just like teaching, meaning you gain from another's hard work record so that others can benefit from them), produced all their own food, fuel and cloths, purified their own water, built every road they traveled on, built every piece of equipment they used and the means to order, ship and  power said equipment, set up a personal fire and security service for themselves and created, again from scratch, the way to both get buyers, a means for them to buy the product (since the government produces and regulates the dollar), to ship to them or any of the hundreds of other steps paid for in some way (either development, up keep or straight produced by) society as a whole (e.g. the government). Without a government money is useless, so non-agricultural or bartterable good based wealth also is contingent of government.Now do you agree with Obama's assertion that everyone got help somewhere to get where they are today or do you want us to believe that you think that the rich today actually make everything from scratch (including not inheriting anything from previous generations)?

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 If you read Obama's comment in it's full context, it doesn't mitigate anything. It remains an outrageous comment from someone who apparently has no idea how business works.

I have seen the video. Note that no one boos the soldier when he introduced himself as gay.

The salt mines in Kansas are quite a ways west of me, but, as you note, facts can be pesky things.

filmnoia
filmnoia

KG -

Obama's  whole statement about business owners is read in context by rational people, and I know reading is a skill set you haven't developed. Besides, others here over the last few days have quoted it verbatim, so I won't. As for booing the soldier - I direct you here-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

You need to get out of that salt mine you live in in Kansas and join the real world. Facts can be pesky things, but try your best to grasp the basic essentials.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

Now you've resorted to lying. No member of the military was booed for being a gay soldier. Watch the video and you will not hear any boos when he introduced himself as being a gay soldier. One guy was booed by one or two people for what he said. Media reports noted that those on the stage could not hear those boos.

Obama is far from a centrist. This is the guy would sought and earned an endorsement from the New Party in 1996. He also ran as a Democrat-New Party fusion candidate that year. The New Party was affiliated with Democratic Socialists of America.

And what centrist would say that small business owners such as myself did not build their businesses? That's the type of thing someone with a far-left ideology says.

filmnoia
filmnoia

KG-

They are losers because they are extremists - guys that stand around and are mum when  a member of the military is booed during a debate.  None of them could ever win a national election. They all have enough baggage to open up a luggage shop. Obama, whether you accept it or not, is a centrist, conventional politician, who only appears as a "socialist"  to those out  on the radical right fringe.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 Everyone of the GOP candidates is better qualified and more competent than Obama. So how can you say they were losers?

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

Naw, Adam, let's keep beating this mean-sprited, game-changing horserace to death... fundamentally.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Where are the "undecideds"?  I think they all evaporated in the heat.

sacredh
sacredh

I think our heat wave has broken here. It's pouring down rain again and only 69 degrees. A week ago my lawn was mostly brown and I hadn't cut it in three weeks. It's back to about 90% green now and growing like crazy.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

I'll give you some of the rain we're getting now.  BO got wet climbing out of Air Force One.

chupkar
chupkar

Omg you are so lucky. I don't even remember what rain looks like.

anon76returns
anon76returns

"But here’s another: This presidential race is incredibly close, getting closer over time, and a landslide is unlikely."

Sigh.  Adam, you're reading it wrong.  Quit obsessing over the national percentages.  That is the horse race crap.  It doesn't matter, other than pointing out the general stability of the race.

The race is not incredibly close.  Obama has a considerable advantage in the states that will determine the electoral college total, and the fact that the race has been so stable over time means that Romney is running out of opportunities to fundamentally alter the dynamic.  Right now the status quo favors Obama, and unless something dramatic changes between now and November, Romney will lose.  You can bet on it.

That is the value of Nate Silver's analysis, and that is why he keeps looking like a genius while all of the folks in the media that focus on horse race numbers continually look like idiots.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

I'll note that Jimmy Carter was well ahead of Reagan at this point in 1980. However, after the GOP convention and the debate, Reagan won in a landslide.

Obama's record as president is even worse than Carter's.

Also note that the national polls and the Electoral College results have been in line during all but a couple of elections.

Your confidence in Obama's reelection isn't really based on anything concrete.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

First para: There's no hostage crisis now.

'Rest of your response: Your opinion ONLY.

Every other election since '88 has remained remarkably stable in terms of direction.

rahonavis
rahonavis

 Except that is not true, from your own source.

""In the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information and that was true here," Panetta said. "We had a multiple source — a multiple series of sources — that provided information with regards to the situation. Clearly some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees but we also had information from other sources as well."

That was on May the 3rd 2011,and then this from a letter Panetta sent to John McCain. 

"On Monday, as first reported by

the Washington Post, excerpts from a letter from Panetta to McCain dated May 9

were released. In the letter, Panetta reiterates what he has said publicly --

that bin Laden was found after 10 years of intensive intelligence from

"multiple streams" and "painstaking collection and

analysis."

In the letter, which was verified

by a spokesperson at the CIA, Panetta says: "We first learned about the

facilitator/courier's nom de guerre from a detainee not in CIA custody in

2002." He said that some detainees who had been subject to enhanced

interrogation techniques attempted to provide false information about the

courier.

"In the end, no detainee in

CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier's full true name or specific

whereabouts," Panetta said.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics...

 

So no,

water boarding did not get OBL, it produce a lot of junk (the “false

information”) and not the name of the courier which lead them too OBL. You and

others on the right (just google Panetta and waterboarding and see how often

right wing sites, all between May 3-5, ignoring the later may 10th

letter for some reason) trumpet this falsehood, trying to brush over the fact that Panetta basically called you out on it less than a week later. What he said was that the CIA had many sources of information, some of it might have come from the enhanced interrogations though this lead specifically did not produce anything that lead them to OBL, and he stressed how people on the ground gathered the intelligence necessary to get OBL.

So in addition to that being completely off topic, your comment shows you either did not really know the truth or willfully ignored it because it did not fit your narrative.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

 The problem with your OBL story is Leon Panetta, who was CIA chief at the time, has acknowledged that intelligence gathered through enhanced interrogation techniques under Bush was used to find OBL. See http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/...

Obama, as you may recall, strongly criticized the very techniques that ultimately led us to OBL. So how can he run on that? In addition, the American people rightfully give the intelligence community and the SEALs credit for taking out OBL. Obama was merely in the room when the operation took place.

Your comment regarding Reagan exposes your lack of class.  And you excuse me of hatred. I've always considered Carter's work with Habitat for Humanity as a form of atonement for the poor job he did as president.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

I don't know where you were when the hostage crisis was on, but I was in college.  We heard late one night that 8 soldiers were killed in the desert in attempt to rescue them.  Can you imagine what kind of boost Carter would've received if it had indeed succeeded? 

Raygun got the "credit" for releasing the hostages on his first day in office--the same day Carter left office.

Fast forward 30 years.  A similarly dangerous mission--the killing of OBL--succeeded in large part because of the lessons learned during the Iran crisis, initiated by a president whom you call only slightly better than the "incompetent" one.

Carried out by the same guy you call incompetent.

Here I could say in a bit of poetic justice that Carter has remained effective well into his 80s, whereas your "hero" was probably suffering from dementia while he was still in office.  But that would be too mean.

Your hatred > your reasoning.

Sage__Owl
Sage__Owl

In another way (using the actual meaning of words) there is no hostage crisis.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

Well, in a way there is a hostage crisis, i.e., we're being held hostage by Obama's bad economy.

We also have crises today that Carter did not have to contend with, e.g., HUGE deficits and a very high unemployment rate. Both of those crises are much worse today than Obama said they would be. He promised to cut the deficit in half in four years, and  in 2009 said that his so-called stimulus plan would get the unemployment rate down to 5.8% by this time in 2012. Instead, we have trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see and an unemployment rate of 8.2%, which is actually closer to 11% if you count those who have given up on looking for work.

Obama has failed by the standards he himself set up. Why reward incompetent with four more years?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

I'll note that there was an Iranian hostage crisis, and a central banker who raised short term interest rates above 20%.

And that the country would be far better off if it had given Jimmy Carter a 2nd term.

~

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

I think these debates will have considerable effect as well.

Adam Sorensen
Adam Sorensen

It was easier to make my point with one graph than with nine, but that's not obsessing over national polls. Head-to-heads are close in swing states too, and I don't think it's accurate that Obama has "a considerable advantage" in those states. That's doesn't mean it's tied. It's close. Where he does have an advantage is in the distribution of electoral college votes--he needs to defend a few he won in 2008 to win, whereas Romney has to pick up quite a series. But states don't move completely independent of one another, and a national economic effect could easily swing the election for Romney. I'll say it again: it's close. I don't think Nate Silver would tell you otherwise. And for what it's worth, he IS a person in the media who looks at horse race numbers continually. He does a good job too. 

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks for replying, always appreciated, wish all swamp reporters would engage us.

outsider2011
outsider2011

 Thanks for explaining your plan/point Adam. It's nice to know you're reading us too.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Thanks, Adam. It's always helpful to see your thinking for your post. We enjoy being challenged to re-think our positions.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

RCP's projecting 221 points for Obama, 181 for Romney ATM.  So Romney needs to pick up nearly twice as many as Obama to win the election.  If they're neck and neck in all the states, it would be reasonable to assume that the states will break evenly between the two of them.  That favors Obama.  Period.

They're not neck and neck in all the states - most states has a distinct lead for one or the other - small, perhaps, but they are distinct.  If Romney had a minor lead in 65-70% of the college votes up for grab, then this would be a very tight race.  However, he doesn't.  As such, your logic is flawed.

I don't disagree that the fact that so few states being able to switch 5 points to Romney on the national stage would be enough to switch those states so that Romney would get that 65-70% favor, but your entire post is about how the race isn't going to switch 5 points on a dime short of a huge issue coming up - likely requiring Europe to collapse.

Logic and statistics say this race isn't close.  They say that the press is being fooled by overly simplistic models.  Is the race winnable by Romney?  Yes, but that doesn't make it close.  When it requires a 5 point swing and an incredible margin of victory for Obama was 7, that isn't close.  The campaign 4 years ago had 7 point swings, but they required an energizing Vice Presidential candidate, an idiotic vice presidential candidate, and a triple-fatal error week by McCain - "Fundamentals of the economy are strong" the day before Lehman dies, suspending his campaign, and then failing to get the bill passed that he practically tied his noose to.  Keep in mind that 4 years ago was the year where many independents were saying in the Spring "I feel like we have 3 great Candidates in Clinton, Obama and McCain" - it was much easier to change your mind.  This year, it's "Obama or anti-Obama" - not going to see the swings

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

 I really should let this go but this gets even more ridiculous when we start talking CNN (who is about as guilty as they get for calling this a toss up).  CNN has only New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Colorado (in no particular order) listed as toss up.  Missouri and North Carolina are both Romney, Wisconsin and Michigan are both Obama.  Net effect?  247 (need 23) to 206 (need 64).  About a 2.5:1 requirement.  And when we think rationally about the polls, there's little reason to believe that New Hampshire and Nevada are less safe for Obama than Missouri is for Romney (though I don't have the numbers CNN's using).  So Obama needs 13 votes - any of Ohio Florida or Virginia or both Iowa and Colorado.  But no, this race is a coin flip.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Let me illustrate further.  Here is a chart of all the RCP tossups (positive is Obama, negative is Romney - because I'm Liberal).  Remember, Obama is at 221 and Romney is at 181.

New Hampshire 5.3 (4)

Nevada 5.2 (6)

Wisconsin 4.8 (10)

Ohio 4.3 (18)

Colorado 2.9 (9)

Michigan 1.8 (16)

Iowa 1.3 (6)

Virginia 1.2 (13)

Florida 0.4 (29)

North Carolina -1.2 (15)

Missouri -3 (10)

Right, so instead of the states splitting Obama's way 50/50 with Romney, he's winning all but two, currently.

Now, let's take the unreasonable but ok estimate that all of the States will shift together as the national average shifts.  Obama needs to hold the top 5 to win.  That means he can suffer a 2.9% shift in the polls and survive.  Fine, that looks close.

However, you made a crucial assumption there: that all states shift with the national average.  If Obama maintains the top 4, he has 269 votes - which actually ties Romney.  That means he needs at least 1 of the other races to swing his way - and there's a large set he can choose from (7, actually).  And his buffer increases to 4.3%.  Romney, on the other hand, needs to sweep all 7 of them (including the 5 that are currently leaning Obama...including Florida which is razor thin) to *tie* the President.

This is not a coin flip election.

Stuart Zechman
Stuart Zechman

Thanks so much for responding to commentary, Adam Sorensen, it's always greatly appreciated.

anon76returns
anon76returns

As others have already said, thanks for engaging, Adam.  I've been preaching the Gospel of Silver on Swampland since 2008 (I used to harangue KT about it, too), so I think it's great to see you including him more and more in your MMRs, and it's nice to hear you defend your opinion about his projections.  I do, however, still think you're wrong on this one.

There is indeed correlation in voting across states, and Nate's model takes that into account (otherwise it would predict virtually no chance for Romney to win, instead of ~30% chance).  In fact, if memory serves correctly he even does it in a smart way, so that demographically similar states (N. Carolina and Virginia, Ohio and Michigan) are more tightly correlated than dissimilar states (Hawaii and Alaska).

That being said, greater than 2 to 1 odds (Nate's current numbers are 68% to 32%) doesn't strike me as particularly close, and he's already accounting for the expected upcoming bad economic news.

And even if you do consider 2 to 1 odds to to be close, I disagree with your "getting closer" statement, unless you are implicitly saying Nate's models are wrong.  The nice thing about Nate's site (and his commitment to transparency) is that he continually publishes the trendlines for his predictions, so we can see when changes have taken effect.  For both the chance of winning and the projected number of EC votes, the race has begun to diverge over the last several weeks (dating to roughly the time of the SC decision on the ACA).

Thanks again for engaging on this and taking Nate's models seriously- I think they are great tool for understanding the dynamics of the election process and the collective political media would be well served to try to understand them.

sacredh
sacredh

Thank you for engaging us Adam. We appreciate it.

sacredh
sacredh

You're right. It IS close in many of the swing states, but Obama is in the position of only having to pick up a couple. Like I've said before, if Obama takes Ohio, Florida, Virginia or North Carolina, I can't see a plausible scenario where Romney wins.

.

OTOH, if Mitt somehow sweeps all 4, I plan on going to bed before the winner is announced. It would be a trend that would result in a President Romney. Gulp.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Thx for your analysis, Adam.

I've always said that the MSM are too focused on polls and not enough on the EV count.  If we ever concentrate on the latter we can help people with their civic history.

I don't think there will be a huge swing of momentum covering America on election night.   Each state will vote unaffected by the results of others (unless you live in the Mountain time zone). 

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Beg to differ slightly.  The "economy will dictate the election" meme--a tradition as old as the republic--would usually work if the opponent has a plausible plan.  I say that, his campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, Ritt has not much of a plan at all.  Most people (3x, Paulie, et.al. being the exceptions) won't vote for the other guy just because the other guy boldly proclaims "I'm not HIM!" 

Adam Sorensen
Adam Sorensen

The result in Virginia wont affect the result in North Carolina on election night, but that doesn't mean the two aren't related. They might both move for the same reasons--my point being that yes, Romney needs to win a series, but it's unlikely he'd randomly do much better than expected in one swing state, while doing much worse in another. 

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

Of course, elections can be close, ESPECIALLY if our corporate media is determined to make them so.

Remember these rules if you want to keep your corporate media job.

1) Both sides do it.

2) Being against torture (for instance) is just as extreme a position as being for it (and therefore, bad, via Broderism).

3) Just because a Republican has told 100 lies in a row does not give a reporter any reason to doubt his credibility.

4) Care too much about the poor, and you might soon be one of them.

~

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Broderism?  As in David?  Was he famous for that?