Election Night Might Be Over Early

Brookings Institute scholar William Galston says election night might end early this year even if the race remains tight.

Brookings Institute scholar William Galston says election night might end early this year even if the race remains tight.

TNR (“An Early Electoral College Guide: Which States Will and Won’t Matter in 2012“):

Let’s begin with the Electoral College foundation on which each candidate will build.  A very conservative assessment gives Obama a base of 201 electoral votes, and Romney 181. These numbers exclude one state—Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes—that most observers are putting in Obama’s column, and one state—Missouri (10)—that is likely to go for Romney. Factoring in these probable outcomes, Obama’s base rises to 221 electoral votes, Romney’s to 191.

The next tier contains three states that Romney must win and two more that Obama must hold. The Romney 3 are Florida (29), North Carolina (15), and Ohio (18), in each of which Obama’s share of the popular vote in 2008 was well below his national share. No Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio, and Romney is unlikely to be the first. There’s no road to 270 electoral votes for the Republican ticket that doesn’t run through Florida. And losing North Carolina, which Obama won by only 0.3 percent, would force Romney to flip a major Midwestern state where Obama won by a much greater margin.

[…]

This scenario means that we’re likely to know quite a bit about the outcome fairly early on election night. If Romney loses Florida, the contest is over. If Obama loses Virginia, he needs to run the table. And if he goes down to defeat in both Virginia and New Hampshire, he’d be on track to lose the election—unless he could replace their electoral votes by hanging onto North Carolina.  If not, Obama’s reelection would hinge on the most traditional of all pivots—the Buckeye state. This year, we may well know the name of the next president before we cross the Mississippi.

I’ve maintained for a long time now that this remains Obama’s election to lose. Re-electing presidents is our default position and the country still likes Obama. Nobody, not even Republican stalwarts—hell, especially Republican stalwarts—are enthusiastic about Romney.

The only reason, then, that it’s even a contest is because the economy is so awful. And, not only do a lot of people not blame Obama for that—he did, after all, inherit a global recession—but those who do don’t necessarily think Romney can do better.

Right now, Romney is behind in most polls in almost every “swing” state. The margin is slight and erasable by a good sales job at the convention, winning the ad wars, or an impressive showing at the debates. But Romney pretty much needs to take Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Ohio; Obama only needs one of them.

As a side note, I watched Election Night 2000 in Steven Taylor’s living room. We both thought the night was over very early when all the networks announced that Gore had won Florida–very early in the evening and before the western two-thirds of the country had come in. It turned out, of course, that the announcement was premature.

While I think it unlikely, it’s not unthinkable that a reverse 2000 will happen this year: Mitt Romney could well edge the president in the popular vote and yet lose—even lose big—in the Electoral College vote.

Hat tip: Taegan Goddard

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Me Me Me says:

    This election is already over. It ended the day Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut. 9 or 10 million more women will vote than men. Story, end of.

  2. Drew says:

    @Me Me Me:

    That assertion, paints women as a pretty shallow group. I’m thinking they are more substantial.

  3. Just Me says:

    I honestly don’t think Obama can lose short of committing a major crime like outright murder with cameras present and videotaping it. Obama is just in a better electoral position than Romney and anyone who really thinks Pennsylvania is in play or Michigan is probably smoking something.

    I think the popular vote will be close-much closer than it was in 2008 but the electoral vote is a cakewalk for Obama IMO.

  4. MBunge says:

    “Mitt Romney could well edge the president in the popular vote and yet lose—even lose big—in the Electoral College vote.”

    And what will our elite do, if that happens, when conservatives and Republicans start agitating that “Romney won the most votes, so he should be President”? Anyone want to bet money that an organized campaign to get the Electoral College to go with Romney over Obama wouldn’t be launched by the Right?

    Mike

  5. Me Me Me says:

    @Drew:

    That assertion, paints women as a pretty shallow group. I’m thinking they are more substantial.

    What is “shallow” about refusing to vote for a party that considers you to be a fundamentally second class citizen?

  6. We don’t need to guess the women’s vote:

    Half of all voters in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said differences between the parties on women’s issues will be a major factor in their decisions at the ballot box. Asked which candidate voters trusted to do a better job on women’s issues, 53 percent picked Obama, to only 32 percent for Romney.

    I’d guess that those 32 percent are either market or religious fundamentalists, and that they just pretend Limbaugh was not tapping a vibe with his remark.

  7. Jeremy says:

    @Me Me Me: There are plenty of conservative women out there who were disgusted by Rush’s remarks, and will still likely vote for Romney because they cannot stand Obama’s policies. They are not one-dimensional, and to think of them as such is just as bad as Todd Akin.

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    Frankly, James, I doubt it. I think there will be Eastern states, e.g. Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, that will be so close that we might not be certain who carried them until weeks after the election.

    Maybe not even then given that when the margin of victory is less than the margin of error the results of an election are essentially indeterminate.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    You cannot possibly intend this as a serious piece of commentary when you do not even raise the issue of Republican successes at voter supression in some of the very states you talk about…Florida, Pensylvania, and Ohio.
    It’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Polls have no means of measuring it’s impact. But in a race that will come down to turnout…it promises to be decisive. Everything else is a sideshow…in my opinion this entire race comes down to what Republicans have already done to keep people away from the voting booth.
    You can’t give Penn. to Obama when nearly a fifth of the states citizens do not have what is now requiredof them to vote…all with the clearly and arrogantly expressed intent of winning the race for Romney.
    What’s happening in Ohio is a travesty of Democracy and practically guarantees that state will go to Romney.
    We have yet to see how the efforts of Republicans in Fla. at restricting the rights of it’s citizens turns out.
    This race is over…Republicans won it by taking away peoples ability to vote.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Drew:

    That assertion, paints women as a pretty shallow group. I’m thinking they are more substantial.

    How would they be considered to be shallow by voting against a political party that does not want them (women) to have the ability to control their reproductive healthcare choices?

  11. Me Me Me says:

    @Jeremy: Firstly, Jeremy, can you cite me some examples of conservative women who expressed disgust at Rush’s remarks?

    Secondly, the fact that there are conservative women who are going to vote for Romney no matter what is not news. Do I need to spell out that I am not claiming that every woman in America is going to vote for Obama? A mere 55% or so is enough to give him an EC landslide.

    Thirdly, you and Drew are just playing an extreme version of the OTB favorite “both sides do it”. And you are failing. Saying that women are going to vote overwhelmingly for Obama because of the offensiveness of the Republican Party on women’s rights DOES NOT EQUAL Todd Akin. You saying that it does is making a false equivalence that sets some kind of new record.

  12. James Joyner says:

    @Dave Schuler: That’s always a possibility, although the polling in all those states looks pretty solid for Obama at the moment. I’d be surprised, in particular, if Pennsylvania were in play for Romney.

  13. Me Me Me says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’d be surprised, in particular, if Pennsylvania were in play for Romney.

    The plutocrats have started cancelling their ad buys in PA. That race is over, Romney lost. So there is another 21 EC votes that are going to have to be found somewhere else.

  14. lageorgia says:

    @Drew: Not it doesn’t paint us women as shallow but rather as women who are concerned, and apparently rightfully so, with the flat out war the Republicans for some unknown reason have decided it is in their best interest to wage against us.

  15. Rick Almeida says:

    @Just Me:

    Women are already substantially more likely to vote for Democrats than men are. It’s hard to believe this year’s campaign dynamics will change that to benefit Republicans.

    Link.

  16. Tsar Nicholas says:

    That really is a funny article.

    In any event, whether and when election night ends depends largely upon who wins. If Obama wins it’ll be over. Romney will concede, he’ll congratulate Obama, he’ll call for the country to unite, and then we’ll all move on to the next day’s business. If Romney wins, however, especially if it’s close, then batten down the hatches because the crazy left quite literally will flip their lids. Take the Ohio lawsuits and protests from 2004, multiply ten fold, and amp up to 11.

  17. lageorgia says:

    @john personna: I can not imagine who the 32% are.

  18. Nikki says:

    @Jeremy:

    There are plenty of conservative women out there who were disgusted by Rush’s remarks, and will still likely vote for Romney because they cannot stand Obama’s policies.

    Yes, as john personna pointed out, the WAPO/ABC poll says women are choosing Obama 53% to 32%. I’m pretty sure those 32% are conservative women, which simply drives Me Me Me’s point home.

  19. anjin-san says:

    PA looks very solid for Obama at this point.

  20. @lageorgia:

    It’s kind of a rule of US politics that 30% will believe the unlikely, and you can find 15% to believe the impossible.

  21. @Nikki:

    Actually that one was percent of voters, male and female, on woman’s issues. But numbers are similar asking women directly:

    On which candidate “cares about the needs of people like you,” 58 percent of female likely voters say Obama, and 36 percent say Romney, the poll shows.

  22. Me Me Me says:

    @john personna: Case in point:

    Bush Presidency Closes With 34% Approval

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/113770/bush-presidency-closes-34-approval-61-disapproval.aspx

    I think of that as my baseline measurement of the nut that cannot be cracked by actual reality.

    Note the close correlation between this number and the “women for Romney” number in your previous post.

  23. @Me Me Me:

    Meanwhile the approval of Republicans in Congress is down around 20%, putting them with belief in alien abduction or something …

  24. jan says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    You have a point, Tsar.

    If Romney wins, the battle will only begin, as Obama’s street fighter instincts will kick in, going to any lengths in order to stir up controversy (country be damned), especially the voter suppression meme that OTB diehards are always touting.

    Because of that possibility, I hope if Romney wins, he wins BIG, with a wave similar to the midterms, so that people on the left will have less venom for spit balls to throw around, crying foul.

    Regarding the war on women campaign ploy — it’s just another divisive tactic being used by Obama to gather up contituencies composed of class, color, and gender, totally contradicting his ’08 promises to ‘unite’ the country.

  25. Me Me Me says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    In any event, whether and when election night ends depends largely upon who wins. If Obama wins it’ll be over. Romney will concede, he’ll congratulate Obama, he’ll call for the country to unite, and then we’ll all move on to the next day’s business. If Romney wins, however, especially if it’s close, then batten down the hatches because the crazy left quite literally will flip their lids. Take the Ohio lawsuits and protests from 2004, multiply ten fold, and amp up to 11.

    Lets hop in the way-back machine, setting the dials for Minnesota, November 2008. Al Franken unseated Norm Coleman. The Republicans then spent $2 million to delay Franken taking his seat until July 2009.

    You are a fantasist.

  26. Just Me says:

    I am a conservative woman and don’t particularly feel like the GOP is waging war on me and I don’t believe women’s issues begin and end with my uterus.

    That said there is no way Pennsylvania is in play. Obama will win PA-it may not be with the same ease he wins California (Obama could totally ignore the state of California for the rest of the election season and win that state in a landslide and the same probably goes for New York) but he is going to win PA.

    Obama will probably lose a few states he won in 2008 (I have the feeling NC is going to go for Romney) but Obama can afford to lose a state or two while Romney has to outperform McCain by a wide margin and I don’t think he can.

  27. Me Me Me says:

    @jan:

    Regarding the war on women campaign ploy — it’s just another divisive tactic being used by Obama to gather up contituencies composed of class, color, and gender, totally contradicting his ’08 promises to ‘unite’ the country.

    Pausing. Thinking.

    The guy who basing his entire campaign on appealing to white men…he is the uniter.

    The guy who is trying to appeal to men and women of all races…he is the divider.

    Does. Not. Compute.

  28. SKI says:

    @James Joyner: That depends on the impact of the voter suppression “Voter ID” laws that the polls aren’t calibrated to take into account. If the percent of voters disenfranchised is indeed close to 10% and the majority of those are likely Dems, PA is definitely in play.

    2008 was 54.6 – 42.3. Right now it is a not dissimilar 50 – 42. Romney is clearly going to do better than McCain overall and the undecideds are far more likely to break for him rather than Obama – let’s say that is worth 3 points, now we have 50 – 45. If we take 3% off Romney and 8% off Obama, we have 42-42 – the very definition of in play. back of the envelope? Sure but …

  29. @jan:

    Regarding the war on women campaign ploy — it’s just another divisive tactic being used by Obama to gather up contituencies composed of class, color, and gender, totally contradicting his ’08 promises to ‘unite’ the country.

    Whichever Indian outsourcer is manning the Janbot today, he needs to read up a little more to be convincing.

  30. anjin-san says:

    @ Jan

    So Obama is “dividing” the country?

    Democrats and Republicans were pretty much at each others throats during the Bush years. (with a brief interlude of unity after 9.11) And during the Clinton years. Bush ’41 was a bit of a respite. The Reagan era? Stark divisions. And the Carter years. The Ford years were not that bad, people were too exhausted to fight. But the Nixon years??? And LBJ! Fricking warfare in the streets, people literally killing each other because we were so divided.

    How is Obama dividing the country any more than it has been divided for most of our lives?

    Read some history books, and lighten up on the lame GOP talking points. The “Obama is dividing us” meme does not gain credibility with repetition.

  31. @Just Me:

    I am a conservative woman and don’t particularly feel like the GOP is waging war on me and I don’t believe women’s issues begin and end with my uterus.

    OK, but the empathy test might be whether you can see women with just slightly different attitudes seeing int the other way.

    I just dinged Jan because his attitude was that it was all “ploy” and there was just no way a woman could reasonably feel otherwise.

  32. Just Me says:

    OK, but the empathy test might be whether you can see women with just slightly different attitudes seeing int the other way.

    So, because I don’t feel like war is being waged on me, I lack empathy.

    I pretty much hate this idea that somehow women must march in lockstep to vote for the left, because women just are supposed to be for the party that says their for women. My priorities aren’t those of the left and who I trust doesn’t happen to the Narcissist in Chief.

  33. @Just Me:

    That’s not actually what I said. What I’m saying is that if some large slice of women feel a war on them, then maybe there is.

    Not every woman as to feel it for it to be real, but when a majority do, that’s a clue.

  34. Fiona says:

    Regarding the war on women campaign ploy — it’s just another divisive tactic being used by Obama to gather up contituencies composed of class, color, and gender, totally contradicting his ’08 promises to ‘unite’ the country.

    Ah Jan–still peddling those Fox News delusions that the guy who’s tried to compromise with an obstructionist Republican Party is the divider; whereas the guy who makes bad birthed jokes, approves of a series of ads on Obama’s welfare policies that are blatant lies, and repeatedly reminds audiences that Obama isn’t really an American is a united. Wow, cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing.

  35. C. Clavin says:

    Jan…have you ever had an original thought?

  36. anjin-san says:

    Are we being too hard on the JanBot?

  37. KansasMom says:

    @anjin-san: It gets what it deserves. And then comes back for more.

  38. David M says:

    @anjin-san:

    Are we being too hard on the JanBot?

    Jan very rarely posts anything specific, it’s mostly just platitudes now, much harder to be called out that way. Instead of “Obama has made the economy worse” it’s “Obama hasn’t done enough for the economy”. It’s better that it’s not obvious nonsense, but that’s an pretty low bar to clear.

    Generic platitudes does seem to fit with the Romney campaign though, as he’s pretty much fact free all the time now.

  39. swbarnes2 says:

    @Just Me:

    I pretty much hate this idea that somehow women must march in lockstep to vote for the left, because women just are supposed to be for the party that says their for women.

    No, it’s not because they say they are for women, it’s because they actaully have policies and pass laws that help women, and they don’t pass laws that hurt women.

    It’s really simple. Just tell us which side voted to pass the Violence Against Women Act, and which side voted against. Don’t talk about what one side said or didn’t say about it, or anything. Just tell us how they voted.

  40. Just Me says:

    And as a woman and a mom which side killed school vouchers in DC?

    Which side marches in lockstep with the teacher’s unions?

    As a woman, sometimes it comes down to the things that are important to me, and right now my uterus is far down on the list of priorities.

    Romney isn’t my ideal candidate (I did not vote for him in my primary) but Obama absolutely isn’t. He has had 4 years to show he can lead and I haven’t seen it (and I realize this is opinion and you may think he is the best thing since sliced bread), but Obama has done nothing to think he has earned 4 more years in the white house-and saying the GOP is raging a war on women isn’t going to make me more likely to think he deserves those 4 years.

  41. David M says:

    @Just Me:

    There was no school voucher program in DC to be killed.

  42. Kinky Beats says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Nate Silver at 538 has incorporated the voter ID issues into his models. He mentions that there may be a 1-2% swing in some areas.

    Fortunately for those who support Obama, Silver’s models still give Obama the edge in the voter ID affected states.

  43. Modulo Myself says:

    @Just Me:

    Look, there are serious questions about whether or not school vouchers have made things work better. Diane Ravitch, who was very pro-voucher, for example, is now anti-voucher, because enough data has come in to change her view.

    This is in no way comparable to some troglodyte like Akin mouthing the idiot views held by a doctor who met with Romney. Or the types like Santorum and Rush Limbaugh who have enormous issues about women taking birth control.

    One of these is a cut-and-dry issue: the GOP is filled with mouthbreathers when it comes to women.

  44. C. Clavin says:

    “…He has had 4 years to show he can lead and I haven’t seen it…”

    Maybe not…but you can bet your lily white suburban arse that Bin Laden has.
    As someone else pointed out the DC voucher thing is a ridiculous partisan red-herring…and Obama has gone up against the teachers unions.
    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/obama-passes-teachers-testbarely/story?id=14003658
    If you are going to base your opinion on mis-information then your opinion is going to be based on mis-information.

  45. Me Me Me says:

    @Just Me:

    I pretty much hate this idea that somehow women must march in lockstep to vote for the left, because women just are supposed to be for the party that says their for women. My priorities aren’t those of the left and who I trust doesn’t happen to the Narcissist in Chief.

    No one should ever vote for anyone who says their for women.

  46. jan says:

    @Just Me:

    “I pretty much hate this idea that somehow women must march in lockstep to vote for the left, because women just are supposed to be for the party that says their for women. My priorities aren’t those of the left and who I trust doesn’t happen to the Narcissist in Chief.”

    That’s the dems scripted strategy in order to win —> to socially divide and isolate groups in society. If they didn’t form these islands of special interest groups what would they run on? That’s why you hear nothing but noises of disenfranchisement if you don’t vote for Obama —-> the poor, minorities, women, people besmirched by what percentage they fall into, class warfare. In the meantime, jobs, the economy, addressing educational needs, how does Obama plan on dealing with the sequestration demands (spending cuts, job losses etc), or the ‘fiscal cliff’ being lamented by both sides of the aisle, in a few short months? Why stigmatize and punish people making productive incomes by saying they don’t deserve to have their tax cuts extended — again another divisive tactic employed by the left, instead of looking at the country as a whole?

    BTW, take a look at the GOP convention speaker rooster. Women are heavily represented — strong women, and they are not just whining about abortion. Women have fine minds and brains to dialogue about issues outside the perimeters of themselves — unlike the dems, though, who will be parading planned parenthood types at their own convention.

    What a farce the once proud democratic party has become!

  47. C. Clavin says:

    Jan…you have serious mental health issues. You should seek help. Seriously.

  48. C. Clavin says:

    Strong women…like Chris Christie who has never seen a canoli he didn’t eat. Real f’ing strong.

  49. jan says:

    @C. Clavin:

    It’s really a sign of your own intrangient, hyper partisan behavior that you are unable to discuss differences without personally berating or belittling another person.

  50. jan says:

    Chris Christie’s take on women is what appeals to me — a broad based one appealing to both men and women, rather than this ‘reaching out to women’ bit.

  51. C. Clavin says:

    Jan…your comments show delusion and projection. You are the poster child of both the Dunning/Kruger effect and epistemic closure. Presented with facts to the counter of your beliefs you refuse to acknowledge the facts or reconsider your beliefs. You are a proven liar and you may be pathological.
    Seriously…seek help.

  52. An Interested Party says:

    And as a woman and a mom which side killed school vouchers in DC?

    Which side marches in lockstep with the teacher’s unions?

    As a woman, sometimes it comes down to the things that are important to me, and right now my uterus is far down on the list of priorities.

    Strong words for someone with a uterus that many Republicans/conservatives would like to reach in to control…can you still have children? If so, do you care if you have control of your own body? Perhaps menopause has already set in and that’s why you aren’t too worried about your uterus…

    BTW, take a look at the GOP convention speaker rooster.

    Sorry sweetie, but putting forth tokens doesn’t mean that the GOP is really worried about the best interests of the people those tokens are supposed to represent…

  53. swbarnes2 says:

    @Just Me:

    As a woman, sometimes it comes down to the things that are important to me, and right now my uterus is far down on the list of priorities.

    And I guess the rest of your body is pretty far down the list too, since you don’t care which side supported the VAWA, and which side opposed it?

    That’s a nice sentiment, but since Republicans see you as nothing but a uterus, it’s not a helpful one.

    Read the Williamson piece in NR if you don’t believe it. There was a 16-year old in the Dominican Republic who thought that her leukemia was higher priority than her uterus. But the legislators that passed abortion bans with no health exceptions thought otherwise.

    So where’s that health execption in the Republican platform again? Can you point it out?

  54. David M says:

    @jan: That’s an impressively fact-free rant there.

    Is it really the Dems that are trying to divide people when Romney/Ryan plan to end Medicare for people under 55?

    Is it really the Dems practicing class warfare if the GOP is proposing to cut Medicaid spending so they can lower tax rates for high incomes?

    Why is it worth making the deficit worse to lower the tax rates on high incomes?

    Even if the Dems are appealing to the “poor, minorities and women”, isn’t that over half the country? Not exactly a “small” interest group.

  55. anjin-san says:

    @ Jan

    whining about abortion

    So if a woman thinks that she, and not Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Todd Akin should control her own body, she is whining?

    Wow.

  56. Rob in CT says:

    Actually, the people “whining about abortion” are the Conservatives. They’re the folks attempting to change the status quo. The Dems are trying to preserve the status quo. While I wouldn’t characterize the anti-abortion crowd as “whiners” on my own, if you’re going to toss that word around, it clearly applies to those who want to overturn Roe.

    As for the rest, obviously women decide their vote in much the same way as the other half of he population: by weighing their priorities and picking the best (least-worst) candidate/party. It seems odd that bodily autonomy falls down the list, but there you go. Clearly it does, or women would vote overwhelmingly D, and they don’t. So in that sense, Just Me is obviously correct: she’s got other priorities.

    I don’t know the ins and outs of the DC school voucher fight. I’m torn on the subject of vouchers in general, as I think school choice is good for some but worry about the aggregate result on the public school system. If one is sold on the idea, and the Dems block it in your area, of course that can push you to the GOP. Or at least away from the Dems.

  57. @jan:

    That’s the dems scripted strategy in order to win —> to socially divide and isolate groups in society. If they didn’t form these islands of special interest groups what would they run on? That’s why you hear nothing but noises of disenfranchisement if you don’t vote for Obama —-> the poor, minorities, women, people besmirched by what percentage they fall into, class warfare.

    Well Jan, if you really want to sell that, you’ll have to get the Republicans in charge to shut the heck up. For instance, Carl Rove recently recounted a conversation that he said he had had over dinner last spring with Indiana’s governor, Mitch Daniels:

    And I said, ‘Mitch, is there a white Democrat south of Indianapolis who’s supporting Obama who’s not a college professor in Bloomington?’ [Laughter] And he stopped for a minute over his green beans and says, ‘Not that I can think of.’

    Maybe it was kind of out of line for C. Calvin to question your sanity … but how would a reasonable person square your post and Rove’s comment?