Saturday, June 23, 2012

Electoral College - 4 months out...

Time for another look at the electoral map.  In short, I see it being more competitive race from when I last looked at this back in February.

With national polls now showing a tied race, this erases much of the advantage that Obama had a few months ago.  The Republican Party has solidified behind Romney and the poor jobs reports and economic jitters about Europe has led to a more pessimistic (and anti-incumbent) mood.  But, this race is won state by state (election day consists of  51 separate elections, there is no "national election" based on the national popular vote) therefore looking at state polling will give further direction to "accurately" predicting a winner.  OK, there is no true accuracy at this stage, but it is important to try and project which states will be in play 136 days hence.

For calculating the "safe" or "swing" states, I used a mixture of state polling data and a particular state's electoral history and political disposition.  This is a snapshot as of June 23 and events and how the fall campaign is waged may well rejigger the map to some extent.  However, it is most likely that the election will be won or lost depending on how the swing states shake out.

The below map shows the likely Obama states (201 EVs) in Blue and the likely Romney states (191 EVs) in Red.  The 11 likely swing states (146 EVs) where the election will be decided are Tan.

This is much like the 2008 electoral map except that both MO and IN are in the Romney column.  Unless there are major unforeseen changes those states are likely to go back to the Republican column. Lets take each of the swing states and give them a more detailed look...

North Carolina - 15 EVs: The Tarheel State which is historically Republican was captured by Obama by a whisker in 2008.  This was mainly driven by high African-American and college student turnout.Current head to head polling shows Romney with a small, but consistent lead.  Early prediction - Romney

Nevada - 6 EVs: This state is an interesting mix with both a sizable Hispanic and Mormon population.  Won easily by Obama in 2008, Nevada is a battleground once more. However, I think that the president's advantage among Hispanics will pull it out for him in the end. Early prediction - Obama

Iowa - 6 EVs: Recent polling shows this state as tied which is good news for Romney. Obama is well-organized here and this will be nip and tuck.  However, Iowa is very white and this is a group that has been deserting Obama in droves since 2008. Early prediction - Romney

Colorado - 9 EVs: This is an eclectic state with a conservative rural and military population combined with liberal meccas like Boulder.  A high Hispanic turnout should help Obama, but early polling shows a very close race.  I have to flip a coin on this one. Early Prediction - Obama

Florida - 29 EVs:  This is a must-win for Romney and lends some weight to selecting Sen. Rubio for VP. Florida historically leans Republican, but Obama will be very competitive here.  But I see Romney pulling it out in the end based on his strong lead among voters over age 50. Early Prediction - Romney

Virginia - 13 EVs:  The Old Dominion is getting more purple than it was thanks to an influx of wealthy, educated, and socially liberal whites in the DC suburbs, but much of it remains part of the old South.  Republicans won big here in 2010, but I think Obama prevails here for a second time due to a large and enthusiastic turnout in Fairfax County. This will be very closely contested.  Early prediction - Obama

Pennsylvania - 20 EVs: Described by strategist James Carville as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on the ends with Alabama in the middle, PA is a state with a split personality.  Romney will win in the rural central part of the state and in coal country while Obama will rake in the urban areas.  The election will be won in suburbia but with a historic Democratic lean I will place PA (for now) as an Obama state. Early prediction - Obama

Ohio - 18 EVs:  Another must win for Romney; no Republican has won the presidency in recent history without the Buckeye state. Again this is a battle to be waged in suburban Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati with Romney winning big in rural areas and Obama holding the cities.  This will be close, but I give the edge to Romney at this point. Early prediction - Romney

Michigan - 16 EVs:  Obama seemed very strong here a month ago, but recent polling shows a closer race.  Romney has family ties here, but his opposition to the auto bailout has hurt him. MI has been trending Democratic in recent years and while close, I think Obama will squeak it out here.  Early prediction - Obama

Wisconsin - 10 EVs: This state was very close in 2000 and 2004, but was won easily by Obama in 2008.  The recent failure of the recall election against Gov. Walker and a strong Republican organization makes this very competitive this time around.  A possible Paul Ryan VP pick makes this even more interesting. Another coin flip...Early prediction - Romney

New Hampshire - 4 EVs:  In an election as potentially close as this one, the Granite State's four electoral voes may decide the winner. Historically Republican, but trending Democratic, this will be close.  Romney has spent a lot of time here, but polling shows that his move to the political right may hurt him in this libertarian state.  One more coin flip.  Early prediction - Obama

Now lets take a look at my initial prediction map - subject to change at a minute's notice!

Yes - 269 to 269, a tie!  In this case, it goes to the House of Representative in which each state receives one vote.  26 states carry the day and thus the presidency.  In this scenario, Romney would likely win as Republicans have the congressional majority in more state delegations than do the Democrats.  This would also precipitate a deep national discussion of the Electoral College itself and as many states will be close there may well be numerous recounts, lawsuits, etc -  in other words a potential mess.

I think that this will be a close race, much more similar to 2004/2000 than a 2008 or 1996 model.  But events will drive this race and it is possible that the map may change significantly in the coming weeks and months.  It will be anything, but boring.  Fasten your seat-belts!


The Prof