It’s the weekend before the 2012 Presidential election and, as the kids in the business say, this cake is pretty much baked. All that needs to happen now is for it to be sliced up and served. That being the case, I’m going to go ahead and put my marker down: I think that President Obama is going to get re-elected, and I think this is the map that’s going to keep him in the White House.
Note I have a couple of states here that I think are more uncertain than others. For Obama, I think my three shakiest states for him are Virginia, New Hampshire and Iowa. However, he could lose all three of them and still have 271 electoral votes, which is still a win. For Romney, the shakiest states I see are Florida and Colorado. He doesn’t want to lose either, but if he loses Florida, where the polling is very close at the moment, then Romney is in for a very bad night indeed. My understanding of the electoral math is that if Romney loses Florida, he’s going to have to win every other swing state. And right now, the polling of the swing states looks pretty grim for him.
In my own estimation, the most likely Romney win scenario would be Romney 285, Obama 253, in which Romney, in addition to the states he wins in the map above, wins Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire and Iowa. I think if Romney does win Ohio, these three states are likely to come along as part of the pot. He could shed either Virginia or Iowa and New Hampshire in that scenario and still win. However, as noted, if we wins all those states but not Ohio, he’s toast. So for better or worse, I think the election really will come down to Ohio.
That said, while I think the Romney 285 is the most likely Romney victory map, I don’t think a Romney victory is likely in a general sense. As noted, the latest round of state polling doesn’t seem to be going Romney’s way, and while polls can certainly be wrong or show a statistical bias, at this point, pretty much all the polls would have to be statistically biased in the same direction. That’s possible, but also unlikely. Alternately, the polls could simply not be seeing a vast groundswell of Romney voters hitting the polls in the swing states. This is why we have the actual elections, rather than simply declaring the winners from the last set of polls.
One scenario folks talk about for this year is Obama winning the electoral vote while Romney wins the popular vote. I don’t personally see that as likely, but I think it’s more likely than the other way around, or Romney winning both. The most likely way this happens is lopsided voting in highly populated red states plus more Romney voters than expected in deeply blue states like California and New York. What will it mean if Romney wins the popular but loses the electoral? Ask former president Gore this question. For my part I will admit it would be initially amusing to watch the same people who defended Bush’s 2000 win completely lose their minds about Obama’s 2012 win in this sort of scenario, but that would grow old very quickly. However, my own expectation is that Obama will end up with a narrow popular win to go with his electoral win.
As a huge believer in participatory democracy, I don’t think the current round of polling should either give Obama supporters a false sense of complacency, or give Romney supporters a false sense of fatalism. Obama could lose if his supporters decide their vote is not needed this time around; Romney could definitely win if there’s a rush of his supporters to the polls. The best way to show your support for either of these candidates — or any other candidate for President whom you support and who is on your state’s ballot — is to actually show up and vote.
(Want to make your own electoral map? I made mine via RealClearPolitics’ “Create Your Own Map” page. Have fun.)