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The dynamics of this election have not changed very much since last week’s prediction, but I think some things are becoming clearer.
Does Romney have momentum?
The short answer is no. Obama’s support peaked on or around October 3rd – the day before the first presidential debate after which Romney experience a sharp jump in support. The Romney campaign rode a pretty good wave of momentum for a little over a week (about the time of the debate between Biden and Ryan). Romney’s support peaked on or around October 12th. Since that time Obama support has crept back up, perhaps as much as one point nationally and things returned to where they have been since early June. But none of this matters.
Probability goes with Obama. Voter turnout goes with Romney.
Ignore the national polls. They tell you nothing. National polling of likely voters doesn’t tell you anything either. All that matters is the Electoral College, which means the race comes down to Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Ohio. If the states break the way they are currently trending in state-wide polls, then the two biggest factors will be are Ohio and Virginia – probably in that order. Silver’s model looks not at poll numbers, but at probabilities, which is the only way to get some separation in a really tight race such as this one. The over/under in the diagram above looks to cut between Virginia and Florida.
Good News / Bad News
Good news for Romney: 1) things in Ohio look to be tightening, and 2) his base is much more enthused. This ensures a both a good voter turnout on Election Day and affords Romney the ability to keep running to the center.Bad news for Romney: Romney failed to build on the momentum of the first debate and even at his peak date (Oct. 4th), his only path to victory goes through Ohio where he trails slightly.
Good news for Obama: The electoral math is much easier for the president. Even with Romney trending in Ohio, 538 Blog gives Obama a 73% chance there. If Romney can find a way to win Ohio, Obama is still doing well in Virginia (58%), and has several other paths to 270.
Bad news for Obama: Obama still lags in the enthusiasm category. His base is not even close to as fired up as they were in 2008. Women voters who vote in economic issues are leaning Romney, and the challenger seem most likely to win the turnout war.
Voter Turnout still looks to be the key. This pits pro-Romney/con-Obama enthusiasts against Obama’s potent get out the vote machine. Real Clear Politics has Romney ahead, based on their practice of averaging different polls (which can be dubious), and giving the turnout edge to Romney.
538 Blog is still the place to look to, in my opinion, because Nate Silver’s model is the best. He predicted all but one state correctly in 2008, and did very well in the 2010 mid-term elections as well. Although, Dylan Byers gave a pretty scathing attempt at a take-down this week at Politico, with some interesting facts, Byers failed to give a viable alternative to 538. As of today, Silver gives Obama the edge at 72.9% chance of winning, down today from 74.4% yesterday, and Romney a 27.1% chance of winning. Intrade calls the race at 63%/37%.
I think the most likely scenario continues to be:
Romney gets: Florida, Virginia, Colorado, and Iowa // 263 Electoral Votes
Obama gets: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio // 275 Electoral Votes
2nd most likely scenario:
With the above scenario all you have to do is flip Ohio and Romney wins fairly big.
Romney gets: Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, and Ohio // 281 Electoral Votes
Obama gets: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio // 257 Electoral Votes
If you go on 538’s straight up statistical probabilities the race goes:
Obama: Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Ohio// 290 Electoral Votes