I generally think that the media’s obsession with pre-election polling — and the frenzied, horserace nature of it — is a particularly idle waste of our collective time and attention. The vote tally tomorrow is the only poll that matters.
However, with that said, I want to put on record what I think the votes will show. I do this not to promote a particular point of view (I am voting for Obama, to be clear), but instead am writing my predictions here in order to grade myself — and allow myself to be graded — once the votes have in fact been tallied.
The sources I am using to compile this state by state forecast are Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog for the New York Times, Public Policy Polling, YouGov’s data collection, and my professors of American Government and fellow classmates here at Georgetown. We have been tracking and debating these numbers for months now, and here’s what I think we will see on Wednesday morning:
Romney takes the dead Right give-aways. For the sake of this list, “dead Right” denotes states whose Republican advantage lies above 7% (the threshold for a “lock”) as well as the major national polls’ (Pew, Rasmussen, RAND and Politico) margins of error. So, here are the states that we’ll most assuredly see red come tomorrow (electoral college votes are in parenthesis): Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Arizona (11), Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Carolina (15), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3).
The final tally of these numbers: 206
Obama will take the far Left leaners. In my calculation, again, a “far Left” state is one which major national polls show to be Democratic, beyond the 7% threshold and poll’s particular margin of error. Thus, these are the states that will turn blue Tuesday: California (55), Connecticut (7), District of Columbia (3), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Nevada (6), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (20), Rhoda Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (12)
The final tally of these numbers: 243
This leaves seven states swinging in the balance.
Colorado (9) – Colorado may be the closest state to call this election, and from what I can tell, it’s almost a dead heat. The state was a surprise win for Obama in 2008, as Coloradans are known for their aversion to big government and embrace of more libertarian policies. However, I think Obama will carry Colorado, and I say this for two primary reasons. First, Democrats won Senate and Governorship races in Colorado in 2008, signaling a paradigm shift in the state’s partisan leaning. Secondly, Politico and YouGov both give Obama a slight (1-3 percentage point) lead in the state, while Reuters (via Ipsos) is the only poll showing a lead (by 2%) for Mr. Romney. Both Sabato and Silver give a slight advantage to Obama, too.
Florida (29) – In light of its particularly sluggish economy and slack housing market, I believe that Florida will most likely tilt away from the incumbent who carried it in 2008. Mitt Romney is showing as much as a 5 point lead in some polls, as the swaths of senior citizens, which populate key counties in the state, will surely show up in high numbers to pull the levers for Romney — a man they see as less threatening towards Medicare.
Iowa (6) – As of Friday, every major poll shows that Obama is winning in Iowa (by between 2-5%). Ann Selzer and Jennifer Jacobs, who are the most rigorous state-level pollsters in Iowa, also have Obama in the lead (by 5 percentage points as of November 3rd). Thus, despite Romney’s dynamic campaigning in the state, Iowa will be blue once again.
New Hampshire (4) – New Hampshire became a surprise concern for the Democrats this year, and in response, an unusually high amount of campaigning has been done (particularly by Vice President Biden) to try to close the usually Democratic state. In contrast to its neighbors, New Hampshire is traditionally known for its moderate voting patterns, and the fact that Mitt Romney maintains a second home in the state further pulls the electorate to vote for what they see as a native son. However, despite this, I am calling New Hampshire for Obama based on the polls done by Gravis, YouGov, Politico, and the University of New Hampshire, as well as the astute analysis of the state done by Nate Silver. Larry Sabato has also called New Hampshire for Obama. NH is going D.
Ohio (18) – The candidate who has won Ohio has won the last 12 presidential elections, and there are very few scenarios in which Romney can take the White House without first taking the Buckeye state. Thus, Ohio is key to a Romney victory. However, as polls show and analysts seem to agree, Obama is holding on to an excruciatingly close lead in the state, bolstered by a growing state economy and his support for the auto bailout (and related smear campaign of Romney’s opposition to it).
Virginia (13) – Obama won Virginia by seven percentage points in 2008; however, it looks like Romney will take the state this year. Due to its rapidly shifting demographics, Virginia is a new battleground state, one which has seen some of the most intensive campaigning of this election cycle. Ipsos, YouGov, Politico, and NBC are each currently showing Obama with a slight lead, yet the margins are slim and fluctuating and fail to account for the state’s shifty voter turnout. I think it’s in Romney’s hands, but this could very well be the closest call of the election.
Wisconsin (10) – Democrats have won in Wisconsin the last six elections (yes, even Dukakis carried it in 1988). However, the Republican ticket’s addition of Paul Ryan — a native of Janesville, WI and Representative from the state’s first district — has pulled the state towards the center. However, polls still show Obama with a slight lead in the state, and Sabato has officially predicted a Democratic victory. Nate Silver has even taken Wisconsin out of his “swing state” column, giving Obama a 94.5% chance of victory. I won’t argue with that.
As a result, my prediction can be summarized in three sentences. Mitt Romney wins 248 Electoral College votes. Barack Obama wins 290 Electoral College votes. Bo the dog will be first pup for another four years.