Recent polls suggest Iowa may be shedding its purple tint in favor of a baby or powder blue. An NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll released Thursday shows President Obama leading Governor Romney by 8 percentage points among likely voters in Iowa. This lead is unchanged from a September poll done by the same organization. Both leads fall outside the margin of error.
So what explains the sizable lead in Iowa despite a narrowing of national polls, some of which now show Romney leading among likely voters?
The Marist news release identifies several “key points” for analyzing Thursday’s poll numbers from Iowa. Besides the sizable lead for the president, here are four worth noting:
1) The gender gap (difference between women and men in support of Obama) is 12 percentage points. As shown in a recent Gallup Poll, women in swing states have a distinct set of policy preferences as compared to men, and President Obama has done little to this point to push away female voters.
2) There was no difference in support for the candidates between the portion of the sample interviewed before the second debate and those interviewed after (the instant reaction from Tuesday’s debate among undecided voters was much more favorable toward the president than the first debate).
3) Among the “already voted” group, Obama leads 67 percent to 32 percent, while among those planning to vote early, the president leads 55 percent to 39 percent. In short, the organizational advantage of the Obama campaign, a holdover from 2008, seems to be paying off.
4) Among “Independents” identified as likely voters, Obama leads by 11 percentage points, 49 percent to 38 percent. For a state like Iowa, this is crucial. According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office, as of September 4, 2012, “No Party” registrants (or presumably what the Marist poll classified as Independents) represented the largest bloc of active voters at 35.3 percent. This compares to 32.6 percent for Republicans and 32.0 percent for Democrats.
If Obama maintains double-digit leads among women and “No Party” voters, Iowa will go blue. Of course all of this may be for naught as a PPP (Public Policy Polling) poll released Friday shows Romney with a one percentage point lead, 49 to 48 percent, among likely voters in Iowa.
Don’t expect anything new in terms of substance in the third debate. Yes, the topic (foreign policy) is new, but now is not the time to deviate wildly from the party platform. The only thing that will change (or at least has the potential to change) is the rhetorical style of each candidate. As Deborah Tannen explains in the New York Times, this may be the only distinguishing characteristic subject to chance with the potential to move undecided voters either for or against one of the candidates.
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This post was written by Chris Larimer on October 19, 2012