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Obama Leads in Early Polling

April 14, 2012

With the “suspension” of Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, Mitt Romney’s nomination goes from “all-but-certain” to “presumptive” in pundit-speak.  The PoliticsByEcceHomo rule is, once each party has a “presumptive” nominee, we’re allowed to talk about the general election.

When it comes to polling analysis, genuflection to FiveThirtyEight is in order.  Unfortunately, Nate Silver has not yet posted a 2012 national electoral map, so we have to resort to the rather less estimable RealClearPolitics.  Nate’s politics lean left, but his statistics are impeccably neutral.  RCP leans right politically and statistically – RCP gives equal weight, for instance, to right-leaning polls like Rasmussen and Fox News, whereas FiveThirtyEight weights polls based on their record of statistically demonstrated bias.

So it’s all the more significant that RCP’s polling average shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney by 5.3 percent in the popular vote.  And it’s really, really significant that RCP’s polling shows Obama leading in states accounting for 280 electoral votes – 10 more than needed to win.  RCP shows Romney with 181, and 77 toss-up votes.  Among the toss-ups, RCP shows Obama leading in Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia, and Romney leading in Missouri.  That would mean an electoral vote of 347 to 191 – a convincing win, even if not quite as good as the 365 to 173 margin by which President Obama defeated John McCain in 2008.  In fact, only one state changes columns:  Indiana, with 11 electoral votes, moves from Obama in 2008 to Romney in 2012.  The rest of the electoral vote difference is due to Electoral College reapportionment after the 2010 census.

The polling is early, especially for some of the less-polled states, where the most recent polls may have been done when Santorum still looked viable.  Still, there’s no particularly strong reason to think that polling will move in Romney’s direction instead of Obama’s as the campaign develops.  I’ve been predicting an Obama victory in 2012, for empirical reasons other than polling.  I’m not ready to call the popular vote percentages yet, but it may not be long.  It was almost exactly four years ago that I predicted an Obama win by 7 to 10 percentage points over McCain – in fact, Obama won by 7.2 percent.

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