Peak Romney?

If you place Mitt Romney’s likelihood of victory on a bell curve, he appears to be on the right side of it; that is, he appears to be on the “going down” side of the trajectory. Concerning yesterday’s polls, here’s poll-tracking whiz-kid Nate Silver at 538:

This is the closest that we’ve come in a week or so to one candidate clearly having “won” the day in the tracking polls — and it was Mr. Obama.

The trend could also be spurious. If the race is steady, it’s not that hard for one candidate to gain ground in five of six polls (excluding the two that showed no movement on Wednesday) just based on chance alone.

What isn’t very likely, however, is for one candidate to lose ground in five of six polls if the race is still moving toward him. In other words, we can debate whether Mr. Obama has a pinch of momentum or whether the race is instead flat, but it’s improbable that Mr. Romney would have a day like this if he still had momentum. […]

Our “now-cast” also finds a slightly favorable trend for Mr. Obama over the course of the past 10 days or so. Mr. Romney’s position peaked in the “now-cast” on Friday, Oct. 12, at which point it estimated a virtual tie in the popular vote (Mr. Obama was the projected “winner” by 0.3 percentage points). As of Wednesday, however, Mr. Obama was 1.4 percentage points ahead in the “now-cast”, meaning that he may have regained about 1 percentage point of the 4 points or so that he lost after Denver. Mr. Obama’s chances of winning the Electoral College were up in the FiveThirtyEight forecast to 71 percent on Wednesday from 68.1 percent on Tuesday.

In other words, President Obama was clearly damaged by his poor first debate performance, but Mitt Romney, it also appears, may have peaked a full month ahead of election day. And even at his peak, it’s not at all clear, in Nate Silver’s model, that Romney would have won the electoral college if the election had been held on that day (October 12, 2012).

Put another way: Obama on the ropes and Romney with momentum still doesn’t clearly get Romney to 270 electoral votes. And Romney’s momentum is stalled.

This doesn’t mean Romney can’t win in November. It just means that, if his odds of winning are to improve, he needs something to shake-up the race in his favor. Perhaps he’s got a late attack ad buy planned that will successfully depress Democratic turn-out and thus squeak out a win for him. But whatever it is, he needs it. Now.

This does not help:


My own sense is that the momentum of the last week is going to start shifting, not dramatically perhaps, but unmistakably, back to President Obama. I also predict that the post-election narrative will be the following: Hispanics and women voters undercut Romney. Through all of the blue smoke and mirrors of Republican confidence, demographics asserted themselves. It will be the big story.

The other big piece of news after election day will probably be Florida. I’m betting Romney will lose Florida. In fact, I’m watching to see if Romney campaigns in Florida between now and election day. That will surely be a bad sign for him. Romney shouldn’t have to campaign there at all; ads should be sufficient. But even though he should have Florida sewn up by now, I don’t think he does. If you see Obama down there, its either a head-fake (and he thinks he can afford the luxury of a head-fake) or he really thinks he can win Florida.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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5 Responses to Peak Romney?

  1. Staffan says:

    Bookmakers have Obama at 60 percent and they seem to be better than the experts. Probably because a bettor, unlike an expert, only gets paid if he is right.

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      According to 538, bookmakers on a big election are not necessarily the best source, especially in the last week or two. Why? Because a donor can create mischief by buying a lot of Romney shares to get momentum buzz in the news. That appears to be something happening at In-Trade right now. A sophisticated investor putting down serious bucks would try to predict stocks that are likely to do better or worse depending on the winner, not try to make money on the candidate horse race where partisans may be distorting the system for news cycle spin.

  2. Staffan says:

    It’s very speculative but looking back at the 2008 election Intrade predicted Obama to get 364 electoral votes, on less than he got and 18 more than Silver predicted. But I don’t have a full comparison between Intrade and Silver and that would be really interesting. Manipulating Intrade will be compensated for by the fact that bettors then see how good odds they get for Obama, so I’m not sure it’s an effective method. But we will soon know more about that.

    I personally don’t believe Obama will get 71 percent as Silver is claiming. That sounds like something he would get here in Europe. I think he is in for a big loss of prestige, but we will see soon enough.

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      My optimism about Obama’s chances are starting to lift again. I was pretty skeptical about Obama’s reelection after the first debate, but the fact that he hasn’t tanked altogether suggests to me a certain resilience in his polling numbers that is probably not prone to any additional downside.

      Jokers could be pulled from the deck, but it’s getting late. The jobs number could give either candidate a late lift. I just think Obama, at the finish, has more room for error than Romney. And there have always been demographic issues that Republicans have ignored, I think to their detriment.

      If this were a game of chicken, I see Tea Party Republicans in one car and demographic trends in the other. Contra Karl Rove, at some point, you can’t make your own reality. Reality asserts itself.


  3. Staffan says:

    And by “he” I of course mean Silver.

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