Obsessive Poll Watching Open Thread: Pew has Obama by 3 . . . Plus, microtargeting voters for GOTV

I’m sure glad MSNBC is running real programming tonight, because I can’t think of much other than the upcoming election. The polls have been moving toward Obama over the past few days, and suddenly he’s ahead in the Pew Poll which has been showing Romney ahead for some time.

Nate Silver reacted on Twitter, saying that the results match his findings:

Nate Silver ‏@fivethirtyeight
Simple average of national polls released Thursday: Obama +0.9. Friday: Obama +1.2. Saturday: Obama +1.3. Today (so far): Obama +1.4

Pew reports:

In the Pew Research Center’s election weekend survey, Obama holds a 48% to 45% lead over Romney among likely voters.

The survey finds that Obama maintains his modest lead when the probable decisions of undecided voters are taken into account. Our final estimate of the national popular vote is Obama 50% and Romney 47%, when the undecided vote is allocated between the two candidates based on several indicators and opinions.

The interviews all took place after superstorm Sandy struck.

Obama’s handling of the storm’s aftermath may have contributed to his improved showing. Fully 69% of all likely voters approve of the way Obama is handling the storm’s impact. Even a plurality of Romney supporters (46%) approve of Obama’s handling of the situation; more important, so too do 63% of swing voters.

Pew expects voter turnout to be lower than in either 2004 or 2008, which could help Romney, but other data favors Obama.

Nearly four-in-ten (39%) likely voters support Obama strongly, while 9% back him only moderately. A third of likely voters support Romney strongly, compared with 11% who back him moderately. In past elections, dating to 1960, the candidate with the higher percentage of strong support has usually gone on to win the popular vote.

Similarly, a much greater percentage of Obama supporters than Romney supporters are voting for him rather than against his opponent (80% for Obama vs. 60% for Romney), another historical indicator of likely victory. And far more registered voters expect an Obama victory than a Romney victory on Nov. 6 (52% vs. 30%).

Obama’s increases in likely voter support are most notable among women, older voters, and political moderates. Women now favor Obama by a 13-point margin (53% to 40%), up from six points a week ago and reflecting a shift toward Obama since early October. Right after the first presidential debate, the women’s vote was split evenly (47% each). Men, by comparison, favor Romney by a 50% to 42% margin, with little change in the past month.

At the Guardian UK, Ewen McAskill writes:

The findings are similar to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll published at the weekend. The two offer the first firm evidence of the impact of Sandy on the election. Pew carries one caution for Obama, suggesting turnout may be lower than in 2008 and 2004, which could help Romney.

Obama’s team claimed that Romney’s frantic campaign schedule reflected a sense of desperation, squeezing in a late visit to previously neglected Pennsylvania Sunday in the search for elusive electoral college votes elsewhere. The Obama team also cited visits Monday to Florida and Virginia, two states it said the Romney camp had claimed to have locked up.

In an interview with ABC, David Plouffe, who organised Obama’s re-election bid, expressed confidence the president will win on Tuesday, and seized on a comment by Karl Rove that Obama had benefited from superstorm Sandy. Democrats are interpreting this as Rove, George W Bush’s former campaign strategist and co-founder of the Crossroads Super Pac that has poured millions of dollars into Romney’s campaign and those of other Republicans, beginning to get his excuses in early.

“A few days ago he [Rove] predicted a big Romney win. My sense is Karl is going be at a crossroads himself on Tuesday when he tries to explain to the people who wrote him hundreds of millions of dollars why they fell up short,” Plouffe said.

Another Obama strategist, David Axelrod, commenting on Romney’s Pennsylvania trip, told Fox News: “They understand that they’re in deep trouble. They’ve tried to expand the map because they know in states like Ohio. They’re behind and they’re not catching up at this point.” He added: “They understand that the traditional, or the battleground, states that we’ve been focusing are not working out for them.”


On Microtargeting . . .

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been reading some interesting articles on the GOTV efforts of the two campaigns. I was struck by this piece at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about a woman in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, Priscilla Trulen, who received a spooky call on Halloween.

“It was Mitt Romney saying, ‘I know you have an absentee ballot and I know you haven’t sent it in yet,’ ” Trulen said in an interview. “That just sent me over the line. Not only is it like Big Brother. It is Big Brother. It’s down to where they know I have a ballot and I haven’t sent it in! I thought when I requested the ballot that the only other entity that would know was the Mukwonago clerk.”

Other voters are being “creeped out” by calls from Democratic groups.

In Brown County, residents are unnerved about “voter report cards” from Moveon.org that show the recipients how their voting participation compares to those of their neighbors.

The solicitations give only a small glimpse into how much digital information the campaigns are able to access about voters.

Corporations working for candidates request publicly available voter data as well as information about absentee ballots from state governments, which they can combine with other data to target individual voters.

The cost of the entire state database is $12,500. Four requesters have been willing to pay that since Sept. 1, Magney said: Catalist (a progressive voter database organization), the Democratic National Committee, and data analysis firm Aristotle – all based in Washington, D.C. The last requester was Colorado-based Magellan Strategies, a firm that specializes in “micro-targeting” for Republican parties and candidates….

In an interview with PBS that aired in October, Aristotle’s chief executive officer, John Phillips, said the company keeps up to 500 data points on each voter – from the type of clothes they buy, the music they listen to, magazines they read and car they own, to whether they are a NASCAR fan, a smoker or a pet owner, or have a gold credit card. Some of that information comes from commercial marketing firms, product registration cards or surveys. Other information is obtained through Facebook, door-to-door canvassing, petitions and computer cookies – small data codes that register which websites the user has visited.

Through data modeling, analyzers can categorize voters based on how they feel about specific issues, values or candidates. They then try to predict voting behavior and figure out which issue ads voters are most likely to be susceptible to – for instance ads on education, gun control or immigration.

One of the companies that requested the full Wisconsin voter database, Magellan Strategies, explains on its website that it conducts surveys on people’s opinions and merges that with their political, consumer and census demographics.

Whoever targeted Trulen made one important mistake, however. She tends to vote Democratic although she lives in a Republican district.

According to Sasha Issenberg, author of the book The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, writes that in 2008 and 2012, the Democratic microtargeting operation is far superior to the Republican one.

In fact, when it comes to the use of voter data and analytics, the two sides appear to be as unmatched as they have ever been on a specific electioneering tactic in the modern campaign era. No party ever has ever had such a durable structural advantage over the other on polling, making television ads, or fundraising, for example. And the reason may be that the most important developments in how to analyze voter behavior has not emerged from within the political profession.

“The left has significantly broadened its perspective on political behavior,” says Adam Schaeffer, who earned graduate degrees in both evolutionary psychology and political behavior before launching a Republican opinion-research firm, Evolving Strategies. “I’m jealous of them.”

In other words, the Republican dislike of science and academia may be holding Romney back in the microtargeting area.

Schaeffer attributes the imbalance to the mutual discomfort between academia and conservative political professionals, which has limited Republicans’ ability to modernize campaign methods. The biggest technical and conceptual developments these days are coming from the social sciences, whose more practically-minded scholars regularly collaborate with candidates and interest groups on the left. As a result, the electioneering right is suffering from what amounts to a lost generation; they have simply failed to keep up with advances in voter targeting and communications since Bush’s re-election. The left, meanwhile, has arrived at crucial insights that have upended the conventional wisdom about how you convert citizens to your cause. Right now, only one team is on the field with the tools to most effectively find potential supporters and win their votes.

Go read the whole thing if you’re interested. It’s quite a long article, but fascinating. After reading some of his pieces yesterday, I was also able to heard Issenberg on MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes” this morning. So many books to read, so little time.

Now what are you all hearing/reading? Are you as excited as I am?


Tuesday Reads: Tim Burton, Presidential Polls, Romney on Spain, and More

Good Morning!!

Before I get going with the news, I want to recommend a wonderful movie. Yesterday afternoon, I took my nephews to see Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, and I loved it! Trust me, it isn’t just for kids. It’s a funny, touching story about a boy and his dog as well as a great homage to horror movies. There’s even a scene where the science teacher, who looks like Vincent Price and talks like Bela Lugosi, tells a meeting of parents complaining about his class that they’re ignorant and prefer fantasy to science.

The Boston Globe reviewer gave the movie four stars, which is unheard of for a film aimed at children. There’s a wonderful backstory too:

In 1984, when he was an eccentric young animator working for Disney, the young Burton made a 30-minute live-action short called “Frankenweenie,” about a boy named Victor and the scrappy pet he brings back to life after it’s hit by a car. The movie was weird, it was inventive, and it spooked the bejesus out of Disney executives, who refused to release it and fired Burton. After the director became famous in the wake of “Edward Scissorhands,” the company put it out on VHS; it now can be found as an extra on the “Nightmare Before Christmas” DVD.

The current entertainment landscape has been effectively Burton-ized; this season alone, there are two pallid family-film imitations, “ParaNorman” and “Hotel Transylvania,” that arguably wouldn’t exist had the director not made the world safe for light pop-goth gloom. The new, improved “Frankenweenie” is thus not only revenge served sweetly — it’s being released by Disney, tail between its legs — but a reminder that, at his best, Burton belongs in the same bleakly charming league as Charles Addams and Edward Gorey.

Now I think I need to watch Ed Wood again.

That was such a nice break from all the depressing news about Mitt Romney and other insane Republicans. Now lets see what’s in the news today.

Everyone is talking about the latest Pew Poll which has Romney leading by 4–quite a shock. Even more shocking, TPM’s polltracker average now has Romney ahead of Obama by close to 3 points. On the other hand, today’s Gallup tracking polls shows Obama ahead by 5 points. Weird.

Now for a little expert analysis. Nate Silver advises: Amid Volatile Polling, Keep an Eye on Election Fundamentals

Mr. Obama got a bounce coming out of Charlotte, and it had some staying power — with his national lead appearing to peak at about five or six percentage points. But polling released immediately after the debate seemed to suggest that Mr. Romney had drawn into a rough national tie.

By the weekend, however — after the release of a favorable jobs report last Friday — Mr. Romney’s bounce seemed to be receding some. Tracking polls released on Monday by Gallup and Rasmussen Reports actually showed a shift back toward Mr. Obama, although another poll by Pew Research showed Mr. Romney with a four-point lead among likely voters.

Polling data is often very noisy, and not all polls use equally rigorous methodology. But the polls, as a whole, remain consistent with the idea that they may end up settling where they were before the conventions, with Mr. Obama ahead by about two points. Such an outcome would be in line with what history and the fundamentals of the economy would lead you to expect.

Keep in mind:

Challengers also generally profit from the first debate: in 8 of the 10 election cycles since 1976, the polls moved against the incumbent, and a net gain of two or three percentage points for the challenger is a reasonably typical figure.

At the same time, incumbent presidents just aren’t that easy to defeat. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are now hovering around 50 percent and don’t seem to have been negatively affected by his performance in Denver. Although Mr. Obama’s approval ratings may be slightly lower among those most likely to vote — meaning that Mr. Romney could win with a strong turnout — historically that number has been just good enough to re-elect an incumbent.

David Adkins of Hullabaloo took a look at the internals of the Pew poll and found some interesting tidbits:

- For starters, a full two-thirds of the respondents were over 50 years old. Is that likely to be the shape of the electorate? Very likely not.

- A full 77% of the respondents were white. That is almost certainly not going to reflect the final electorate.

- A large preponderance of the respondents were from the South (449), with the next highest total from the Midwest (294), and only 219 from the Northeast and 239 from the West. There will not be twice as many voters from the South in the election as from the Northeast or the West.

- Finally, more respondents claimed to be Republicans than Democrats, which would destroy the President’s chances in November automatically. It’s possible for the final electorate to resemble that Party ID, but unlikely.

Read the rest at the link. I found it helpful. Markos also had a good post on the polls yesterday, if you don’t mind going to the orange place. He noted that the PPP poll to be released today will also have Romney in the lead nationally.

Paul Waldman asks the same question I ask myself every Monday: Why Do the Sunday Shows Suck So Much?

In the American media landscape, there is no single forum more prestigious than the Sunday shows—particularly the three network programs, and to a slightly lesser extent “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union.” The Sunday shows are where “newsmakers” face the music, where Washington’s most important people are validated for their importance, where issues are probed in depth. So, why do they suck so much?

I live and breathe politics, yet I find these programs absolutely unwatchable, and I can’t be the only one. On a typical episode, there is nothing to learn, no insight to be gained, no interesting perspective on offer, nothing but an endless spew of talking points and squabbling. Let’s take, for instance, yesterday’s installment of “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” We start off with dueling interviews with Obama adviser Robert Gibbs and Romney adviser Ed Gillespie. Were you expecting some candid talk from these two political veterans? Of course you weren’t. “If you’re willing to say anything to get elected president,” Gibbs says about Mitt Romney, “if you are willing to make up your positions and walk away from them, I think the American people have to understand, how can they trust you if you are elected president.” Which just happens to be precisely the message of a new Obama ad. What a fascinating coincidence! And you’ll be shocked to learn that Gillespie thought Romney did a great job in the debate: “Governor Romney laid out a plan for turning this economy around, getting things moving again. He had a fact-based critique of President Obama’s failed policies that the president was unable to respond to.” You don’t say!

Go read the whole thing. It’s not long.

As you know, Mitt Romney gave a foreign policy speech yesterday, and it isn’t getting great reviews except among the ultra-right wingers. Dakinkat wrote about it yesterday afternoon. This story is a few days old, but I wanted to call attention to it because it didn’t get a whole lot of coverage. During the debate last Wednesday, Romney made some (inaccurate, natch) remarks about Spain that caused some outrage over there. Here’s what he said:

“Spain spends 42 percent of their total economy on government. We’re now spending 42 percent of our economy on government. I don’t want to go down the path of Spain. I want to put more Americans to work.”

That did not go over well in Spain, where it was seen as on a par with the bumbling, insulting remarks Romney made when he was in Great Britain for the Olympics. Some reactions:

Fox News Latino: Mitt Romney Spain Jab Adds to Foreign Policy Woes

It has become apparent to some that Mitt Romney is in need of a crash course in Diplomacy 101.

He irritated Britons and Palestinians during a summer tour abroad and has declared Russia to be America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe. Just last week, the Republican candidate, who plans a foreign policy speech Monday, raised eyebrows in Spain by holding it up as a prime example of government spending run amok.
That left Spaniards confused, and threatened to reinforce Romney’s perceived handicap in international affairs….

Spanish reaction to Romney was swift.
“What I see is ignorance of what is reality, but especially of the potential of the Spanish economy,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

Maria Dolores Cospedal, leader of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party, noted that “Spain is not on fire from all sides like some on the outside have suggested.” Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo called it “very unfortunate that other countries should be put up as examples” when the facts are skewed.

At HuffPo, former Clinton economic adviser Laura Tyson corrected Romney’s inaccuracies:

Mitt Romney made a wildly inaccurate claim during Wednesday’s presidential debate, and Laura Tyson, a former top economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, is calling him out….

But according to Romney’s campaign website, government spending accounted for only 24 percent of gross domestic product last year. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that government spending is 23 percent of GDP.

“I have no idea where that number came from,” Tyson, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, told The Huffington Post after the debate. “That is certainly not a number that is consistent with the facts.”

Tyson said she couldn’t tell whether Romney said it “knowing it was wrong” or whether he “mixed the numbers up in his head.” But nonetheless, she said, “It’s clearly wrong.”

Tyson added that when it comes to taxes, “we’re not anywhere near countries like Spain.”

The Boston Globe reports that as many as 13,000 people may have gotten tainted steroid injections from a Framingham, MA pharmacy and could be at risk of getting meningitis.

US health officials on Monday said that 13,000 patients in 23 states, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, have been injected with a potentially tainted steroid treatment made by a Framingham pharmacy and linked to a national outbreak of meningitis.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave its sweeping estimate of the reach of the crisis as it reported 14 new cases of the disease, and another death in Tennessee, which appears to be the hardest hit among the states where the rare and serious form of fungal meningitis has been confirmed.

“We know that 13,000 people received the injection,” said Jamila Jones, a public affairs specilialist for the CDC in Atlanta. “They received it at facilities across the country. They are at risk.”

So far, 105 cases and eight deaths have been confirmed nationally, the agency said.

The steroid, called methylprednisolone acetate, was made by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, which voluntarily ceased operations Oct. 3 amid a widening probe of the treatment and its use at dozens of health care facilities from New Hampshire to California.

Very scary.

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? I look forward to clicking on your links!