Romney Leads Popular Vote Race, Trails Badly in Electoral Vote Race

For the first time all cycle, Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama in the RealClearPolitics average.

For the first time all cycle, Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama in the RealClearPolitics average. This has yet to translate into momentum in the swing states.

Indeed, Romney is ahead in every likely voter poll taken since the October 3 debate:

But RCP’s Electoral College map continues to give Obama a commanding 251 to 181 lead. As noted yesterday, that means Obama only needs to win Florida or pretty much any combination of Ohio or Virginia and any other tossup state, whereas Romney needs to nearly run the table.

It’s not yet clear whether this is a function of different fundamentals in the swing states than nationally or an artifact of national polls being more plentiful. RCP only shows one state level poll post-debate, one in Ohio which moved it from “leans Obama” to toss-up.

It remains to be seen whether this is a high water mark for Romney—an artificial bubble coming after the best possible debate performance from him and the worst possible debate performance from Obama—or whether the dam has burst. Given the state of the economy, a lot of people are likely in a mood to try someone new. Until that debate, though, Romney seemed an awfully risky choice.  Has he permanently changed that perception so that he seems like a plausible president? Or will regression to the mean kick in?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Generally state level polls tend to lag behind the national polls to some extent so that may be part of what’s going on here. Additionally, most of the poll movement we’ve seen since the debate has been in the tracking polls, there have not really been any major national polls released yet, although several are apparently in the field at this very moment. I also understand we should be getting a round of swing state polls from NBC/Marist tomorrow morning, it will be interesting to see what they say.

  2. john personna says:

    I’m at a breakfast joint, Romney is on (Fox) tv promising to “restore” Medicare and Social Security funding.

    His appeal in a nutshell.

  3. Geek, Esq. says:

    There haven’t been many legit polls in swing states since the debate. Other than CNN, they’re all from partisan outfits who arguably have an agenda in shaping the perceptions of the bounce.

    The NBC polls tomorrow will give us a very good idea where things stand. If Obama is behind in OH, FL, and VA (as I suspect), look for the entire Democratic party to join Andrew Sullivan on Despondency Lane. On the other hand, if he somehow still has leads in all three, Romney supporters will have to ask themselves what the end-game is if they’re riding as high as they can and still losing.

  4. Fiona says:

    The evil part of me would love to see Romney win the popular vote but lose the electoral college just to see Republicans self-immolate. The rational side of my knows that another Bush-Gore type debacle would be really bad for the country (but might finally provide the impetus necessary to abolish the electoral college).

  5. Mr. Replica says:

    But RCP’s Electoral College map continues to give Obama a commanding 251 to 181 lead. As noted yesterday, that means Obama only needs to win Florida or pretty much any combination of Ohio or Virginia and any other tossup state, whereas Romney needs to nearly run the table.

    It’s not yet clear whether this is a function of different fundamentals in the swing states than nationally or an artifact of national polls being more plentiful. RCP only shows one state level poll post-debate, one in Ohio which moved it from “leans Obama” to toss-up.

    Well, according to the director of Suffolk University Political Research Center, which I have never heard of before..Florida, Virgina and North Carolina are all locks for Romney. In fact they are so confident in that assessment that they are no longer going to poll those states.

    I assume this polling firm is more to the right of Rasmussen, unless some one can correct me on that?

  6. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Mr. Replica:

    That guy had Obama leading all three states, but decided those poll results meant Obama couldn’t win. It was one of the most wanktastic displays in punditry this year.

  7. Geek, Esq. says:

    It’s worth revisiting, btw, Nate Silver’s take on polls (which are all conducted in English) systematically undercounting Latino voters likely to vote for Obama (those who speak only Spanish strongly prefer Obama, apparently).

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/03/did-polls-underestimate-democrats-latino-vote/

    This was most pronounced in Nevada in 2010, where registered voter polls got the Senate race right but likely voter polls got it dead wrong.

    http://elections.nytimes.com/2010/forecasts/senate/nevada

    This may be why Obama folks are more confident than is warranted by the public polling.

  8. Scott says:

    It will be interesting to see if Romney’s race to the middle will result in further improvement in poll numbers. Right now, it is looking a little too obvious. If Romney was a consumer product, he’d be investigated for bait and switch practices.

  9. jan says:

    I don’t really buy the Suffolk predication that FL and Virginia are locks for Romney. In fact, although the trends are bending towards Romney, IMO this election is still very much in flex and fluid as to where it can ultimately end up.

    However, the biggest juggernaut for Obama to overcome is what happened in Benghazi. Ever since that unfolded on 9/11 of this year, I have thought this was one of the worst Obama Administration oversights (cover-ups), that at least the public knows about. At first the MSM turned a blind eye’s towards it, like they did on F & F. But, the alternative media kept it alive. Then people like Eli Lake, Lara Logan, Jake Tapper joined in, and now there’s Eric Nordstrom’s testimony today, a former Libyan Regional Security Officer, all bringing out timelines, emails and other facts that totally conflict with and dispute what the WH was attempting to promulgate. If this grows much larger it alone could become a major factor in this election.

  10. stonetools says:

    I think this is Romney’s high water mark. its clear that Obama took a “prevent defense” approach to the debate. He was told ( or told himself) not to attack, not to be “angry” and to be (his favorite pose) the “adult in the room”. A NYT article on the debate also made clear that he under-prepared. The result was that Romney was able to smartly flip to “Moderate Mitt” and score his points without taking any blows in return.
    After a week of liberal freak out and falling polls, I have no doubt that the prevent defense strategy is on the shelf. Did you know that Ryan led the fight for Social Security privatization in 2005 and that Romney advocated a similar approach in his 2010 book? After the debate tomorrow, I suspect every debate watcher will know. Romney is already spinning like a weather-vane on abortion, and we will soon see lots of “flip flop” ads.
    At least we can put to rest the theory that debates” don’t matter”. This one clearly did.

  11. stonetools says:

    BTW, +1 for Firefox and the “Edit ” button!

  12. Curtis says:

    Because something has never happened before does not mean that it couldn’t happen now. There just aren’t enough presidential elections to form a reasonable set of expectations.

    The Obama campaign’s entire strategy for 18 months has been to ignore all of the “flip-flopping” that Romney did in going from the Massachusetts Moderate to the fire-breathing Tea Party wannabe that he needed to be to win the nomination. They wanted to pin that agenda on him, and then nail him when he tried to come back to the center.

    And then Obama failed to execute it. Just flat failed, and failed miserably.

    I love that Obama plays the long game and doesn’t tend to get flustered by the news cycle. But for the first time in five years, I am beginning to think that there might not be a way back for him from this. I am not yet panicking, but I am closer to that than I have ever been.

  13. Mr. Replica says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    That guy had Obama leading all three states, but decided those poll results meant Obama couldn’t win. It was one of the most wanktastic displays in punditry this year.

    According to a right leaning site, shark-tank.net or what not, it was because the poll in Florida was a +5 difference towards the democrats, and it came out to a 46 – 43 lead for Obama. Which they say won’t matter on election day because republicans turn out more than democrats. Also, in the video, the director said that whenever an incumbent polls below 50% it’s never a good sign.

    Needless to say Romney supporters are taking this as sign that Romney is going to win, period.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    I’m back into my cynical curmudgeon stance: if the majority of the US populace is stupid enough to elect Mitt Romney for POTUS, the US deserves what will happen to it.

  15. stonetools says:

    @jan:

    However, the biggest juggernaut for Obama to overcome is what happened in Benghazi

    Jan, did you know that House Republicans voted to cut funding for embassy security?

    For example, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a member of Issa’s committee, told Soledad O’Brien this morning that he expects to hear testimony about security that “didn’t meet the basic, minimum standards required for a facility such as the one we had in Benghazi.” Chaffetz added that policymakers have to “make sure it doesn’t happen in other places around the world.”

    Asked if he’d voted to cut federal funding for security at U.S. embassies and consulates, Chaffetz responded, “Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country…. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.”

    CNN

    I have a feeling that this will boomerang on the House Republican witch hunters-big time.

  16. Mr. Replica says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’m back into my cynical curmudgeon stance: if the majority of the US populace is stupid enough to elect Mitt Romney for POTUS, the US deserves what will happen to it.

    As cynical of an opinion that is, I can’t blame you.
    Obama was elected because he said he was not going to continue the neo-con policies of the Bush years. And even tho he went against that as president…it still isn’t to the scale of what Romney wants to do.
    People can argue that Romney has many positions regarding what he says he will do. The fact remains that he has appointed a lot of neo-cons to his campaign, most of them having worked for W. Bush. So to say that Romney isn’t going to go neo-con as president, is just plain naive.
    Which means that there is no guarantee that Romney won’t try to push his tax cuts through without paying for them, or lead us into more war/s which get added to the nation’s credit card.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    Jan has got her tin-foil hat on again.
    This is just like her BLS is cooking the books conspiracy theory…pretty weak f’ing tea. If indeed it’s a cover-up…I’m curious…why didn’t they actually cover anything up?
    What a pathetic person.

  18. Geek, Esq. says:

    On the other hand, Obama’s lead in Pennsylvania is almost gone.

    So, the map may be expanding for Romney in unexpected places. This makes his move to pull his state staff out of Pennsylvania–and to abandon advertising efforts there–look rather foolish.

  19. stonetools says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    Man, you need to cowboy up.

    Obama sh!t the bed on the debate, but they are already fighting back and there’s another debate tomorrow. Take a look at Memeorandum. Romney is already taking fire for flip flopping on abortion and is pledging to protect the mortgage deduction-which makes his tax plan even more impossible than it really is.
    I’m predicting that by week’s end Obama will be back on top. You’re welcome.

  20. john personna says:

    For all Jan’s complaint about the liberal press, she sure seems dialed in on the right wing meme machine. It’s almost as if she knows what the meme of the day will be before the rest of us.

  21. Geek, Esq. says:

    @stonetools:

    I hope you’re right. Obama’s got a street fight on his hands, regardless of what he thinks the American people want.

    He needs to bring his AAA+ game next week. He has low expectations this time.

  22. reid says:

    @john personna:

    I’m at a breakfast joint, Romney is on (Fox) tv promising to “restore” Medicare and Social Security funding.

    Until he and his party destroy them, of course. Oh, he didn’t mention that? I wonder why….

  23. jukeboxgrad says:

    james:

    For the first time all cycle, Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama in the RealClearPolitics average.

    Yes, but I think it’s helpful to notice one of the reasons for this: as of a couple of days ago, Gallup started reporting a number for Likely Voters. Previously, they were just reporting a number for Registered. Gallup is now reporting both, but RCP has stopped using the Gallup Registered and is now using the Gallup Likely.

    The table you cited shows Gallup, 10/2 – 10/8, Romney +2. That number is for Likely Voters. A day later, that Romney +2 has become a tie (link).

    For Registered Voters, Gallup’s latest number is Obama +5 (link). Over the last four weeks Obama has never done better than +6 on this poll (he hit +7 only a few times, previously), so +5 isn’t too shabby.

    RCP switching from Gallup Registered to Gallup Likely means they are suddenly using a number that is pro-Romney by about 5 points. Without this change, the RCP average would probably still show an Obama lead.

    I realize that Likely is likely a better number, and I don’t fault RCP for making the change. All I’m saying is that the timing of this change tends to inadvertently emphasize Mitt’s recent bounce.