So. Well. Here it is. This is where the rubber hits the road.
After months – nay years – of fulminating and opinionising (great word, huh?) on the likely result of the 2012 Presidential election, this is now our considered view of what will happen tomorrow, so we can be hung out to dry or lauded as geniuses, when the actual results are known.
It’s currently about 9.00 am on Monday on the east coast of America. It is reasonable to assume that the various party managers will not allow anything much to affect the overall outcome now.
What matters now is trends, and the trends are heading Obama’s way, strongly during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and gently now, the waters are pretty much stagant. The electorate has politics exhaustion.
We are gliding to a predictable result, unless everyone polled by everybody has been lying through their teeth – which is, it has to be said, entirely possible.
State by state, we tell you what will happen
We give the key battleground state of Ohio to Obama. Primary reason – the stimulus. Whether or not one agrees with it and its targeting, it shored up hundreds of thousands jobs in the state directly or indirectly. People simply won’t forget – well, enough people won’t forget. What’s more, recent growth in the energy sector (amongst others) in the state actually has its unemployment level comfortably below the national average. No Republican candidate has ever found a way to the White House without Ohio in the bag, and the latest RCP rolling average has it +2.9 for Obama.
More importantly, it has been for Obama to one degree or another in every poll since 23rd October. The ground campaign has also been very effective for the President in the seat. Obama only won it by 4.6% in 2008, and there is unquestionably less enthusiasm for him this time than last time, and – yes – the Republican ground campaign is better organised there than ever before. Nevertheless, it is the trend to Obama that interests us. So – Ohio goes for Obama.
Although it is tightening, we give the other huge and vital battleground state of Florida to Romney.
Both sides have poured work into there, but in my view the state is gradually becoming more conservative, not less, and the Obama campaign have failed to reassure the elderly on Obamacare, or frighten them enough on the vouchers for Medicare issue. Also, the strong Jewish vote may be less than enthusiastic about Obama’s obviously less aggressive attitude to Arab states in the Middle East, and less than cheerful embrace of Benjamin Netanyahu. On the other hand, the large Latino vote is breaking strongly for Obama.
In the end, barring seeing precinct by precinct pre-polling data, it’s a gut call. I have always thought in a tight race that Obama would lose Florida, and I see no reason, even though Romney is currently only 1.4% ahead, to change my mind, especially as he has been so consistently for a while now. What’s more, just watching Obama adviser David Axelrod on TV, (and I consider myself a good judge of body language and facial expression) he looked utterly convincing when he called Ohio for his team, and a lot less so when he spoke of “good reports” from the southern state. So – Florida for Romney.
(What will also be interesting in Florida is when it “declares”. If it is early, and it is for Romney, it will be treated as bigger news than frankly one thinks it should be. For that reason, I expect multiple challenges and recounts all over the state from the Democrats, some of them frivolous, to delay the result here being published or assumed with any certainty, until Ohio, where a very high percentage of ballots have already been cast, declares for the President.)
The next key state to consider is Virginia. I have long been of the view that Virginia will go for Romney, largely because of the military influence, and also because it is essentially a safe “red” state, giving Bush the Younger wins by plus 8% twice in a row before the Obama bandwagon rolled through in 2008.
Yet it is now possibly the most fascinating contest of the lot, as it stays stubbornly in the “too close to call” camp, with Obama leading by just 0.2% in the rolling average of the polls.
The interesting thing here is that the trend is now firmly towards Obama, and the growth of younger, affluent voters now living in the state and commuting elsewhere is supposed to aid him. What’s more, Axelrod (whose face is usually very revealing, so I really don’t know why the Obama camp puts him up on TV, personally) almost jumped out of his chair with obvious delight when he claimed that he was thinking Obama would win there, and I thought he looked completely sincere.
Another interesting factor is that except for two tiny blips (around the first disastrous debate for Obama) Romney has trailed by a substantial factor in the state since February. Then again, that could be said of many places around the nation. But after agonised consideration I am going to go against the current opinion trends and say that I think Romney will win Virginia – just. So that’s another 13 votes for the Republicans in the electoral college, and although its near neighbour North Carolina has often been considered to be in play I think that’s solidified for the Governor too; he’s up round about 3-4%, here so make that another 15 votes for Romney.
But there I really believe the good news for Romney ends. Of the other toss up states I honestly only think he has a chance in Colorado, where Obama is leading by about half a percentage point, having won it by 9% last time. Here again, though, the trend has recently been away from Romney and towards Obama. Obama is starting to look like a winner, and that all-important oh-so-elusive “Big Mo” or momentum becomes vitally important in very tight races. Also, for a state to go plus 9% to negative is a hell of a leap, even with an unpopular Presidential incumbent. I would say Obama’s loss over his 2008 performance will – overall – be in the region of 6-8%, although in a couple of states it may go as high as 10%.
On that basis Colorado is line ball, (9 electoral college votes) and so, looking westward, is Nevada (six votes).
But, and perhaps crucially, it’s worth noting that Colorado is two hours behind the Eastern seaboard, and Nevada three hours. Exit polls will slam onto the airwaves giving Florida to Romney and Ohio to Obama within seconds of the eastern polls closing.
This will have two effects in the swing states of Colorado and Nevada. Firstly, it will call the race as close and encourage late voters and those intending to vote on the way home to actually do so. And the higher the turnout, the more the Obama camp will like it. Second, it will demoralise some Republicans and boost Democrats, because the prevailing commentators mantra (except on Fox News) will be “Romney can’t win without Ohio, it’s all over bar the shouting”.
And if that sounds as if it is contradictory (on the one hand calling the race as close, and on the other calling it as a likely Obama victory) the two effects do not actually cancel each other out.
Why? Well, people like being on the winning side: so a small but significant number of possible Obama voters will be persuaded to jump on the winning ship.
People also like being in a close race and thinking their vote matters – but the effect is stronger with unenthusiastic voters who might otherwise stay home. So that factor – a close race – will, I believe, be marginally more effective for the Democrats than the GOP.
So: I give both these states, with some degree of nervousness, to Obama. But I freely admit I might be wrong. The effort going into local Senate and other races will matter, and certainly in Colorado I think those are leaning to the GOP. Who’d be a poll predictor, eh?
But after that small caveat, I frankly consider Romney is toast.
I remain to be convinced otherwise, but I simply do not see any of New Hampshire, Michigan – for heaven’s sake, the state only still exists as a going concern thanks to Obama’s largesse – Wisconsin or Pennsylvania (despite much huff and puff about the latter by the right, desperately trying to offset a loss in Ohio) being in play any more.
NH voters are notoriously independent. They will have been impressed by Obama’s efforts over the “superstorm”, and warmed to him very late. (This state always decides late, anyhow.) Four more votes for Obama.
Wisconsin is more problematical but the figures look like it is following its neighbours in reluctantly holding its nose and giving the President from the big smoke over their border another chance. Ten in Obama’s column.
Pennsylvania is a biggie – 20 electoral college votes – but in my view it is simply too urbanised, overall, to fall to the Republicans. With the exception of one poll (a tie) it has been in plus territory for Obama since the 21st October, and currently by nearly 4%, and if, for example, I give Florida to Romney on the basis that the trend has comfortably been his way for a while (which is one of the other reasons I like him there) then it seems logical to give Pennsylvania, despite a new TV buy by the GOP, to Obama.
And any talk, in my opinion, that Iowa (6 votes), Minnesota (10 votes) or Oregon (7 votes) are in play for Romney is purely fanciful. And beyond that, the latest margins reported by polls in other states are all so large as to make any late changes in their likely result impossible.
The what if game
But let’s play a game. Let’s pretend I am allowing my pro-Democrat rose-tinted glasses to cloud my independent commentator judgement, and let’s give everything that’s called a toss up to Romney except, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which I really do think are so solid for the President now that it would be pointless messing around with them.
I call this the “Crazy Game Scenario”
Let’s give Romney all of Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota, and Oregon. It’s highly unlikely, of course, that every single swing state listed would flop into the Romney column, but not literally impossible. On that basis, Romney/Ryan actually win by 280-258.
But remember, as at today the polls have Obama leading in Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota and Oregon. It would be an earthquake for the Republicans to win this way.
The “Best Revenge Is Voting Scenario”
Let’s give Florida, Virginia – yes, still – and North Carolina to Romney, and Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota and Oregon to Obama. Under this scenario (which on current polling is at the very least “likely”) then this gives the race to Obama by 290 to 248, a Democrat majority in the electoral college of 42.
If by some remarkable result Axelrod’s confidence is well founded and Obama takes Virginia as well, then the math becomes Obama 303 Romney 235, or a majority of 68. This is also conceivable. And there’s a lot of people around who think it’s becoming likely as we are about to see.
If I was a betting man – which I am – I’d therefore be having a close look at an Obama victory in the region of 20-42 electoral college votes, and probably nearer the upper end of that spread.
If you feel like having apunt, then these two options are currently offered at 7-2 (270-289 electoral college votes) and 5-2 (290-309 electoral college votes) respectively on Ladbrokes (UK), for example, so one could take both bets and still end up ahead. But you can do better with tighter spreads – for example, you can get 6-1 around the traps for 281-290 electoral college votes if you hunt. Oddschecker.com might be helpful.
As these figures reflect actual money being invested by people who are studying the runes and placing often substantial sums on as a result of their research, they are historically often better indicators of likely outcomes than anything else.
Interestingly there has obviously been substantial money on a big Obama win – garnering as many 330-349 electoral college votes – as the odds I have spotted are miserly, just 3-1.
You can also get a little worse than even money, 5/6, on Obama getting under 304 electoral college votes. That might be a smart bet if you can afford to put enough on it to make an even money bet worthwhile.
I can tell you that looking around the betting websites, I see the bookies have the Democrats favourites in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, and even Virginia. They are such strong favourites in New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada and Iowa that they aren’t worth a bet. The smart money currently has Romney winning Florida – just.
Some serious money has gone down on some sites for a Democrat win in Virginia. Ditto, they are almost unbackable in Pennsylvania, which is supposed to be the state that is rescuing Romney’s ass. Er, not.
Overall, the Democrats are almost an un-backable favourite, both to win the Presidency and the popular vote.
OK, so that’s about it.
As I have said consistently for six months, Obama will win, probably about 40 electoral votes ahead, maybe as little as 20 (unlikely) maybe as high as 60-70 ahead (unlikely, but possible).
Oh, and as I have said elsewhere, I haven’t got an election result in the USA, UK, or Australia wrong in over 35 years. (This of course means it is certain I have got this one way wrong, I guess!) But I take no responsibility whatsoever for you losing your shirt on the result, whatever it is.
In short: all care, no responsibility, people.
Enjoy watching the results flow in. Come Wednesday, we can all get back to talking about the football.