Two Days: And So It Begins

For those whom the election matters the least:

There are 57 hours and 17 minutes until the 2012 election, as I write these words at 6:42p EST.

The most important data I’m working with is a daily average of the last five polls taken in eight swing states. Today I’m introducing another dimension: margin of error. But first, here’s how things have changed in the last 24 hours.

Barack Obama increased his lead in Colorado from 1 point yesterday to 2.2 points today, in Ohio from 2.4 points to 3, and Nevada from 3.6 points to 4. His lead slipped in Iowa from 3.2 points to 2.4, New Hampshire from 3.6 to 3.2, and Virginia from 2 points to 1.6. Mitt Romney took back the lead in Florida to 0.6 points, from a 0.2 point deficit, largely on the back of an outlier poll from Mason Dixon showing Romney up by 6 points.

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3 Days: It’s time to say it, Mitt Romney is in deep shit.

There are 3 full days until the election, or 3 days, 11 hours, 18 minutes, and about 10 seconds as I type this sentence around 4:41pm EST.

And Mitt Romney is in deep shit.

It’s come to that. That is, believe it or not, still non-partisan analysis. Something people tend not to take into account is that an average lead of X points in a given state two weeks out is probably twice as robust when it’s only 3-4 days out from the election. I don’t know exactly how to calculate this, but Nate Silver has said that a lead of 2.6 points with about six days left “should convert to a victory about 80 percent of the time”. With a little over half that time left, that 80% figure surely has increased. By how much, I’m not sure. But Silver’s model puts Obama at 80.5% to win Ohio this afternoon, and his average lead is around 2.4 points. The loss of 0.2 points probably kept his chances of winning the state from moving much higher.

But the time factor can’t be expressed in strong enough terms. It takes time to moves polls and there’s precious little time left for Mitt Romney to make up ground in Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, and protect his crumbling lead in Florida.

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No, Mitt Romney is not set to win by a mile

Michael Graham is making an argument in the Boston Herald that not only will Mitt Romney win the election, he’ll win it easily. “Maybe by a mile”, even. And he does it by citing polls and says the objective evidence points to a solid Romney victory that we should see “well before bedtime”.

His evidence, I’m sorry to say for Mitt Romney supporters, is not entirely persuasive. Graham cites the two most Romney friendly pollsters out there with big name recognition, Gallup and Rasmussen, to support his argument. But both pollsters have significant baggage that saps their credibility. Rasmussen did reasonably well in 2008 but took a horrible turn in 2010 when they missed the final margin in all the races they polled by an average of 5.8 points. 13 polls missed the final margin by at least 10 points, and they blew a Senate contest in Hawaii by 40 points.

There’s some evidence that Rasmussen’s bias and inaccuracy has continued again this year. From August 22nd through October 5th, Rasmussen was the only pollster in the nation to show Mitt Romney with a lead. Three polls showed a tied race and 33 showed Barack Obama with the lead, at times by as many as nine points.

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4 Days: Romney lost ground in 6 of 8 battleground states while I was gone

Mitt Romney probably wishes the election were being held today, and Barack Obama that it be held closer to the 15th than next week. My DSL being out for a few days allowed for some breathing room in my battleground average poll tracker which shows demonstrable movement towards Obama between October 27th and 1st of November. If held today, Mitt Romney would lose narrowly. If held on the 15th, Obama might end up winning quite soundly.

I track all polls that I find for eight important states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. I take that data and average the most recent five polls from each state and track that by day. With a four day gap in results (but not data, I have all the data), you can clearly see that Obama has increased his lead in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire. Obama has increased a razor thin and previously meaningless 0.2 point average lead in Virginia to a very meaningful (this close to election day) 1.4 points. Obama has also gained on Mitt Romney in North Carolina (0.4 points closer and trailing by 2.4) and Florida (0.8 points closer and trailing by 0.4 points.) Obama has held steady at +2.6 points in Ohio since the 26th.

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6 Days: Where I Go Dark

My mostly robust 3mbit DSL line from CenturyLink went dark around 10am yesterday (the 29th). It’s lucky that I had written yesterday’s story over the weekend and even more so that I had decided to publish it in the morning instead of late afternoon. That line has been dark since, and CTL is talking about a 24-48 window for a fix, for a problem they don’t understand. I understand it, oddly enough. Something is wrong with the IP equipment either at the remote terminal that houses my DSLAM, or at the central office that RT is connected to, such that my DSL model’s attempt to get an IP address via DHCP is failing.

I can’t fix that and neither can they by coming to my house, so all I can do is wait and hope the fix is in before the god damned election. I’ve heard horror stories that haven’t ended even half a year later. I think we all have. But this seems rather benign, as opposed to something like, say, rain damaging the coax strewn all throughout an apartment building.

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7 Days: The Breaking Point

I’m going to spend today doing nothing but taking the 12 electoral college projections I regularly track and pushing them to absolute results with no tossups. This is the 2012 Presidential election pushed to the breaking point.

The only state I don’t feel comfortable calling myself is Virginia, and here’s why:

Virginia pollsNate Silver is the best man in the game and has Barack Obama a 51.4% chance to win. At this point, it’s probably not polls driving that 1.4% so much as other variables like state unemployment, voter registration, and things like that. I won’t argue with it. But I also won’t argue with anyone that wants to hand the state to Mitt Romney, either. And since I have to give it to someone, I’m using Silver’s projections as my mental tie breaker. The rest I’m calling myself.

All projects will have Mitt Romney easily winning Indiana even though Obama won it in 2008. That was more of a fluke than anything. Indiana is not even a North Carolina that is still red, but destined to be a purple perennial tossup, with NC perhaps eventually ending up light blue eventually.

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10 Days: Five of seven battleground states move toward Obama… barely.

The trackers are mixed today and so there’s not much of a story there. Romney gained with PPP, Gallup, and UPI/CVOTER, Obama gained with RAND, Ipsos/Reuters, and IBD/TIPP, and neither Rasmussen or ABC/Washington Post moved at all. The average movement across eight national trackers was a whopping 0.13 points towards Barack Obama.

There were no non-tracking national polls today. At all. None.

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11 Days: Looking at the numbers, Obama’s convention performance may be what got him a second term.

Some tracking polls with two days of debate in their survey data show Obama gaining, but it’s still pretty early to say much more than that as far as what it means.

– RAND has a static, non-random group of about 3,500 voters that it polls once per day in groups of 500 or so, such that a given group is only polled once per week. Their experimental poll has Obama up by 3.8 points yesterday, and 4.1 points today.

– Rasmussen has Romney down a point from yesterday, to +3.

– PPP, like RAND, has Obama gaining day-to-day, up by 1 point today, from a tie yesterday, and Romney +2 on Tuesday.

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12 Days: Trackers tease a big debate bump for Obama. Maybe.

I’ve been saying for days that Friday is the day you want to watch for polling, and only trackers, and only PPP and Rasmussen. Those two firms have the shortest sample frame which makes them simultaneously the most sensitive to change and most subject to noise. Right now, today, October 24th, both PPP and Rasmussen only have a single day of post-debate reactions in their average. Their surveys began on the Sunday the 21st and ended on Tuesday the 23rd, but Tuesday has no debate reactions because it’s likely that all of that data came long before the 9pm debate began.

Gallup won’t have a full frame until next Tuesday at the earliest, but given the frame size of seven days, you can get a real feel for what the result is once they’ve got 4/7 debate reaction days under their belt, which would be Saturday’s report.

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13 Days: America is getting what it says it always wants: two centrists more concerned with winning than standing for something.

Debate screencapWe’re getting close.

Everybody has their own ideas about what they saw last night, and no polls will have a full sample until Friday at the earliest. So ideas are all we have, and here are mine.

I heard on NPR that Barack Obama is fond of saying that he looks up to George H. W. Bush on foreign policy. That’s why people say that on foreign policy and national security, Obama is closer to being a moderate Republican than even a conservative Democrat. The amusing instances of agreement between Obama and Mitt Romney last night illustrate that quite well. And it reinforces for the second time something that I saw on Twitter immediately after Obama’s shellacking in Denver: Romney behaved like a moderate Republican former governor of Massachusetts.

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