If you read yesterday’s look at the swing states, you’ll have a good sense of how I think this election will end on Tuesday. In short, President Obama will win reelection and keep every state where he currently holds a lead. It looks like Obama will lose around 2.5 points from his national vote share in 2008.
This is a bit crude, but if you subtract that from his 2008 totals in every swing state, you end up with this map, and my prediction for November 6: An Obama win in New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada, with Romney wins in North Carolina and Florida. That means the president claims 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 235, and he ekes out a popular-vote victory of 50.4 percent to Romney’s 48.2.
How do I figure all that? Averaging the polling averages, Obama holds greater than 2-point leads in Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and New Hampshire. Unless something catastrophic happens between now and Tuesday, it’s safe to say he’ll keep them. Likewise, Romney holds a greater than 2-point lead in North Carolina and a slight advantage in Florida. I’m not sure how the latter will turn out, but my hunch is that Romney will be able to hold it.
That leaves Colorado and Virginia. Colorado is easy to explain: Obama leads in six of the last ten polls (one is a tie), and he holds a 1-point edge in the averages. Colorado is the site of intense organizing for the Obama campaign, and there’s a real possibility that pollsters are repeating the mistakes of 2010 and undercounting Latino voters. If that’s true, then Colorado is not as close as it looks. Regardless, I think Organizing for America’s efforts will pay off, and keep the state in Obama’s column.
Virginia is much closer, although Obama's position has improved substantially in the last two weeks. The most recent polls show an exact tie, or the slightest of leads for the president. With that said, Virginia is a state where Democrats focused a huge amount of energy on reaching, contacting, and turning out voters. I think these efforts will pay off, and Obama will keep the state in his corner.
What about the Senate? It’s obvious that Democrats will keep their majority. The only question is, by how much? Elizabeth Warren will almost certainly win in Massachusetts, as will Bill Nelson in Florida, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Chris Murphy in Connecticut, and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
Wisconsin and Virginia are closer races, but both Tammy Baldwin and Tim Kaine have maintained clear leads for the last month of their respective contests. And since I think Virginia will go for Obama, I’m inclined to think that it will do so for Tim Kaine as well, unless you can imagine the voter who supports Barack Obama and (noted racist) George Allen.
It’s a bit harder to call the races in Indiana and Montana, but my hunch is that Democrat Joe Donnelly will prevail against Richard Mourdock, and that Jon Tester will eke out the slightest of victories against Republican challengers Danny Rehberg, but I wouldn’t bet any money on it. As for the surprisingly competitive races in Arizona, Nevada, and North Dakota? I’d be surprised if Republicans didn’t win those seats. Overall, I expect Democrats to have a 52 votes, with Bernie Sanders joining them as an independent for a 53-seat majority. Whether they have 54 seats depends on whether Maine former governor Angus King, an independent who is certain to replace Republican Olympia Snowe, decides to caucus with Democrats.
One last thing. After the first presidential debate, I predicted two things: First, that the debate wouldn’t have much of an effect on polling of the race—I was wrong, it had a big effect. Second, I said that by the end of October, “odds are good that Obama will be where he was at the beginning of the month—ahead.” This was on the mark. With hindsight, we can see that that the first debate was a “reset” of the campaign; it allowed Romney to recapture lost Republican support, and boosted his standing with independent and undecided voters. But over the next few weeks, the race moved back to its pre-debate equilibrium: Democrats regained their enthusiasm for President Obama, and independents began to split more evenly for the two candidates.
In other words, if Obama wins on Tuesday, the political science on debates will have won out; they can shift the short-term situation, but they don’t fundamentally change the direction of an election.