Why 2012 isn’t 2008 — in 1 chart

August 29, 2012

There's been lots (and lots) written about how and why the 2008 election and the 2012 contest are so different.

But, we've never seen the case made so clearly as in a new chart put together by Simon Jackman, a professor of political science at Stanford University.

What Jackman aimed to do is compare how Obama performed in each state in 2008 against where polling suggests he is in that same state today -- based on his 2012 polling average in each state.

Here's the chart (and click here to see it in slightly larger form):

The data -- when visualized -- is striking.  At the moment, Obama is running under 50 percent in only two states -- North Carolina and Indiana -- that he won in 2008. Indiana is almost certainly lost for Obama -- it's a state that no Democrat had won since 1964 at the presidential level -- while North Carolina still looks quite competitive. (Obama won it with just more than 50 percent in 2008 and he's currently just over 49 percent in the average of polls in the state.)

More worrisome for Obama is that in five key swing states that Obama won in 2008 -- Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa and Florida -- he is teetering at 51 percent or lower in the average of all 2012 polling. Wisconsin, Nevada and Iowa have featured major declines between what Obama took in each in 2008 and where he currently sits in polling. Florida, on the other hand, has been a far more gradual dip.

What to make of the Jackman chart?

On the one hand, Obama's percentages in virtually every swing state have faded between 2008 and today, a sign Republicans will argue, that voters have soured significantly on the incumbent over the past few years. (One fascinating exception is the critical battleground of Ohio where Obama's current standing is roughly equivalent to his share of the vote in 2008.)

On the other, Obama remains over 50 percent in polling averages in every state he won in 2008 save two. If Obama carried all of his 2008 states with the exception of North Carolina and Indiana, he would be re-elected with ease.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Peyton M. Craighill | August 29, 2012