Polls, Debates, and Tight Numbers in October 2012

At almost a full week after the second Presidential Debate the numbers in the polls seem to be aligning away from the president in what is becoming an even closer election than seemed likely a month ago. Even the most optimistic of the president’s supporters have to admit that his defeat on November 6th is a distinct possibility and even the staunchest conservatives admit that this election could go either way. For a number of reasons, including a modest sense of uncertainty this contest could be influenced by even a minor gaffe with the numbers this close. AM Talk Radio hosts will be quick to assert however that, statistically speaking, the odds are in favor of Mitt Romney in this election. It’s pretty true, for a race this close an incumbent president should be keenly aware of the fact that re-election at this point will be by a slim margin, even if not by a slim chance.

The focus on the swing states has become impossibly intensified especially in the mathematically significant state of Ohio. While the polling numbers of the popular vote paint a picture of what percentage of people favor one candidate over the other it is more telling to look at the maps of Electoral College Votes to determine who is really in the lead in this race. Real Clear Politics is calling the lowest confirmed numbers in the race to 270 with Governor Romney holding at 206 and the President at 201 (unless you factor in the toss ups in which case the President is ahead 277 to 261). RCP also calls the popular polls dead even (within hundredths of a point) at 47% and, somewhat surprisingly from the perspective of May 2011, Mr. Romney is at a .5% higher rate of personal favorability; meaning that somehow it’s measurable which candidate the electorate would rather have dinner with, and that Mr. Romney’s favorability is up by .5% on that scale. While I don’t necessarily fall into the category of people liking the Governor over the President, I will admit to liking him more now than I did in September insofar as his level of congeniality from the podium. To paraphrase the Governor’s speech at the Alfred Smith Dinner, it is possible in this country to disagree with one’s policy without disliking him personally; the more Romney speaks the more human he becomes…even if his policy appears disconnected from my personal experiences and perspectives.

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