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2012 Election Prediction

Who Will Win The Swing States?

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2012 Election Prediction

Mitt Romney in Iowa

Steve Pope, Getty Images
Updated November 05, 2012
It probably will not be a surprise that I will predict Mitt Romney to win the presidential election. It is always hard to put aside political leanings when making predictions and providing analysis. This is true whether you are an admitted liberal or conservative writer, and even if you are positioned as a non-partisan journalist attempting to hide a political persuasion to remain credible. I'll try to make this short, but also as objective as possible. I've obsessed over data for months like many other political junkies, and know just about every county in Ohio and how each county has voted for the last decade. Trust me, that is a lot more than I ever wanted to know.

How I Picked the Winners

Polls often provide a useful starting point. The wide Romney margins in both Missouri and Indiana left them out of battleground status this year. The national polls are almost tie across the board, with the rough figure being 48% for each candidate. State polls show all of the battlegrounds within a few points. While Obama has led slightly in more of them, I pointed out earlier how races with polling in the 0-4 point range are just as likely to go to the candidate not leading the poll, as the candidate leading the poll. But what I do like about the state polls is what the inside of them say. Generally, Romney is winning independents, by a lot. Romney is taking more Democrats, he is holding more Republicans, and Republican enthusiasm is very high. So that's what I see from the polls.

Both sides have dropped numbers regarding how awesome they are doing in early voting. It seems like they Republicans will be on the bragging end here... at least when compared to 2008 turnout. I also take into account enthusiasm. Romney just seems happier, he looks like he thinks he is winning. Obama comes off as somewhat more bitter. Again, that could just be my politics getting the best of me, but I was also smart enough to realize when it was over back in 2008. Meanwhile, Republican enthusiasm is at least as good as Democratic enthusiasm, and in most polls it is higher. Both Gallup and Rasmussen Reports find that there are more self-identified Republicans than Democrats this year, a sharp reversal from 2008. But with a lot of data not available, some of this is just gut feeling. So, let's take a quick look:

North Carolina, Florida

These two seem to be the surest bets for Romney. He has polled better in both than any other swing state, and the voter demographics and political leanings of the state just flat out favor him. Obama seemingly gave up on North Carolina right after the convention back in early September, and he has visited Florida less than all of the other swing states during the final month of the campaign.

Virginia

I always pegged Virginia as a sure thing for Romney, given the history of the state, but the polls have remained incredibly tight. Virginia is mostly a day-of voting state, and that helps Romney. He has also worked the state quite a bit more than Obama. I still think Romney wins by at least two points here, but that it will be closer than what I originally thought.

Colorado

Colorado is one of the few states where there are more registered Republicans than Democrats. More than two-thirds of Coloradans have voted early, and they have slightly outpaced their registration in the state. That is a good sign for Romney, especially if he holds independents in the state.

Ohio

It's supposed to all come down to Ohio, they say. I actually do not think it does, but that Romney will win it anyway. The Democrats were banking on building a huge early vote lead in the state Obama won by a slim margin 4 years ago. But most of the Democratic counties look to finish below their turnout levels in 2008, while a majority of Republican counties have surpassed their 2008 turnout a week ago. This points to Obama's built-in lead being much smaller than it was four years ago. Most polls give a slight edge to Obama, I think it will break for Romney.

Wisconsin, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota

Romney actually has a shot in all of these states, and Minnesota was never in swing-state territory. Michigan, and Minnesota both lack early voting, so they could surprise. But without a lot to go on - and with no serious campaign effort - I won't predict that Romney can wipe out the double-digit 2008 Obama wins in either. I'll also give Nevada to Obama, because they still voted for Harry Reid in 2008 after all. And while I think Wisconsin is a toss-up and is trending Republican lately, Romney's push was minimal. I do think Paul Ryan might deliver the state, but I haven't seen enough effort from Romney to predict this will happen. On the upside, Obama was forced to campaign there frequently in the final days meaning his lead was in the danger zone. Forcing Obama to campaign in Wisconsin opened up some room in other states for Romney. Give Obama all four.

New Hampshire, Iowa

If I'm right so far, Romney has already locked up the presidential race with a win. I do think he tacks on these two small states though. New Hampshire was Romney's first primary win earlier this year, and the state has been trending Republican. It relies on day-of voting only, so enthusiasm will win the day. Iowa has also trended Republican. I think this is one of the few states where endorsements matter, and all four of Iowa's major papers (including to that supported him in 2008) made a splash when they passionately said it was time for change. The mood switched after that.

Pennsylvania

Suddenly Pennsylvania has become the trendy pick. Polls have shown it tight. Very tight. Like a handful of other states, Pennsylvania has no early voting. In a race of momentum and enthusiasm, that holds more weight than anything. Romney held a large rally outside of Philadelphia on the Sunday before the election. The campaign then announced an election day visit to Pittsburgh. Obama has all but ignored the state. I don't think Romney goes back to Pennsylvania on election day unless he thinks he can tilt the scales. Polls show a tie, and I now think he tilts them.

Final Tally: Romney 305, Obama 233

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