Daily Poll Watch: Another argument that Romney’s so-called momentum is non-existent

Yesterday, I told you HERE that polling analysts Sam Wang and Nate Silver are convinced that any upward momentum enjoyed by Mitt Romney in the wake of the Denver debate ended a couple of weeks ago.

And now Robert Wright, senior editor of The Atlantic, also ARGUES that Barack Obama is ahead:

Though the national polls on balance give Romney a fraction-of-a-point lead, Obama seems to be, as a practical matter, in the lead, for two reasons:

[1] Obama’s numbers in swing states are running ahead of his numbers nationally. When the national polls were moving in Romney’s direction, this gap may have been partly due to the fact that, because swing states polls were being done less often than national polls, swing state polls were lagging indicators. But when, as now, national polls are flat, and swing state polls are being conducted more and more often, that ceases to be a plausible explanation for the difference.

[2] The polls, especially in swing states, may underpredict Obama’s election day numbers. These polls count only the responses of “likely voters”–a subset of the “registered voters” the pollsters interview. Obama tends to do better with the latter than the former. And some people think that, because Obama’s “ground game” is better than Romney’s, more Obama voters whom pollsters put in the “registered but not likely” category will wind up voting.

These two factors explain why, though Romney is slightly ahead in national “likely voter” polls, Obama is a clear favorite in the betting markets. As I write this, Intrade gives him a 62 percent chance of winning.


Meanwhile, the aforementioned Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium gets a little  SNARKY with pundit John Dickerson today for buying into the Romney momentum meme:

I am curious about what momentum could possibly mean. I think pundits are trying to capture the science-y mojo of Newton’s First Law, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object with this tendency has “momentum.” If so, they might mean that when opinion is moving in one direction, it will keep moving that way. And Dickerson reports seeing a high level of energy at Romney rallies.

However, that energy does not imply that Romney’s support is growing. His supporters could be enthusiastic but stable in number. I note that even that is not true, as evidenced by the recent EV [Electoral Vote] history…

Today, the Popular Vote Meta-Margin is Obama +1.8%. His November 6th re-elect probability is 90%. To the extent that I anticipate change, it is in the direction of President Obama.


Wang’s EV projection, which is updated four times a day, says at this writing that an election held today would give Obama 299 electoral votes and Romney 239.




  1. Romney may already have it won, and without Ohio or Pennsylvania.

    If we start with the generally accepted premise that Obama leads 201 to 191 electoral votes. Then we do the following based upon RCP averages:

    Romney wins the following states shown with their RCP averages:
    Florida – Currently up 2.1 points
    North Carolina – Currently up 5 points
    Virginia – Currently up 1.5 points
    Colorado – Currently up 0.4 points

    That gives Romney 257 electoral votes so far. Now the fun stuff

    Romney wins Wisconsin – That’s 10 electoral votes. Yes, its a tough sell. Today’s Rasmussen poll (yeah, I know) has the race tied there. I just can’t help to think that Wisconsin natives Paul Ryan along with RNC chair Reince Priebus, combined with former popular governor Tommy Thompson running for Senate along with his Eminence Scott Walker all working together will pull out a victory.

    Then all Romney needs is New Hampshire for a total of 271. Obama currently has an RCP lead of 1.1 points there, but Romney was leading last week. Pat’s mention of Romney campaign chief John Sununu in another thread reminds me that he was the state’s former governor, and his son is a former Senator. Combine that with current Senator and rising Republican star Kelly Ayotte, and between the 3 of them they know the small state forwards, backwards, upside down and inside out. They can eek out a win.

  2. Neftali: You’re being too optimistic. Except for perhaps North Carolina, there’s no good reason to consider the states you’ve mentioned as likely to go for Romney. They’re all running within the margins of error.

    Besides, if Republican-leaning Rasmussen has Wisconsin tied, as you mention, that’s not exactly encouraging news for Romney. If I were you, I would be a little skeptical of right-leaning polls by Rasmussen and left-leaning polls by PPP. You might also want to check on my post of a few days ago about the “house effects” in some polls.

    Anyway, I put a lot more faith in Nate Silver’s latest estimate that Obama now has a 73-percent chance of winning, and in Sam Wang’s estimate that Obama currently has the advantage in states totaling 299 electoral votes. Silver and Wang have proven track records.

    But, of course, things could change one way or the other over the next 11 days. Hurricane Sandy could have an effect, for example. However, let’s not forget that Obama seems to be leading in votes already cast.

    One thing is for sure: The race to the finish line is going to be exciting.

  3. So, on one side you have those arguments. On the other hand, you have Romney with massive leads among Independents, whites, a historic edge in Gallup for a challenger (even after they changed their methodology to make it more Democrat-friendly and which, after being the nation’s most respected pollster for years, has suddenly supposedly become a hack firm), the fact that most Obama-friendly polls presusme a partisan turnout gap equal to or larger than 2008, Republicans with higher levels of enthusiasm, and having the lead in national polls.

    So who is right?

  4. Jay: Who’s right, you ask?

    I think Sam Wang, Nate Silver and Robert Wright are right?

    The stuff to which you refer is all based on national polls, which aren’t as important as state polls.

    If the election were held today, Obama would be a heavy favorite to win in the Electoral College.

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