The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Game On: First Gallup Tracking Poll Shows Narrow Romney Lead

The election is still more than six months away, but the 2012 presidential campaign system is now officially underway: the Gallup organization has begun to release daily tracking polls.

The first poll shows Mitt Romney with a narrow lead over President Obama — Gallup describes it as a “statistical tie.” The Rasmussen poll, the other daily tracking poll available at this point, gives Romney a slightly larger lead.

Using our standard methods to convert a national poll into an electoral map, the current Gallup numbers would yield a narrow Romney victory in the Electoral College: 275 to 263 for the President.

The two tracking polls both offer more encouragement to the Romney camp than most recent conventional polls; the RCP poll of polls still points to a narrow Obama victory in November.

The best way to describe the race at this point would be “dead heat”. That is probably on balance bad news for the President; incumbents usually enjoy a lead at this point in the cycle and former Governor Romney has just finished a bruising primary race while President Obama hasn’t had to stir out of the Rose Garden.

Here, for what it is worth, is the electoral map that corresponds to the first Gallup tracking poll. Note that Virginia and Colorado have moved to the Romney column, tipping the balance in the Electoral College. We will take another look at all this in a couple of weeks — unless something happens that dramatically shakes up the race.


Published on April 16, 2012 3:44 pm
  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I have 2 points to make

    1. Only the Rasmussen poll is of likely voters
    2. 80% of the undecided voters, vote for the challenger in Presidential re-elections

    looking at the Gallup registered voters numbers shows 7% undecided which divided 80-20 gives us 5.6 pts more for Romney and 1.4 pts more for Obama or a total of 4.2 pts more votes for Romney before you even consider that Gallup is measuring Registered voters and Republicans are more likely to vote.

  • Kenny

    See how quick things (polls at any rate) change, Mr. Mead?

    Just a few days ago you posted Obama ahead.

    If you keep posting on polls you’re be like a dog chasing his tail. At least have the sense to wait until the conventions are over.

    Say, when are you going to say something about the Secret Service and the [prostitutes] in Colombia?

  • http://inthisdimension.com alex scipio

    So, basically, if your state is in the South, or does not contain a major metro, you’re a Republican or republican-leaning voter. The exceptions for some time have been CO and NM, both only Blue around the college towns (ALB, Boulder) or DNV, what passes for a large metro away from the coasts. The movement of CO to Red is interesting and may indicate the anti-Obama youth swing due to all the broken promises of hope, change, post-partisanship and lack of any jobs for youth or college grads under Obama’s stewardship (or lack thereof) of the economy.

    And, if you’re unfortunate enough to live in a coastal state, and in a Red county (something like 49 of the 58 CA counties, for example), your vote for an adult president will be trumped by millions (literally) of welfare recipients on the dole, and/or college students on the dumb in the metros.

  • Mrs. Davis

    The one thing correct about this poll is that it will be a close election. Service will change many times in this game.

  • John Burke

    As I commented when Mead posted the first of these maps, I think a map like RCP’s at the link is more instructive and useful:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/2012_elections_electoral_college_map.html

    I get what Mead is doing in assigning all the states, but polling simply is not accurate enough even to tell us what the outcome might be if the election were held today. For one thing, since most polls have a margin of error of plus or minus three percent, an average two point advantage for Romney today could mean that Romney is ahead by eight or behind by three. And there simply are not enough recent current polls by state to assign them beyond saying they are solidly in one camp, leaning to one, or tossups.

  • Christopher

    Another tidbit. More money from Michigan has went to Romney than Obama. Could my home state be leaning towards a Republican?

  • Toni

    It would be well to clarify that Gallup polls registered voters and Rasmussen polls likely voters. More voters are registered than will vote.

    I don’t know why this map would be a surprise to anyone. Obama’s approval rating has been under 50% for years.

  • jetty

    Obama, even with all the shenanigans, will receive 43% of the popular vote. He will lose in a landslide.

  • http://thepencilofnature.net Lorenz Gude

    This close 6+ months out shows just how evenly divided the country is. Frankly, I’m surprised that Obama isn’t doing better. Many of us who really disagree with his policies, don’t despise him the way Bush was despised by his opponents. I still expect the American people will hand the Senate and the House to the Republican’s and return Obama to the WHite House with minimal enthusiasm. In short, hog tie the illegitimi. The is little sense swapping one brand of Blue era corporatism of another. We already did that in 2010 and there is little chance it will do any good to swap back.

  • John Burke

    Personally, I think Romney has the potential — emphasize that word — to win with 54-55 percent, run the table on the tossups and pick off some states like Maine, Michigan, and Oregon that now appear in polls to lean to Obama. I think it’s remarkable that after all that has happened within the GOP since Goldwater and all the grousing on the activist right about the moderate McCain bombing out, the GOP is about to nominate a moderate former governor of Massachusetts while Obama is so detested by conservative voters that they will turn out for Romney who will appeal to the largely centrist swing voters who have concluded that Obama is either too left or too much the bumbler.

    Of course, lots of things can happen, but an honest and accurate poll of LIKELY VOTERS would show Obama’s approval in a deep hole only seven months out and Romney opening a significantly lead, despite the (temporary) damage of the GOP primaries.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/150743/Obama-Romney.aspx

    Gallup ask the undecided which way they lean and came up with 48 to 43 Romney over Obama, with still 9% undecided or for someone else. I said up top at #1 that 80% of undecided’s vote for the challenger in a Presidential reelection, and this is still a poll of Registered voters and not of Likely voters.

    I think more than ever that this is going to be a landslide, with Obama doing even worse than Jimmy Carter. There isn’t any energy or enthusiasm for voting for Obama this time, and many of those that voted for him last time are feeling buyer’s remorse.

  • Jim C

    The interesting thing to note here is where the race is closest. The five tightest races are, in order:

    Iowa
    Colorado
    New Hampshire
    Minnesota
    Pennsylvania

    All these states except Pennsylvania have Obama and Romney separated by less than one point (and in Pennsylvania it’s 1.08), and all of them except Colorado are currently in Obama’s column. Ohio and Florida, the classic battlegrounds, are both 5-6 points in Romney’s column; Indiana and North Carolina, Obama’s big 2008 conquests, are in the 6-9 point range, on the verge of being out of reach. Even Virginia is about +3 for
    Romney. Obama says he’s going to get Arizona, but he’s down there by almost 18 points, the same amount Romney is down in New York! Of course, this is only one poll, and it’s still very early in the race. But this suggests to me that the current belief that Obama will walk to re-election is delusional; not only is Romney currently winning, but his potential upside is much greater than Obama’s. The president’s talk about North Carolina and Arizona notwithstanding, it looks like this election will be fought on blue territory in a way that none has since the ’80s and ’90s.