Happy Pivot Day!

[ Posted Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 – 17:12 UTC ]

Happy Pivot Day, everyone!

Today is, of course, the day when the entire political universe pivots from the 2012 primary election season to the 2012 general election season. This was precipitated by Rick Santorum exiting the race early today, much to Mitt Romney's relief.

Now Mitt can perform the pivot he has desperately wanted to all along, and start campaigning directly against President Obama. The news media will pivot to (at first) what is called the "veepstakes" as they all work themselves into a frenzy trying to guess who Mitt Romney will pick as his running mate (here's a big hint, guys: it will not be Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich).

President Obama isn't pivoting much, as the White House has assumed all along that they'd be running against Romney. Things are actually looking pretty good for Obama, at the beginning of the general election race, as poll after poll shows he's got a healthy lead in the crucial "swing" states. Just today, RealClearPolitics updated their electoral map to show that if the election were held now, Obama would get at least 280 Electoral College votes -- 10 more than he needs. And that's without counting Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, or Virginia -- all states he's got a decent shot of winning. Not a bad place to start an election season from, really.

Here at this column, we are going to (slowly) pivot from predicting the outcomes of the Republican primaries and caucuses to examining this electoral math in depth, as we did in 2008. We feel it's a little early to start this effort (we didn't get the ball rolling until the beginning of June, last time around), but we'll certainly be keeping an eye on things and beginning to gather data. Yes, there will be charts!

Before we do that, though, we have to quickly finish up the business of the primary season. After a three-state sweep in last week's contests in D.C., Maryland, and Wisconsin, we slightly boosted our numbers for calling races correctly:

[Final 2012 Primary Pick Stats]
Total correct 2012 Republican picks: 41 for 60 -- 68%.

While this isn't that bad, we have to admit that we didn't do quite as well as we did in 2008. Here are our previous numbers, for comparison:

[Final 2008 Primary Pick Stats]
Total correct 2008 Democratic picks: 43 for 60 -- 72%
Total correct 2008 Republican picks: 37 for 50 -- 74%
Total overall correct picks: 80 for 110 -- 73%.

So we slipped four to six percent from the last time around, but this is the difference of only two incorrect picks from the 2008 Democratic race, which also had 60 competitive races to call. All in all, better odds than flipping a coin!

Now, some might argue that Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are still technically "in the race" but I prefer to use the phrase "howling in the wilderness" to describe their campaign efforts (going forward), instead.

Final stats on the primary race, from the beginning until the nomination has obviously been clinched: Mitt Romney won 18 states (and numerous territories, to boot), Rick Santorum won 11 states, and Newt Gingrich won only two. Ron Paul came close a couple of times, but failed to nab a single state.

By comparison, in 2008, Barack Obama won 29 states to Hillary Clinton's 19, and on the Republican side John McCain won 19 states to Mitt Romney's 11 states and Mike Huckabee's eight states.

As we close the record books on primary season 2012, we wish everyone a happy Pivot Day! To celebrate, go out and twist again, like you did last summer (or something).


[All our 2012 Republican primary picks, in chronological order:]
[IA] [NH] [SC] [FL] [NV] [CO, MN, and MO] [ME] [AZ and MI] [WA] [Super Tuesday: AK, GA, ID, MA, ND, OH, OK, TN, VT, and VA] [Guam, KS, Virgin Islands, Northern Marianas] [Puerto Rico] [IL] [LA] [DC, MD, and WI]

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


8 Comments on “Happy Pivot Day!”

  1. [1] 
    abulsme wrote:

    Not too early at all. :-)

    My most recent electoral map update:

    And an update by someone doing the analysis in a different way that I like a lot as well:

    Both of these show Obama with a huge lead at this point in the race. (As does the RCP chart you linked to, although I think they are a bit overgenerous in putting some states in the Obama column that are still pretty close.)

    By comparison, at this time of the year in 2008, the electoral college looked like a tossup, with McCain actually having a bit of an advantage. It looked very close.

    On April 10th 2008 if everybody had won the states they were ahead in using the five poll averages I use, it would have been McCain 283 Obama 255. ( ).

    By comparison, April 10th 2012 if everybody won the states they are ahead in, Obama wins 328 to 210.

    Now, there is a long time between now and November and a lot can happen... but Romney has a LOT of ground to make up at this point.

  2. [2] 
    dsws wrote:

    When will Santorum and Gingrich endorse Romney?

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, considering that Santorum exited the race, marking the pivot to Romney's general election campaign, on the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Titanic, I'd say he plans to endorse Romney just this side of never. :)

  4. [4] 
    abulsme wrote:

    Of course, a few hours after I posted the comment above, I did another update and it got even worse for Romney. At this point with current polling, even if he won all the swing states, the best he would do is an electoral college tie.

    But as I note in the post above, between April 11th and Election day in 2008, Obama improved his position on this kind of analysis by 110 electoral votes. If Romney manages the same kind of move, he will be way ahead by election day.

    A lot can happen in seven months.

  5. [5] 
    dsws wrote:

    The comparison to McCain vs Obama in 08 is a bit problematic to interpret. Being an unknown hurts a candidate in very early polling, but can help in the general campaign.

  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    abulsme -

    Sorry for the delay in posting, the multiple links twigged my comment spam protection.

    Yes, I look forward to the Electoral Math series, and I have also been struck at how strong Obama's position has become in the past few months. It's certainly going to be an interesting race, that's for sure! I agree, RCP is a tad bit optimistic, I used the last time around, but they don't seem to be updating their main map page yet, merely posting the election returns from 2008, not current polling data. Where are you getting your state data from?

    dsws -

    Santorum, within two weeks (that's my guess). Newtie? When he is promised a prime time speaking slot at the convention. We held a contest a while back predicting when Newt would drop out of the race, but unfortunately, we can't declare a winner until he actually drops out!

    LizM -

    EXCELLENT point on the Titanic. Heh. I've personally been to the last port of call of the Titanic, in Cove (Cobh) Ireland (or "Queenstown" as it was called back then). Search this site for the name "Lusitania" to see my thoughts....

    abulsme -

    I've been wondering about CO, because there is a high proportion of Mormons there (being next to Utah). This might be a surprise state for Romney, although I'm just making a guess, and have exactly zero data to back that up with, I should mention.

    dsws -

    Also, 2008 was the first campaign in recent memory when there was no sitting president or VP in the race. The wide-open nature made it a bad measuring stick to use against this year, I think.


  7. [7] 
    abulsme wrote:

    @dsws: I agree that 2012 is very different than 2008. I was just highlighting how much things can change between April and November, so maps and such at this stage should be strictly interpreted as how things look NOW and not already as a prediction for November. Once we get closer, making that jump starts making more sense, once we get to October, it will probably be pretty close to what will happen in November... but right now... it shows Obama has a huge head start, but that's all it shows.

    @CW: I'm getting poll data from RCP, HorsesAss and Wikipedia. (If you click through to my raw spreadsheet from my wiki I None of them seem to have everything, but between all three I think I'm getting a pretty complete list.

    I'm not sure if in the end RCP is biases in any particular direction, I just noticed that in one particular case they were calling a state in one candidate's camp where I still classified it as too close to call.

    Colorado has been considered a swing state in previous cycles. Polling is still very sparse this time around. My five poll average at this point is actually 4 polls plus the 2008 election results to jump start the 5. (I do this because at this stage many states don't even have five polls yet, although most of the swing states do.) In 2008 Obama won Colorado by 9%. (That was vs McCain of course.) There were three Romney vs Obama polls in 2011, in those Obama averaged a 5% lead in the state. There has only been ONE Obama vs Romney poll in 2012, a PPP poll that ended Saturday. It has Obama up by 13%.

    This makes my five poll average Obama up by 7.4%. I define swing states as states where the leading candidate is ahead by less than 5%, so this takes Obama out of that category.

    The fact that polling is still so sparse though means that this kind of thing is still somewhat tentative. Once we have a lot of polling things will be a lot more certain. But based on the very limited polling available right now, the best conclusion we can draw is that at the moment Obama has a pretty decent lead in Colorado.

    Of course, as I said above... it is a long time until November. Things can easily change between now and then. :-)

  8. [8] 
    abulsme wrote:

    Ooo... garbled paragraph, let me try this one again:

    @CW: I'm getting poll data from RCP, HorsesAss and Wikipedia. (If you click through to my raw spreadsheet from my wiki I include source URLS for every poll I use.) Non of these sources seem to have everything, but between all three I think I'm getting a pretty complete list.

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