This is now the third consecutive presidential election in which I have made my state-by-state predictions for Blogcritics Magazine. In 2004, I was pretty good. In 2008, I was pretty bad. So I suppose we can consider 2012 to be the rubber match, or something.
What follows are the states that Barack Obama will carry easily, along with the number of Electoral College Votes for each state:
California – 55
Washington – 12
Hawaii – 4
Vermont – 3
Massachusetts – 11
Rhode Island – 4
Delaware – 3
Maryland – 10
New York – 29
New Jersey – 14
Connecticut – 7
Oregon – 7
The District of Columbia – 3
New Mexico – 5
Illinois – 20
Total Safe EC Votes For Obama: 187 (14 states plus DC)
Next are the states that Mitt Romney will carry by a wide margin:
Utah – 6
Wyoming – 3
Alaska – 3
Idaho – 4
North Dakota – 3
South Dakota – 3
Nebraska – 5
Kansas – 6
Oklahoma – 7
Texas – 38
Arkansas – 6
Louisiana – 8
Mississippi – 6
Alabama – 9
Georgia – 16
South Carolina – 9
Tennessee – 11
Kentucky – 8
West Virginia – 5
Indiana – 11
Missouri – 10
Arizona – 11
Montana – 3
Total Safe EC Votes For Romney: 191 (23 states)
The remaining 13 states are at least somewhat competitive. I will discuss them individually.
Nevada – 6
Romney has not led in a poll in Nevada this year, according to RealClearPolitics. The best result he’s had is a tie in a Rasmussen Reports poll back in early October. Obama is at or above 50% in pretty much every recent poll in the state. Lots of union members and lots of Hispanic voters means this one goes for Obama. (Obama by 4%)
Maine – 4
It is virtually certain that Obama will win more votes than Romney in Maine. But Maine is one of two states (the other being Nebraska) that awards EC votes by congressional district. Maine has two congressional districts and four Electoral College votes, so the winner of CD 1 gets one EC vote, the winner of CD 2 gets one EC vote, and the winner of the state overall gets the remaining two EC votes. Obama should handily win Maine’s 1st congressional district (in the southern coastal part of the state), but the result in the 2nd congressional district (the rest of the state) is more uncertain. Although I suspect Romney will keep it close in the 2nd CD, I believe that Obama will ultimately win both congressional districts, and therefore all four of Maine’s EC votes. (Obama by 3% in the 2nd CD, by 6% in the state overall)
Minnesota – 10
Minnesota has not gone for a Republican since Richard Nixon’s landslide reelection in 1972. But remember that George W. Bush came within three points of winning the state in 2004, and recent polls have shown a definite tightening in the race. In fact, one poll taken in late October showed Romney leading by a point. However that polling firm is known to have a Republican bias, and that was the only poll this year showing Romney ahead. Obama will win it. (Obama by 5%)
Michigan – 16
Michigan is the state where Mitt Romney and his wife Ann were born, and where Mitt’s father was a popular governor in the 1960s. Several polls over the summer showed Romney slightly ahead here, but since late August only a single polling firm (Foster McCollum White Baydoun) has shown Romney tied or ahead. The rest show Obama with a small lead. Obama should win here. (Obama by 4%)
North Carolina – 15
Obama won this state by less than half a percent in 2008, but Democrats must have believed they had a real shot to win it again seeing as how they decided to hold the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Unfortunately for them, Obama has not held a lead in the state since a SurveyUSA poll taken in late September/early October. Public Policy Polling (PPP) keeps showing the race a tie, but they are not, shall we say, the most credible polling firm out there. Most other pollsters show Romney leading by between five and eight points. (Romney by 7%)
Florida – 29
An absolute must-win state for Romney. Luckily for him, he looks likely to win it. Since early October, the vast majority of polls taken in the state (18 of 25) show Romney ahead, several with leads of five percent or more. Of the six polls showing Obama ahead, five of them are by a single point and the other one is by just two points. And two of those polls are by PPP. One poll shows a tie. Obama is not above 50% in any of the 25 polls. He won’t be winning the Sunshine State this time around. (Romney by 4%)
New Hampshire – 4
Polls throughout mid and late 2011 showed Romney beating Obama here, by as much as 11%. Then Obama was in the lead for most of 2012, and one poll in late September showed him leading Romney by 15 points. But after Romney clobbered Obama in the first presidential debate, things changed almost instantly. Romney was ahead or tied in six of eight polls taken in the state between October 9th and October 23rd. Since then, though, Romney has not led in a single poll. But the three most recent polls (all from this month) show Romney down by 2, down by 1, and tied. None of those polls have Obama above 50%. The poll showing the two percent Obama lead is PPP, so you can pretty much discard that one. Basically, this state is tied.
Let’s take a look at exit polls from the last two presidential elections for some insight. In 2008, the electorate in New Hampshire was 29% Democrat, 27% Republican, and 45% Independent (D+2). Independents swung to Obama by 20 points. Obama won the state by nine percent over John McCain.
The electorate in 2004 was 25% Democrat, 32% Republican, and 44% Independent (R+7). Independents supported Kerry over Bush by 14%. Kerry beat Bush by one percent.
Presumably the electorate in 2012 will look closer to 2004′s electorate than 2008′s electorate. Or at least somewhere in between. The partisan breakdown of the recent UNH poll that shows the race to be a 48-48 tie is 29% Democrat, 31% Republican, and 38% Independent (R+2 skew). Romney leads among Independents by two percent. This sounds somewhat reasonable.
But the other recent poll, by Gravis Marketing, does not sound reasonable when you look at the internals. It shows Obama leading 50-49 and has a breakdown of 35% Democrats, 30% Republicans, and 35% Independents (D+5). Romney is winning Independent voters by 2%. They undersample Independents (who narrowly favor Romney) and oversample Democrats. They have a D+5 skew to this poll, when the 2008 Obama landslide was only D+2. Sorry, I’m not buying it.
With an electorate that looks more like 2004 than 2008, and with Independents favoring him, Romney wins New Hampshire narrowly. (Romney by 2%)
Iowa – 6
I wrote a piece for another publication a few months back explaining why Romney would win Iowa. You can read it here. Basically, I am ignoring the polls for this state. The electorate in Iowa, based on actual data from the state on who is registered to vote, is going to look quite similar to 2004, when Bush narrowly carried the state. It will look nothing like 2008, when Obama won Iowa by 10 points. Throw in the fact that Obama’s early voting lead is smaller than he had in 2008, and the Des Moines Register’s shocking endorsement of Romney, and I’m sticking with my prediction. (Romney by 1%)
Virginia – 13
Recent polls show the state pretty much tied. Early voting totals from counties Obama won in 2008 are down, so it’s fair to say that Democrat turnout will be lower than in the last election. Obama won the state by seven points in 2008, and exit polls showed that Democrats had a six percent turnout advantage that year. Obama and McCain were basically tied among Independents. Exit polls from 2004, when Bush won the state by eight points, showed that Republicans had a four point turnout advantage. Independents went for Bush by 10 points over Kerry.
A late October poll by Gravis Marketing shows Romney and Obama tied at 48% apiece. This poll has an unrealistic D+8 skew to its sample. Independents favor Romney by an astonishing 27 points, but the poll is a tie because of their absurd sample.
Roanoke College released a poll in late October showing Romney ahead 49-44. This poll has a D+4 sample and showed Romney leading by 26% among Independents.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that enthusiasm for Obama in Northern Virginia is not what it was four years ago, while GOP enthusiasm is much stronger. Romney needs to win Virginia, and he will. (Romney by 3%)
Colorado – 9
Another state that appears to be basically tied. Let’s look at those fun exit polls again. In 2008, Obama won the state by nine points. Republicans actually had a 31-30 turnout advantage over the Democrats, but Independent voters supported Obama by 10% over McCain.
In 2004, Bush beat Kerry in Colorado by five points. Republicans had a nine point turnout advantage that year, according to exit polls. Independents favored Kerry by seven percent.
Based on the above, one would expect the GOP to have a turnout advantage of around maybe 5% or so this year. So let’s look at some recent polling in the state. Purple Strategies released a poll in late October showing Obama leading Romney 47-46. The poll shows Obama and Romney tied among Independent voters. They used a D+1 sample size. In other words, the pollsters apparently believe that enthusiasm for Obama in Colorado has actually increased since 2008. Unreal.
American Research Group also released a poll in late October. It showed Romney ahead of Obama 48-47. The poll uses an R+2 sample size, which is certainly more realistic than the Purple Strategies poll, but probably still undersamples Republicans/oversamples Democrats. Independents in this poll surprisingly favored Obama by 8%.
So let’s look at a Marist poll from late October. It shows a tie race, 48-48. The sample was D+1, the same as Purple Strategies. Sigh.
Okay. How about the SurveyUSA poll from late October that shows Obama leading Romney 47-45? D+1 sample. Wow.
Look, these polls are almost certainly based on a false premise about what the electorate is going to be in Colorado. But even if they are correct about the composition of the electorate, the race is basically tied, and undecided voters tend to break for the challenger over the incumbent. Romney will win Colorado. (Romney by 3%)
Wisconsin – 10
Romney has not had a lead in Wisconsin since mid August. The two most recent polls from Rasmussen Reports have the race tied 49-49, but every other poll shows Obama ahead. The GOP has a superb ground game in Wisconsin after all the recall battles over the past two years, and the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, knows the state very well. Oh, yeah, and Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan is a sitting congressman from Wisconsin. That helps, too. But I suspect all of that will only serve to keep the final outcome close. (Obama by 2%)
Pennsylvania – 20
There is no question that the race in Pennsylvania is a lot closer than it was just a few weeks ago. There is no question that Romney is seriously contesting the state. The majority of recent polls show Obama below 50%. But this is probably an instance of too little, too late. Pennsylvania has not gone Republican for president since 1988. That’s almost a quarter century of voting for Democrats. Obama won the state by 11% in 2008. He won’t win by nearly that much this time, but he should still win. (Obama by 4%)
Ohio – 18
We’ve been hearing for months how it’s all going to come down to Ohio, and guess what? It’s all going to come down to Ohio.
Obama won Ohio by 5% in 2008, or by a margin of about 262,000 votes. (Keep that number in mind.) Exit polls show that there was a D+8 advantage in turnout four years ago, and Independents (about 30% of the electorate) went for Obama by eight points.
In 2004, as you probably recall, Bush narrowly defeated Kerry in Ohio by two percent, or a margin of about 119,000 votes. Exit polls showed Republicans had a five point turnout advantage, which was important because Independent voters (25% of the electorate in 2004) went for Kerry by almost 20 points. Republican turnout was almost certainly boosted by Ohio State Issue 1, a ballot measure to make it unconstitutional to perform or recognize same sex marriages in the state.
So it’s fair to say that there will be no R+5 turnout this election. But then, there very likely won’t be a D+8 turnout, either.
On to the polls. Romney has had the lead in exactly one poll (Rasmussen Reports, by two points) since early October. He has been tied in five others (two of which were also by Rasmussen Reports). In the polls in which he is trailing (which is most of them), the margin has been anywhere from one point to six points.
Let’s take a look at the most recent poll from Marist. It has Obama leading Romney 51-45. The sample is D+9. Ridiculous.
The Columbus Dispatch has a poll showing Obama up 50-48. It has a D+3 sample size (possible). Independents favor Obama by 10 percent. That seems unlikely. Are Independent voters really more supportive of Obama now than they were in 2008?
The University of Cincinnati poll shows Obama leading 48-46. It has a D+1 sample (possible). Obama has a whopping (and difficult to believe) 14% lead among Independents.
Gravis Marketing shows Obama leading 50-49. It has a D+8 skew (not at all likely). In this poll, Independents support Romney by 12 points. Hmmm.
Quinnipiac’s most recent poll in Ohio has Obama up 50-45. It has a D+9 skew (nope). Independents favor Romney by six points.
So as you can see, the polls are all over the place. They either have unrealistic skews that favor Democrats, or they have an unrealistic percentage of Independent voters supporting Obama.
But we do have some actual hard data from Ohio, besides polls. Remember the number I wrote above, Obama’s margin of victory in Ohio in 2008? That number is roughly 262,000 votes. Well, about 180,000 fewer Democrats have voted early in Ohio than voted early in 2008. And about 75,000 more Republicans have voted early than did in 2008. Add those numbers together, and you get a net gain of 255,000 votes for the GOP. Which pretty much wipes out Obama’s margin of victory from four years ago.
If Team Romney has a strong enough Election Day ground game in Ohio, he will win. And I think he does. (Romney by less than 1%)
Total Electoral College Votes:
Romney/Ryan – 285 (30 states)
Obama/Biden – 253 (20 states plus DC)
Popular Vote: Romney/Ryan 51%, Obama/Biden 48%
Oh, and if I’m right, I demand my own blog at The New York Times.