So here’s the deal. 41 out of 50 states and one federal territory have either voted firmly along party lines for the past 40 years, or exhibited definitive short to mid-term trends over the last several years – so much so that, there is no reason to think that it will change on Tuesday. As such, based on this pattern, we can conclusively surmise that President Barack Obama will win at least 17 states (and the District of Columbia) and 207 Electoral College votes for the 2012 Presidential Election, while Gov. Mitt Romney is poised to claim at least 23 states and 191 Electoral College.
• President Obama’s Projected States: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Washington D.C.
• Gov. Romney’s Projected States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming
This leaves us with a balance of ten swing states (Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin) and 140 Electoral College votes up for grabs. The majority of the media tracking the election believes that there are eleven swing states, along with 146 Electoral College votes, still in contention. However, polling data over the last two weeks seem to suggest that Iowa has turned blue once again (Iowa has voted for a Democratic candidate in five of the last six presidential election).
President Obama appears to have taken a decisive lead in the Hawkeye state, with several polls over the last three days logging in a 5-6 points advantage for his campaign there (NBC Marist, Des Moines Register Iowa Poll). Furthermore, early voting numbers from approximately 614 thousand voters in Iowa indicate that the Democrats are holding a 10.3% lead over their Republican rivals (42.6%-32.3%). While registered Republicans traditionally outnumber Democrats on Election Day, the 10 percent gap may be too difficult to bridge. For the record, Senator John McCain outperformed President Obama by less than a single percent on Nov 4, 2008, to slightly trim his 10 point loss in the state.
With the ten states established, let’s move away from the national polls, and instead concentrate on the ten swing states that will ultimately decide the outcome of the election.
To win the presidency, Gov. Romney must secure 79 out of the remaining 140 Electoral College votes. President Obama, meanwhile, needs 63 Electoral College votes to win a second term. There are numerous permutations available for either men to reach their target, but three states are the key here: Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Losing Florida, the largest piece of the pie with 20% of the 140 votes in play, would compel Gov. Romney and President Obama to win seven and five states respectively of the remaining nine. An Obama sweep of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio would effectively end the contest.
It bears mentioning that all 17 former Republican presidents won Ohio on their way to the White House. In addition, every Republican president since Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) emerged victorious in Ohio, Florida and Virginia.
The polls in the swing states continue to be tight, and barring a few outliers, remain within the margin of error. However, while Gov. Romney has kept pace with President Obama in Nevada and Wisconsin, he has yet to overtake his opponent in any poll in the two states in the last two months. Pennsylvania and Michigan may also prove to be tough nuts to crack for Gov. Romney, considering the two states have voted for a Democratic candidate in each of the last five elections, dating back to 1992.
Realistically, then, Gov. Romney’s path to the Oval Office will be through Florida, North Carolina (we will be very, very surprised if Gov. Romney loses here), Ohio, Virginia and New Hampshire – which will net him the required 270 Electoral College votes.
For President Obama, an Ohio victory will probably be enough to carry him over 270, along with Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
However, the wildly fluctuating polls and season-long razor-thin margins could also hide something else altogether: a landslide victory for either of the candidates! There is a small, but real possibility of a landslide here, although a victory margin in 20-60 range appears to be the more likely outcome.
Stay tuned for our real-time coverage of the results on Tuesday.
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