On October 2, electoral vote projections had Obama on the top of the world. The average of the margin of victory for Obama in all the 50 states was near its highest point ever (3.3%). In terms of projected actual electoral votes, Obama’s margin was the highest it had been in 2012. The projection was that Romney had 181 safe electoral votes and Obama had 269 (the number of votes needed to win is 270).
Since that poll was taken, everything changed. After three presidential debates, the electoral vote margin in favor of Obama moved from +88 (269-181) to +10 as state after state moved from solidly Obama, to leaning Obama, and then back to the toss up category. Intrade had Obama’s likelihood of victory at 80%, and it crashed to 55%, before building back to roughly 65% at present due to hurricane Sandy.
Thus, the past month is precedent for the massive changes that can happen overnight, even after Obama had built up a significant amount of money and momentum.
Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, it seems that Hurricane Sandy will keep the national news focused away from his campaigning. He badly wants to remind voters about his surprisingly decisive debate victories, but it seems that the previously established favorability for Obama will hold, especially since most people have been fairly impressed with the President’s handling of Sandy.
A large majority think that Obama’s response has been good or excellent (77%), and only 44% think that Romney has done a good job. And the situation is worse than the numbers represent, because what does it mean that Romney has done a good job handling the Hurricane? Even if 100% of people thought his Sandy response was perfect, it would probably not weigh as heavily in an all-things-considered appraisal of the candidates than Obama’s performance, given that he is the person who actually has to handle the situation.
It’s true that the most exciting and often quoted polls have the two candidates very close. A very recent poll of more than 1300 people has Obama up by only 1% point (and a large number of interviewed people is pretty important, assuming one finds polls of likely voters useful at all). The downside to this poll is that it was conducted before Sandy really hit, but since it had Obama already ahead, that number has probably increased. A more recent poll (but less respondents) has the two evenly tied.
Again, the real issue is the electoral college predictions and state by state predictions are often more accurate than a national poll. In the crucial states, it seems that Obama still has the best route to victory.
Charlie Cook at the Cook report sums up the situation nicely, “add the following four states with 52 electoral votes, where most private polling gives Obama a durable lead: Michigan (16), Nevada (6), Pennsylvania (20), and Wisconsin (10). A few credible private polls show a couple of these still pretty close, but the vast majority reveal leads for Obama that look likely to hold up. Add these 52 electoral votes to the 201 that are cinched, and he has 253, just 17 short of the required 270.”
It’s still Obama’s race to lose, but right now it looks like an Obama/Sandy ticket will persevere.