Friday, July 10, 2009

A 2012 Texas Toss Up?

National polls are fine, but FHQ's bread and butter are the state-level polls that give us a glimpse into the state of the electoral college race. Of course, considering that the US is still over three years away from the next presidential (general) election, the expectation is that we just aren't going to see that many state polls (...not until after the 2010 midterms, at least). It is a good thing then that the good folks at the University of Texas threw us all a bone -- and an interesting one at that.

You have to dig, but buried within the survey notes [pdf] headlined by the lead Rick Perry has over Kay Bailey-Hutchinson in the much anticipated 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, is a question asking respondents about the 2012 presidential race.
Q24: If the 2012 presidential election were held today, which of the following would you vote for, or haven't you enough about it to have an opinion?
Among the full sample of 924 Texans, Barack Obama edged Mitt Romney 36-34 (with a full 30% still unsure). There is a lot there at which to look. For starters, Barack Obama is ahead in Texas; that's fairly monumental whether it is July 2009 (Well, actually June, since the poll was conducted from June 11-22.) or July 2012. Granted there are some caveats. First of all, the above numbers are pooled from the full sample of respondents. Among just the registered voters, Romney leads Obama 39-34. And while that's more in line with where we'd all expect Texas to be from a partisan perspective, there is a note of caution for Republicans there (and Democrats, too). First of all, let's not read too much into a state poll three years in advance.

That said, is Mitt Romney a good candidate for the GOP? If Texas is a toss up, the White House will be a tough proposition for the Republican Party; it's that simple. Without those 37 or 38 electoral votes (after the 2010 reallocation), there just aren't that many paths to 270 for the GOP. Before this runaway train gathers too much speed, let's attempt to put on the brakes. Much of this is attributable to the fact that Texans (a quarter of them) just don't have that much knowledge about Mitt Romney. 27% of the respondents weren't sure enough about the former Massachusetts governor to offer an opinion on whether he was from outside of government, someone with experience or somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. It could simply be that Texans are waiting for the identity of the Republican candidate -- any Republican candidate -- to be revealed.

And this is where the Democrats come in. This is the type of poll that sends Democrats to Texas to register new voters. It isn't unlike how Republicans are looking at New Jersey in the governor's race right now. Early polls are deceptive. Though, if the GOP doesn't do something to pull in Hispanic voters in Texas (and elsewhere), those states won't be like New Jersey to the GOP for long; they'll shift toward the Democrats (with all other things held constant).

Finally, why was only Mitt Romney included? No Palin. No Huckabee. No Gingrich. And this poll was in the field before the Palin announcement last week. It is a curious move, but perhaps an interesting nod to the fact that Romney is still the odds on favorite to be the next GOP nominee (albeit it an only slight one). I really would like to have seen some of those other prospective candidates included.

But with three years to go, beggars can't be choosers. A poll is a poll is a poll, after all and FHQ will take what it can get.

Recent Posts:
State of the Race: New Jersey (7/9/09)

Which is Bigger?

State of the Race: Virginia (7/8/09)


Robert said...

Romney is the next-in-line Republican. He tends to do well when he is waving and smiling but not talking. His numbers tend to go down after a big speech or debate. Obama was not that effective in the debate format early on, but he gained credibility with experience. Romney is doing many Sunday morning TV appearances and is sounding much more polished and effective. If he continues to show improvement, he could prove formidable in the primaries. If he reverts back to his 2008 style, he will drop like a rock.

AKReport said...

Texas will go to palin in the primaries she has a very strong base there.

she gave rick perry a 12 point boost over KBH

romney is NOT a strong in texas

Josh Putnam said...

No, I suspect you're right, AKR. Romney is not one of those traditional Texas Republicans. But I don't guess McCain was either. All that will depend on how the calendar sets up. Texas has attempted to move up, but if the parties aren't successful in changing the calendar (and it stays relatively similar to 2008) then it may not matter whether Palin is better than Romney in Texas. It will be over by then.

But my bet is on the parties being able to shift things back to a March starting point (after IA, NH, SC and NV in February) at the least. That, though, will have a lot to say about whether Texas matters.

AKReport said...

at this point I see romney getting much of the north east,mormon vote in the utah/nevada/idaho area, and he may get most of the midwest.

I see palin getting all of the plain states, and the south states.
Iowa is everything. If palin does not win Iowa. it's over. If palin wins Iowa. huckabee will drop out, and she will be in a bloody battle with romney to the end.

Jack said...

Hi from Ohio's 12th Congressional District, represented by Republican Patrick J. Tiberi.

I don't see too much for Republicans to panic over here. A five-point lead among registered voters in Texas probably translates to a somewhat larger likely-voter lead. During the 2008 campaign season, it was not unheard of for a safe state to show close margins early in the process (New Jersey, for example). And this is beyond early.

Josh Putnam said...

Hey Jack. Good to hear from you. I assumed you were on the road. I'm spending my last day in Mike McIntyre's NC-07 district. He hasn't indicated whether he's running for the Burr senate seat next year, but he did fly in from DC this week to deliver a nice, big check for the district.

No, it definitely isn't something the GOP should worry about, per se. Not in 2012 at least. If the Hispanic gap continues to grow, the Republican Party will need to worry. But I don't think that will increase enough in Texas to swing the state. 2016 maybe, 2020 even more so. But 2012, not so much.

Let's look at 2008. Of the 12 polls conducted in Texas between Super Tuesday and the end of June in Texas, Obama was within single digits of McCain in eight of them. So no, this isn't terribly indicative.

...but it is fun to look at.

Again AKR, that is a reasonable conclusion, but the ordering will matter (as will the winner-take-all rules on the GOP side). I agree: Iowa is make or break for Palin.

Anonymous said...

Don't assume state-level polls are what will matter in 2012.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


Robert said...

Be careful what you ask for. The national popular vote means that 6-8 states decide the outcome.

Josh Putnam said...

Very succinct, Rob. You've really honed your argument.

Robert said...

I'll take that as a compliment.