The new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll of 1,000 likely voters – taken from last Monday through Thursday – shows Obama ahead of Romney by 1 percentage point, 49 percent to 48 percent. That represents a 3-point swing in Obama’s direction from a week ago but reflects a race that remains statistically tied. Even the swing is within the margin of error, so it is possible the candidates were tied last week when Romney lead by 2 percent.
But that’s not the real story. For that you’ve got to read the notes from lead pollsters Ed Goeas and Brian Nienaber who note that the “internals” bode very poorly for President Obama.
Here’s a summary of their final point:
The Presidential Ballot – the race continues to be closer than a knife fight in a
phone both – or does it?
The race continues to be close when looking at the top-line data. On one hand, President Obama leads on the overall ballot by one-point (49%-48%). On the other hand, amongst voters making a definite choice, Romney has a one-point advantage (43%-42%). However, when you look past that top-line data, most all, if not all the key factors weigh in Mitt Romney’s favor.
Among those most likely to vote – the combination of those saying they have already voted (15% of the Electorate) and those who say that they are extremely likely to vote (67% of the Electorate) – Romney has a five-point advantage (51%-46%). Obama has an eight-point advantage (53%-45%) among those who have already voted while Romney has a nine-point advantage (53%-44%) among those who say they are extremely likely to vote.
Two key points on this data. First, let’s focus on the eight-point advantage Obama has on the early vote.
Four years ago on that same data point within our Battleground Poll, Candidate Barack Obama had a fifteen point advantage with early voters, nearly double that of his current vote margin (matching with reports from the ground that the traditional early vote advantage of the Democrats has been largely minimized, as in states like Ohio and Virginia, if not reversed, as in states like Colorado and Florida). Secondly, we have found the combination of those who have already voted and those who are extremely likely to vote, to be the best quick look at the probable participants (i.e. actual voters) in an upcoming election. In the 2008 election, the combination of those two voter groups – those who have already voted and these who were extremely likely to vote – were within a half of a point of the final results.
Among other high propensity-voting blocs, Romney is receiving majority support from seniors (55%), college graduates (50%), married voters (58%), weekly church attendees (58%), white Evangelicals (72%), and gun owner households (65%). Romney is also getting strong support from typical swing demographic groups like Independents (50% to 40%) and Catholics (55% to 42%). Most important, over the last week Mitt Romney continued to increase his vote advantage with three key voter blocks we have been tracking throughout the last six weeks of polling – middle class voters which Romney has a 52% to 45% lead, middle class families which Romney now leads by 58% to 39%, and the all important “Pocketbook” voters which Romney now leads by 56% to 41%.
In contrast, much of the President’s coalition is built on strong support from lower propensity voters like urban voters (63%), Hispanic voters (61%), those with less than a high school education (67%), low income voters (61%), and those who just say they are very likely to vote (59%). Should this election not have the same turnout pattern as 2008 and be more evenly distributed between Republicans and Democrats as it was in 2004, much the President’s winning coalition will be minimized. When looking at the intensity measurements (Republicans now +10 over Democrats), combined with the underlying negative feelings voters hold about the direction of the country and the economy, an electorate that looks more like 2004 is becoming increasingly likely.
The intensity gap disadvantage and the vote banking efforts of the Democrats will continue to present a significant strategic challenge for his campaign. The Democrats are turning out their base supporters via early voting efforts. However, the President still needs strong support from soft supporters of the Democratic Party to win. While the majority of the electorate intensely believes that the country is on the wrong track, a majority (57%) of soft Democrats believe that the country is headed in the right direction.
These base supporters want to hear that the next four years will be more of the same while the majority of voters want to be assured that a different course is coming – a near impossible task for Barack Obama in the final week of the campaign.
In sum, this data indicates this election remains very close on the surface, but the political environment and the composition of the likely electorate favor Governor Romney. These factors come into play with our “vote election model” – which takes into account variables like vote intensity, voters who say they are definite in their vote, and demographics like age and education. In that snapshot of today’s vote model, Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama by five-points – 52% to 47%. While that gap can certainly be closed by the ground game of the Democrats, reports from the field would indicate that not to be the case, and Mitt Romney may well be heading to a decisive victory.
As much of New York is suffering hurricane-related blackouts, the 538 magic-bullshit-spewing machine could not be reached for comment…
Update: Title and text changed. The poll was not an Ohio only poll, but a nationwide poll.