Is it too early for Dems to panic?
posted at 12:41 pm on June 22, 2012 by Karl
The always sharp Sean Trende (have you read The Lost Majority yet?) says the latest pessimism from the Washington press is overblown. I agree with him, but have a few nits to pick with his analysis.
Sean’s first point is that Romney still trails Obama narrowly in the RCP Average, putting Obama is a better position than Gore, Clinton, and Bush 41 at similar points in the 2000, 1992, and 1988 cycles. Aside from the general problem with head-to-head polls at this point in the cycle, I would note that Clinton was a challenger running against a bad economy. Gore and Bush 41 were quasi-incumbents running with a good economy (although Gore ran a “people vs the powerful” campaign in reaction to Edwards and Nader). Plus, a “third term” candidate may be different from an true incumbent seeking reelection.
Second, Sean argues the president’s job approval is holding up fairly well, currently sporting a 47.9% rating in the RCP Average. Fair enough, although Sean himself has noted that Obama has tended to run less than a point ahead of his job approval (even less if you discount the Pew poll). Moreover, Sean adds the caveat that “most of the job approval numbers right now are of adults, not likely voters, which will skew them somewhat toward Democrats vis-à-vis the electorate.” Indeed… so what happens if we go back to the horse race polls and account for different samples. Harry J. Enten did this on June 12:
President Obama maintains a lead of about 4 percentage points in all registered voter polls taken since 15 April, while his lead is a slightly smaller 3.3 percentage points in registered voter polls since 10 May. That’s little, if any, movement. The reason why Obama’s lead may seem a little high compared to some aggregates is that Gallup only gives Obama a 0.5 percentage edge since 15 April. I control for what has become Gallup’s constant Republican tilt since 2010.
You might think therefore that Obama is leading right now. I’m not so sure.
The same average of likely voter polls since 15 April and 10 May actually has Romney ahead by 1.3 percentage points. The problem with concluding anything too firm from these numbers is that, besides Rasmussen, there have only been seven likely voter polls conducted since 15 April. Still, Rasmussen’s average Romney lead of 1.5 percentage points is very close to the average of the other pollsters’ 1.3 percentage points. In other words, Rasmussen is not driving the likely voter average.
Obviously, 1.3%-1.5% is not a lead Romney would want to bank on, but it is bad news for Obama.
Sean’s third point addresses the economic fundamentals. He thinks the Eurozone will not explode before the election (which I think is anyone’s guess). He also claims that, “most importantly, people don’t blame the president for the state of the economy.” Although I agree that Obama taking office in the wake of the sharpest downturn since the Great Depression may make the election unique, most people do in fact blame Obama for his performance viz the economy. More still blame Dubya more, but Dubya will not be on the ballot.
Moreover, as the frequently Obama-friendly Pew poll recently found, in contrast to 2008, that Republicans hold the edge on several turnout measures. Harry J. Enten noted on Twitter that of all of the likely voter proxies, the one which came closest to the final results for the elections between 1992-2008 gives the GOP an 8-point edge in enthusiasm.
Those nits picked, my assessment of the campaign today is basically the same as Sean’s — the Dems should be concerned, but not panicked. Conversely, to paraphrase Instapundit Glenn Reynolds and Han Solo: “Great, Mitt… don’t get cocky.”
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