On Election Eve, The Race Is Close But Obama Has The Advantage
The 2012 Election promises to be close in the Popular Voter, but President Obama still retains an Electoral College advantage.
As I write this, it’s about twenty-six hours until the first polls start closing across the nation, including the potentially pivotal state of Virginia. Given the state of the race, of course, it’s unlikely we’ll get a call in any of the truly important states until some time well into the night, and even possible that Midnight could come and go before we’re able to call a winner in the election itself. At this point, all of the arguments have been made, all of the polls have been analyzed, and all the blog posts have been written. At midnight tonight, the process will begin with two small towns in New Hampshire casting their votes and the rest of the nation will begin to follow a few hours later. By the end of the day, and including early voters, somewhere around 120-130 million people will have cast their ballots and the counting will begin. Everyone has made their predictions, including several of the authors here at Outside The Beltway, but in the end it’s the voters who will decide. Based on the available data, though, it certainly does appear that the President is headed for re-election.
The first set of data we have that tells us this are the national polls, where the President maintains a razor-thin 0.7 point lead in the RealClearPolitics Average. As I noted early today, though, that lead masks a momentum that he has had for at least the last two weeks while at the same time the boost that Mitt Romney got out of the October 3rd debate appears to have ended. What the RCP average suggests, of course, is that we’re looking at a Popular Vote margin likely to be as close as what we saw in 2004 and possibly even 2000. Several analysts have suggested that, as in 2000, we could see a split between the winner of the Popular Vote and the winner of the Electoral College, something that has only happened four other times in American history. If that occurs, the most likely outcome would be one where Mitt Romney wins the Popular Vote and President Obama wins the Electoral College, thanks largely to the fact that it in the Electoral College that the President has his true advantage.
I’ve made note of the narrow path to victory that Mitt Romney has in the Electoral College several times since the General Election campaign began and, notwithstanding the fact that he has risen in the polls over the past month, that analysis remains accurate today. To see why, one need only take a look at the current RCP Electoral Map:
First, a caveat is in order. There are several states listed as Toss-Ups that I don’t believe are true toss-ups. Specifically, I think it’s fairly clear that Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are likely to end up in Obama’s column. In all honesty, the Romney campaign has only made a decent run in the polls in one of those states, Wisconsin, and even there the President maintains a fairly good lead in the RCP Average. In Pennsylvania, Obama is ahead in the RCP average, and there hasn’t been a single poll showing Romney in the lead there since February. The President’s position in Michigan seems similarly secure. The final results in these states may end up being closer than some might have expected when the race started — although its worth noting that George W. Bush came within two points in Pennsylvania in 2004 and within 4 points in 2000 — but the President will win these states. Take the 46 Electoral Votes these three states represent and the President’s total increases to 247, while the number of Toss-Up Electoral Votes drops to 100. Of that 100, the President needs only to win another 23 Electoral Votes to win the Election, while Mitt Romney would need to win 79 of them, leaving very little room for error. Even assuming that Romney wins Florida where he is leading, that means he needs to find another 50 votes somewhere, and he’s not currently leading in any of the remaining Toss-Up states. If I was Obama, I’d be pretty comfortable with my path to 270. If I was Romney, I’d be a little concerned to say the least.
If you assign the Toss-Ups to the candidate currently leading in the polls, this is what the Electoral Map would look like:
Coincidentally, this is the map that I forecast in our OTB Predictions thread, although this isn’t what the No-Toss Ups map looked like over the weekend. The point is that this is the direction that the polls are pointing us. Not just one poll, not just Democratic polls, not just “skewed polls,” but all the polls. Even Rasmussen’s polling isn’t painting a very optimistic picture for the Romney campaign on this final night before Election Day. Despite that, Iv’e noticed that pretty much every pundit and blogger on the right who has weighed in on what might happen tomorrow has predicted a Romney victory, some of them to absurd lengths that include giving Romney states like Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oregon. Most of those people seem to be basing their projections not on the available evidence or some informed supposition about how the vote might go tomorrow, but on hope and blind faith. At the same time, there are also some observers that have taken a more sober view of the race who also project a Romney victory, such as Tom Dougherty, who has a background in analyzing and interpreting political data analysis such that I’m loath to question his conclusions. Perhaps it will turn out that the Pollyannas on the were correct to project a Romney landslide, or that Tom got this right and that the polls, and my own prediction were horribly wrong. If that happens, though, then I’ve got to say that we will need to seriously re-evaluate the entire science of political polling because the last time pollsters would have blown an election this badly would’ve been 1948 when Dewey didn’t defeat Truman.
I’m prepared for any eventuality tomorrow, but I remain convinced that the most likely outcome by far is that Barack Obama will be re-elected to a second term. Now, let’s let the voters decide this.