Swing State Pres

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Relaunch! Unveiling The Latest Election Numbers at "Born To Run The Numbers" (April 9, 2013)


With this post I unveil the “2.0” version of this blog, now known as borntorunthenumbers.com.  We have fresh new sets of data designed to shed light on the electoral prospects of the two parties in 2014 and 2016, as well as pithy monthly updates of the political scene (ideal for anyone who doesn’t have the time for the day-to-day blow-by-blow), and occasional issue rants and data-dives.   

At this point I am focused on how the overall political and economic environment is boding for 2014…do a broad set of polling and economic measures indicate that the Democrats will pick up congressional seats in the midterms, or instead are they losing their momentum from 2012?  I’ll update the measures discussed below monthly in 2013.

And of course I will also report on early data relevant to the 2016 presidential election because it is, um, fun to see it unfold.

Obama Approval Rating

President Obama may be a lame duck but his approval rating is still a reasonable, though imperfect, proxy for how people feel about the Democrats’ policies.  Obama’s rating jumped a bit post-election (everyone loves a winner – well, not everyone, but some people jumped on the bandwagon) and got up to nearly 54% on average by early January, on the heels of the “fiscal cliff” showdown. But it has trended down since, back almost exactly to pre-election levels.  Business as usual in Washington (that is, stalement on the fiscal issues – the sequester -- with no agreements yet on immigration, gun control, etc.) and agonizingly slow improvement in the economy are taking their toll on Obama’s post-election mini-approval boomlet.

Obama Approval Rating
7-Nov
7-Dec
7-Jan
7-Feb
8-Mar
8-Apr
  Approve
49.6
52.1
53.5
51.7
50.1
49.0
  Disapprove
47.4
44.0
41.8
44.2
45.0
46.7
  Net
2.2
8.1
11.7
7.5
5.0
2.3

Generic Congressional Ballot

Pollsters like to ask people who they would vote for in a non-named-candidate matchup between Democrats and Republicans for Congress, the so-called “generic ballot.”  At this point, the Democrats are doing reasonable well, ahead by about 6 points, a bit of an up-and-down pattern since the election, but largely up.  I would surmise this is largely due to the continued widespread vilification of the gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight Republican Party, the House specifically, rather than any great love affair with the Democrats.

Generic Congressional Ballot
7-Nov
7-Dec
7-Jan
7-Feb
8-Mar
8-Apr
  Democrat
46.3
45.5
44.7
44.5
42.8
43.8
  Republican
46.0
39.5
37.3
39.7
38.5
38.0
  Net
0.3
6.0
7.3
4.8
4.3
5.8

The “Are We Better Off…?” "Econometer"

Allow me to introduce the Econometer, a set of measures designed to show how the economy has moved since Election Day, 2012, with the presumption that an improving economic environment will help the Democrats in 2014.  Thus the measure tries to answer the question famously posed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 debates:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  (Structurally, it is much like my “Obameter” scale, but is strictly tied only to economic measures.)

I’ve picked six measures (below) and created an index (a full explanation is along the right hand column) that captures in one number – the “Econometer” – the state of play.  Essentially, as of now the economic outlook is slightly worse than on Election Day, driven by lower consumer confidence, rising gas prices and the tepid 4th Quarter GDP of 0.4%, modestly offsetting lowered unemployment and a rising stock market.  Net/net, no real change here.

Econometer
7-Nov
7-Dec
7-Jan
7-Feb
8-Mar
8-Apr
Econometer
0.0
-2.9
-5.1
-11.9
0.6
-1.6
  Unemployment Rate
7.9
7.8
7.8
7.9
7.7
7.6
  Consumer Confidence
73.1
71.5
64.6
57.3
68.0
59.7
  Price of Gas
3.71
3.48
3.35
3.45
3.79
3.75
  Dow Jones
  13,330
  12,865
  13,215
  13,728
  14,054
  14,520
  GDP
3.1
3.1
3.1
0.4
0.4
0.4

The Senate

There really aren’t many polls to look at as yet as some incumbents ponder retirement (Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan just announced he was retiring).  Based on the pundits’ assessments, I see ten “in play” races right now, all held by Democrat incumbents.  They will all be close, and if the Democrats win five of them they will (barely) maintain control of the Senate in 2014.

You can check out my February 6th post for a quick rundown of the 10 states in play (www.borntorunthenumbers.com/2013/02/the-month-in-review-january-2013-bo-mo.html.)  I’m not putting Michigan “in play” as yet despite the Levin retirement.  He won his last two races with over 60% of the vote, a nice cushion for his successor nominee.

As for the House, it is early but it will take more positive movement on all of these measures to being to even contemplate retaking the House.  Democrats now hold 201 seats; they need 218 to win the House.  Only 34 out of the 435 House elections in 2012 were decided by less than a 5% margin – that is really the playing field.  It’s really hideous that fewer than 10% of seats are really in play, a testament to rampant gerrymandering.  These 34 races broke both ways, so essentially the Dems would have to win ALL of them in 2012 to have a razor-thin chance of getting to 218.

2014 Summary

Based on it all, there has not been enough movement to suggest we are building toward a large move away from the status quo in either direction.   The Democrats are holding serve with generally improved economic conditions supporting a reasonably popular President.  Qualitatively, while the Republicans may be softening on immigration, they remain deeply unpopular and still seen as slavishly devoted to the arch-conservative base who control their gerrymandered districts and presidential primaries.  One case in point:  90% of Americans believe in universal background checks for gun ownership, yet there is a real possibility that even this one measure will not survive the gun control legislation battle.  And of course the majority of Americans also favor more tax revenue from wealthy Americans versus more massive cuts to address our fiscal woes.  GOP leadership – such as it is -- continues to struggle to turn their passion into a working coalition that can solidify their grasp on the House and win the Senate in 2014.  So far it has been an uphill battle.

2016 Presidential Prospects

OK, obviously it is too early for this.  Or is it?  Nate Silver did a bit on how early polling often defines the field and in many ways is predictive.  (Here’s the link: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/14/is-it-too-early-for-2016-polls/)

On the Democratic side, it is obviously Hillary’s to lose if she wants it.  She has an astonishing lead over Joe Biden at this juncture.

What is truly breathtaking, though, is the lack of depth in the field if Hillary chooses not to run.  Joe Biden would be 74 on Inauguration Day, a full five years older than Ronald Reagan was on his Inauguration Day.  Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts and architect of the current consumer protection laws, and Andrew Cuomo, the highly popular Governor of New York State (and son of Mario, of course) are still little known, despite their relative prominence and therefore have low “net favorability.”  “Net favorability” is the difference between positive and negative favorability, and it is a good measure of both “awareness” and “attitudes among those who are aware.”  You need to be known to be liked, and liked more than disliked among those who know you. 

The rest of the field?  Pollsters are tracking the following named, who collectively are capturing 6% of the vote: Martin O’Malley, Deval Patrick, Mark Warner, Kirstin Gillebrand and Brian Schweitzer.  Do you know who they are?

Presidential Preference - Dem.
7-Nov
7-Dec
7-Jan
7-Feb
8-Mar
8-Apr
  Clinton

61
57
58
58
64
  Biden

12
16
19
19
18
  Warren

4
4
8
8
5
  Cuomo

5
4
3
3
3

Net Favorability - Dems (among Dems)
7-Nov
7-Dec
7-Jan
7-Feb
8-Mar
8-Apr
  Clinton

76
64
69
69
79
  Biden

66
51
67
67
62
  Warren

33
34
40
40
25
  Cuomo

16
16
20
20
22

On the Republican side, it remains a large, tight field that, on balance, is far stronger than the collection of colorful misfits that held court in 2011/12.  Marco Rubio continues to hold a tight lead, but Rand Paul surged with his filibustering histrionics, and Jeb Bush stumbled out the gate on immigration.  The “net favorability” numbers are extremely interesting…Paul Ryan is well ahead of the field, while Chris Christie is barely in positive territory.

Presidential Preference - Repub.
7-Nov
7-Dec
7-Jan
7-Feb
8-Mar
8-Apr
  Rubio

18
21
22
22
20
  Paul, Rand

7
5
10
10
16
  Christie

14
14
13
13
15
  Ryan

12
16
15
15
15
  Bush, Jeb

12
14
13
13
11
  Huckabee

11
15
11
11
n/a

Net Favorability - Repubs (among Repubs)
7-Nov
7-Dec
7-Jan
7-Feb
8-Mar
8-Apr
  Ryan

59
65
69
69
62
  Rubio

51
49
47
47
43
  Paul, Rand

31
35
48
48
39
  Bush, Jeb

49
44
47
47
33
  Christie

21
15
15
15
9
  Huckabee

58
55
59
59
n/a

So, at this stage, taking the two front-runners head-to-head, Hillary Clinton is 7 full points ahead of Marco Rubio.  In fact, the best candidate the Republicans can offer in the general election, at this point, is Chris Christie, who is the only Republican who beats Joe Biden (and he does so easily, 49-40) and comes within 5 points of Hillary (he loses 46-42).

Head-to-Head
7-Nov
7-Dec
7-Jan
7-Feb
8-Mar
8-Apr
  Clinton


51
49
49
49
  Rubio


37
41
41
42

Back soon with more!



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