It’s almost over. In two more days, we should know which candidate prevailed, although with the national polls so tight it is very possible we won’t know as early as we’d like.
I’m going to make my predictions on this race based on more than just the polls. Over the past few months there have been many indicators that this race is going to be drastically different from the one we saw in 2008 — Romney’s crowd sizes, volunteer efforts, fundraising efforts, and a change in the Obama campaign from presenting the candidate as an uplifting symbol of hope to presenting him as a beleaguered president trying to claw his way to reelection.
First, I believe Romney will squeeze out a popular-vote win of about two percentage points: 50.5 to 48.5 (I’m assuming about 1 percent of the vote will go third party). This margin will be enough for Romney to win the Electoral College. Just last week, I would have predicted a slightly larger victory, but Hurricane Sandy cut a little bit of the edge Romney had by providing Obama with one last chance to leverage the advantage of the incumbency. Nonetheless, I believe Romney is headed for victory, because Republicans will pour out to vote in the numbers pollsters such as Gallup, Rasmussen, and Pew have predicted.
The most important question is how each of the battleground states goes. Here is a quick rundown of how I think they’ll end up:
Colorado will be a comfortable win for Romney of three to four points. The early voting has been a reversal from 2008, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats. As is the case in most states, supporters of Romney in Colorado are more likely to be Election Day voters, which will cement a win for Romney.
This is a state that a lot of pollsters and insiders have given to Romney for a while. Democrats have done a lot with their early-voting efforts, but it will not be enough to repeat their 2008 performance. The Sunshine State is going to be a big win for Romney.
Early voting here has been much better for Republicans than it was four years ago, though they are still behind. It is going to be a very, very close state on Election Day, but Romney can overcome the early-voting deficit here. Winning Iowa opens up the map for Romney a lot, and this is going to be a big win on Tuesday for Romney.
Of all the battleground states, Nevada was always going to be one of the toughest wins for Romney. It has a get-out-the-vote machine that propelled Harry Reid to reelection in 2010, and while the GOP has cut the early-voting edge from 2008 by a significant amount, it’s going to be very tough to overcome that deficit with Election Day voters. While this has the potential to be a big upset on Tuesday, I’m giving it to Obama.
It is no mistake that Romney is holding a final rally in New Hampshire on Monday, and this is a key state despite its having just four electoral votes. The late push should add to support from New Hampshire’s large block of independents that will vote on Tuesday, giving a small but important win to Romney.
I believe Romney wins fairly easily if for no other reason than the lack of either campaign’s making a real play here. If Team Obama expected the race to be close, it would be making a more obvious push, but the campaign has left it to surrogates for the final stretch.
The keystone of the whole election is Ohio. If Romney wins the state, it’s almost impossible for him to lose the election. If he loses here, he’ll need to pull together a few other tough states to win. The polls have not shown a consistent lead for Romney the entire campaign, but I still believe Romney will win Ohio. The early voting looks substantially different than it did in 2008, which will cut into the margins Obama needs before we get to the in-person voting on Tuesday. I’ve gone over this state countless times, and my overall feeling has not changed — Romney is going to take Ohio, and with it the election.
Romney’s making a big move into Pennsylvania in the final week is by design. The state does not have the large early-voting program that states such as Ohio and Florida have, and Republicans have managed to build a big lead among absentee voters. This has given Romney a chance to catch the Obama team off guard and pull off the last-minute upset. I think it’s going to be very close — there is the potential for a win here if Republicans can turn out every vote they can find — but for right now I think Obama holds on because of the heavy margins he will get from the Philly area.
The Old Dominion is a must-win for Romney, and he is visiting Virginia in the final days of the election to shore up enough support to carry it. Polls have been close in Virginia, which Obama carried by almost seven points in 2008. But, while it will be tight, Romney will eke out a win in Virginia.
The recall elections in 2010 and 2011 led Republicans to build a massive get-out-the-vote machine that has now been tested. Combine this already-assembled machine with Paul Ryan’s appeal, and you can understand why Wisconsin is such a competitive state. This could be razor thin, but I believe Romney will carry it thanks to very strong turnout among the base.
My final Electoral College prediction is 295 for Romney to 243 for Obama. We’ll find out in two days how close I am, but if Republicans come out Tuesday like the party-identification polls from Gallup and Rasmussen have predicted, I feel confident that Romney is going to shock the conventional wisdom set by the media and be announced as the next president of the United States.
— Josh Jordan is a small-business market-research consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @Numbersmuncher.