The Hill Reassures Itself that Obama Has Swing State Edge

The national polling numbers have not been good recently for President Obama. Many have him still ahead a point or two, but most of those use very questionable samples. Gallup's latest 7-day tracking poll has the race tied. Rasmussen has Romney ahead by 3. With the exception of Rasmussen, almost all of these polls are of registered voters. Nate Silver at The New York Times predicts the eventual switch to a likely voter screen will boost Romney by 2.3 percentage points. So, on balance, Romney is probably slightly ahead now nationally.

Of course, the Presidency isn't won in a national vote, but by winning individual states to collect 270 electoral college votes. There are roughly twelve states considered "battlegrounds" this year. Almost all the resources of both campaigns will be focused in these states. The Hill, today, looked at polling averages in these swing states and decided that Obama has the definite edge going into November.

Taking the polling averages used by Nate Silver in the New York Times, the president is ahead in 10 of the 12 vital states. If those polls were borne out on Election Day, Obama would coast to victory with 332 electoral college votes. Only 270 votes are needed to win the presidency.

Awarding Obama only the states in which he now leads by 3 percentage points or more in the polling averages still sees him safely home. 

I have no doubt this kind of analysis comforts the reporter, the newspaper, and many of its readers. And, they do have a point; polling in the swing states is ultimately much more meaningful than what the national polls say. But there is no way to objectively look at the data they are citing and conclude that Obama has a clear edge in these states. 

1. These are registered voter polls. Polls of likely voters are much closer to the actual voting results. Factoring in Silver's prediction that Romney will get, on average, a 2.3 percentage point boost from a likely voter screen, Obama's lead almost disappears in many of these states. 

2. Obama has enjoyed a 3-1 funding advantage over Romney the past two months in these battleground states. Obama went for an early kill-shot, while Romney conserved his resources. That Obama can only register small leads in these swing states while enjoying such a spending disparity should be disconcerting for the Obama campaign. After all, Obama won't enjoy that spending edge over the rest of the campaign. 

3. In almost all the polling averages, Obama is under 50%, a dangerous place for an incumbent. (Only in New Mexico is his polling average above 50%...barely, though, at 50.2%. In most swing state polls, Obama is polling around 45-47% in a head-to-head match up. His numbers here actually match Gallup's latest national approval rating for Obama. In other words, he is doing no better in the swing states than he is nationally. 

Interestingly, The Hill states that Republicans are growing uneasy about the state of the race in the battlegrounds. But, none of the GOP strategist they cite raise any serious alarm bells. Its almost as if they're just making up that point. 

I know these kinds of analyses are comforting to the media, but they are only doing a disservice to themselves. Yes, the battle for the swing states is close and will likely remain close throughout the election. But, you could just as easily argue that Romney has the edge in the swing states, as Obama's huge spending advantage has failed to boost his approval ratings. 

99 days of the media's silliness to go. 

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