One month out from the 2012 presidential election, the electoral picture is beginning to look a lot clearer, and a lot closer. With that in mind, and in the wake of the first presidential debate Wednesday, let us look at an updated projection for November 6th and a new state by state analysis of the swing states.
The color coded electoral map here shows the safe Republican states for candidate Romney in dark red. These are states which Romney will likely win by more than 10 points. A middling shade of red denotes states in which Romney will probably win by between 5 to 10 percentage points. A very light shade highlights states which will be very close, but Romney will eke out a win of between zero and five points. In dark blue, safe states for President Obama’s camp are shown, and likewise the mid-blue and light blue reflect states closer to toss ups. Neither candidate has yet gained enough safe electoral votes to reach the necessary 270 votes to win the presidency. In the map, Romney has established a what I consider a safe lead in states giving him 206 electoral votes (though Romney is shown winning Florida, Missouri and North Carolina by 5 points, Florida is the only state of the three that I consider to still be a state Obama holds reasonable a chance of winning). Obama has accrued 217 electoral votes, leaving 115 electoral votes as ‘toss ups’, in nine states. This means that they are all contests with a margin between 0 and 5% percentage points, and their outcomes are in some doubt.
I will examine the last nine states one by one and postulate on where the electoral vote count will stand on election night on November 6th. Much of the polling of late in the race has been inaccurate at best. The average of many recent polls, according to unskewed polls at website unskewed.com, shows pollsters using a party ID advantage of 4 to 5% for Democrats. In the 2008 elections, Democrat party ID outpaced Republican Party ID by 7 points. In the 2010 elections, Republican voters outnumbered Democrats by 5.4 points. Many polls have assumed that Barack Obama permanently expanded the electorate for Democrats. While true that there is usually an uptick in the opposition’s turnout in mid-term elections, the truth about what voter turnout is going to look like in 2012 is probably somewhere in the middle. In September, the generic Congressional ballot averaged a 2 to 3% advantage for Republicans according to the most accurate pollster in the business, Rasmussen Reports (however, Rasmussen even polls using a D+3 model). This drastically will change some of the poll results that have shown Obama up by a ton. Any objective observer has surely noticed the drop in enthusiasm for President Obama in this election cycle–where are the bumper stickers and the yard signs? Any that I’ve seen are just leftovers that their owners were too lazy to take off after 2008. In reality, I would expect partisan ID in this cycle to fall somewhere in the range of a wash to a slight Republican advtantage. Romney maintains a solid lead among independents as well, which is why most of these polls baffle me so. In any case, on to the states:
First, we’ll start off with the states which have dropped out of the swing state category:
MICHIGAN: Michiganders are responsible for awarding 16 electoral votes, but this is no longer a swing state. I had expressed some hope that Michigan would be contested closely, but thought that Obama would probably win a close contest. Recent polling has given Obama a nearly 10 point advantage. This is, with Michigan’s demographics, an insurmountable margin. Michigan is a state Obama will likely win by 5 to 6%
Next, on to the nine swing states:
PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes were thought by this pundit to be in play. The recession hit Pennsylvania particularly hard just as Ohio and Michigan were affected. However, Romney’s struggle in Ohio to open a lead has led me to believe that Pennsylvania (as well as Michigan) is probably a bridge too far. Obama is performing much better here than he did just months ago, and I am almost ready to declare that Pennsylvania is not a swing state at all. Obama will win by 5 to 6%. A Susquehanna poll shows Romney trailing only by 2%, so there may be hope, but Obama will probably win by 5 to 6%.
Newly added for this edition, I still suspect that Romney will win the election in Iowa and her 6 electoral votes by a 3-5% margin. Recent polling in Iowa showing Obama leading the race by a couple points, however, obliges me to mention Iowa here, especially since early voting has begun there already. Romney is still likely ahead, given the bent of some of the polls which oversample Democrats, and underestimate Republican voter enthusiasm.
COLORADO: Colorado’s 9 electoral votes are probably Romney’s to lose. The youth and hispanic turnout in this state will probably not equal those of the last election. In 2008, 54% of the vote went to Obama though, a sign that the jump in Hispanic voters (42% increase in the voter rolls from 2000 to 2010) and the yuppie-boom of the last several years had worked to flip the state from red to blue. It seems that Colorado will be close, but Romney is shown at nearly 50% already by Rasmussen and leads 49%-47%. Romney will win Colorado by 2 to 3%.
FLORIDA: The 29 electoral votes of the Sunshine State still make it a vitally important swing state, but Romney has built in advantages and the lead there. Democrats have never received more than 51% of the State vote there since 1976. Obama’s performance in Florida in 2008 trailed his 52% performance nationally, and Romney leads by 2 to 3%, approaching 50% according to two recent polls by WeaskAmerica and Rasmussen. I still think Romney wins by 5 to 6% by November 6th.
NEVADA: Nevada’s 6 electoral votes are historically a center-right swing vote, but even during the last cycle where Republicans swept across the country, and despite having one of the worst economies in the nation, Nevada Democrats have been outperforming their poll numbers by a point or two and held firm in 2010 to upset their GOP counterparts. Democrats have established a solid ground game in the state as well. In my last update, I expected these factors to contribute to the state drifting toward Obama, but Nevada has stubbornly remained a toss-up. In fact, Obama only led by a margin of 49-48 in the most recent polling. With Romney’s lead among independents, and Obama’s organizational advantage in the state, this race is shaping up to be one of the closest in 2012. Romney can definitely win, but I think Obama will just barely edge Mitt here, by a percentage point or two. If Romney loses Ohio, Nevada is probably the only hope for Romney to win 270.
WISCONSIN: Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes were hotly contested last month with Paul Ryan’s entry into the race, but Obama has managed to put some distance between himself and Romney since. I think that the race is closer than many polling houses indicate, and so does the Obama campaign (they are running more ads in Wisconsin than in Ohio lately) but Rasmussen probably has it pretty accurately at about 49-46 for Obama. Romney will probably close the gap and Obama may only win by a few thousand votes which means the state remains vulnerable, but I think that Obama will retain Wisconsin by less than 3%.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: The Granite State’s 4 electoral votes represent one of the closest races in the country and the only competitive race in New England (though Linda McMahon’s coat tails may soften Obama’s lead over Romney in Connecticut). Obama managed to win by 9% in 2008 so there would need to be a large turnover from Obama’s 2008 constituency for Romney to win New Hampshire, and that defection appears to be what is happening–some recent polls place the president 5% or so ahead of the former governor of neighboring Massacrapsetts, except for the most accurate, Rasmussen, which has Romney up 3%. This leads me to believe that the race is very close. In my last update I predicted a Romney win based upon gut. However, considering New Hampshire’s familiarity with the former governor, Romney’s strong polling there and Romney’s decisive edge with independents, Romney has the edge here. Romney wins by between 1 and 3%.
VIRGINIA: Virginia is worth 13 electoral votes and is coming home to Mitt Romney of late. Obama still polls well below 50% and Romney is shown up by a point or two in the most recent polls by WeaskAmerica and Rasmussen. Considering demographics, history and Romney’s lead with independents, Romney seems to have solidified a slight lead in the Old Dominion and appears to be in a stronger position than last month, possessing a 49-47% lead. Romney will will by 2 to 3%.
OHIO: 18 electoral votes. Ohio is the most important state in this election. If Romney wins Ohio, he probably wins the White House. If he loses the Buckeye State, Obama probably gets a second term. There are only two plausible scenarios where Romney wins without Ohio, and those include Romney winning Nevada or winning Wisconsin. Wisconsin is not likely to go Romney if Ohio doesn’t, leaving Romney a very narrow path to victory if he loses Ohio. However, Obama absolutely must win Ohio or the election is Romney’s. There is a wall in the Ohio voter base of around 52% for Democrats, but that same wall stands at 51% for Republicans. Undoubtedly, this state will be decided by less than 3 percentage points, despite the caterwauling by the mainstream media that Ohio is further gone for Obama than it was in the last election. Obama won by 5% in 2008. Obama is still polling below 50% in Ohio, and Romney is shown in a dead heat there. Given Romney’s lead with independents (16% ahead of Obama) this buoys Romney’s chances in November of winning late-deciders and winning a dead heat. Additionally, voter registration is down from 2008 by 490,000 voters, and 44% of that drop, according to FOX News, is in Cuyahoga County, where Democrats outnumber Cleveland Republicans by a 2-1 margin. This leads me to believe Romney will win by 1, maybe even 2 percentage points.
David Teesdale, a popular epithet among liberals.