Ohio, Ohio, Ohio
Once again, a Presidential election could be decided by the Buckeye State.
Writing about a new poll from a relatively unknown polling firm that shows President Obama with a narrow one percent lead, Nate Silver makes the case that the Buckeye State could end up being the state that decides who will be the next President of the United States:
A one-point lead isn’t much, and Mr. Obama has gotten some better numbers than that in Ohio. So why does this qualify as good news for him? Because this firm has had Republican-leaning results in the other states that it has polled, putting Mr. Romney up by 2 points in Florida, 1 point in Colorado and 17 points in Missouri, making it several points more Republican-leaning than the consensus of surveys in those states. Once the model adjusts for the firm’s”house effect,” it treats Mr. Obama’s nominal 1-point lead as being the equivalent of a 4- or 5-point lead instead. Thus, Mr. Obama’s chances of winning Ohio rose somewhat based on the survey.
The broader point is simply that Ohio is so important to the electoral calculus that it’s good news for a candidate when a polling firm shows him doing relatively well there compared with the other states that it polls. Ohio has a 30 percent chance of being the tipping-point state, meaning that it would cast the decisive votes in the Electoral College. That’s as much as the next two states on the list, Florida and Virginia, combined. It’s also as much as Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan and North Carolina combined.
All of these states are competitive. But really, they exist along a continuum of electoral power rather than falling into binary categories of “important” and “unimportant.” Ohio is at the extreme end of that continuum.
The reason our tipping-point calculus rates Ohio so highly is because it would usually suffice to provide Mr. Obama with a winning map, even if he lost many of those other states. If you give Ohio to Mr. Obama, plus all the states where the forecast model now estimates that he has at least 75 percent chance of winning, he’s up to 265 electoral votes. That means he could win any one of Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida or North Carolina to put him over the top.
Mr. Romney is fortunate in this sense to have put Wisconsin squarely into play with his selection of Paul D. Ryan as his running mate; it gives him a few more ways to win without Ohio, although it would still be a daunting task.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Ohio decided a Presidential Election, of course. Indeed, the state ended up being so close that John Kerry waited until the morning after Election Day to concede the state, and the race, to President Bush. In the end, Bush had won the state by a deceptively slim 118,776 votes, a .67% margin of victory. (Interestingly, that year the state with the closest margin of victory was Wisconsin, where Kerry won by a slim .37% of the vote, perhaps an indication that Wisconsin has been a close state for longer than many current observers had realized) Moreover, no Republican has ever won a Presidential election without also winning Ohio (Democrats have won the White House several times without Ohio, most recently.) So, it wouldn’t be at all surprising for America to be up until the wee hours of the morning of November 7th looking to the Buckeye State to decide the face of the nation. Indeed, given the current political atmosphere, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the state become 2012’s version of Florida if the result ends up being close enough, with calls for recounts and possibly even lawsuits once again putting the denoumont of the Presidential Election in doubt just as it was in 2000.
Currently, the state seems to be as close as it possibly can be. In addition to the poll noted above, a new poll from the Columbus Dispatch this week has the race tied at 45-45, while one from the University of Cincinnati has Obama up three but within the margin of error. The anomalous poll seems to be the CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll which showed Obama up six in the state. Presently, the RealClearPolitics Average, which doesn’t currently include the new poll, has Obama with a +1.4 advantage, but the trend seems to show Romney catching up to the President:
Silver’s model, meanwhile, gives the President a 60.8% chance of winning the state:
With numbers like this, the Buckeye State is sure to be a battleground for the next ten weeks and, just as in 2004, we’re likely to see the fate of the election come down to this one state.