Welcome to the last of these Electoral Math columns, at least for the next three and a half years. Today, we're just going to throw caution to the wind, and go ahead and predict the outcome of tomorrow night's returns. Before we get to that, though, a quick rundown of my previous record in the election prediction business, and then (for completeness' sake) the final electoral math graphs for 2012.
The 2008 election was the first one I publicly published my own prognostications on a presidential election. How did I do? Well, it depends on how you measure it. In the final 2008 Electoral Math column, I called 49 out of 51 Electoral College entities correctly. There are 51, of course, because Washington, D.C. is treated as a state in our presidential elections. So 49 out of 51 ain't too bad.
The two states I called wrong -- calling both erroneously for Obama -- were Missouri and Georgia. Now, Missouri is defensible, since it turned out to actually be the closest state in the entire election. John McCain only won the state by 3,903 votes out of over 2.9 million cast. So while I turned out to be wrong, at least it was inside the realm of possibility that Obama would win Missouri.
Georgia, well, that's not so defensible, is it? McCain won by over five percent, after all. Chalk it up to irrational exuberance for Obama. The day before the election of 2008, it was apparent to all that Obama was riding a gigantic wave into office, and the only real question was how far up the shore that wave would break. I got a little optimistic, and called one state that was clearly just too far.
But, overall, 49 out of 51 isn't too bad. Although it looks worse when considered as electoral votes (or "EV"). Back in 2008, Missouri had 11 EV and Georgia had 15 EV. So I got 26 EV wrong out of 538 EV -- which is almost five percent wrong. I called 390 EV for Obama, and he wound up with 364 EV. However you want to measure things, that's my previous record.
Moving on to this year, we're going to just quickly run through the charts and then get on to making my predictions for 2012. I should mention that the data for these charts comes from Electoral-Vote.com, whom I have relied upon since I first started writing these columns four years ago. It's a great site, so check it out if you have any questions. Here is the overall picture as it currently stands:
[Click on any of theses graphs to see larger-scale versions.]
Again, we're just going to do a quick summary here of the movement since last week's column. Here are the two candidates' individual charts, starting with Mitt Romney:
And here's how the numbers stack up for Barack Obama:
[Definition of terms: "Strong" means 10% or better in the polls,
"Weak" means 5% or better, and "Barely" is under five percent.]
There was movement between the categories in eleven states this week. Obama got good news in four of his states, and bad news in three. Mitt Romney got bad news in two of his states, and good news in none. Two states wobbled between the categories, but wound up where they had started the week.
Mitt Romney saw South Dakota weaken this week, but it's still pretty safe territory for him. More troubling, he saw North Carolina move to "Tied" at the last minute. Is there a late surge for Obama in North Carolina? Or is it just an outlier poll or two?
Barack Obama saw Michigan get weaker, moving from "Strong" down to "Weak," and saw Pennsylvania weaken even more alarmingly, from Weak down to "Barely." But the worst news for Obama came from Colorado, where the state went from Barely Obama all the way to Barely Romney, only to settle back to Tied at the end.
This all was countered by the good news for Obama, where Minnesota firmed up from Barely to Weak. Obama's best news was seeing three critical states move from Tied to Barely Obama -- Iowa, New Hampshire, and Virginia.
Two states wobbled, but then wobbled right back again. Wisconsin went from Barely Obama to Weak Obama, but then dropped back by week's end. Florida went from Barely Romney to Tied, but then back into Romney's column at the end.
So what does it all mean? Your guess is as good as mine. Feel free to share your guesses in the comments. Here are my state-by-state picks for the 2012 election, beginning with the lists of states that pretty much everyone agrees upon at this point.
Safe Obama States -- 16 States -- 191 Electoral Votes
California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington D.C. (3), Washington (12)
Safe Romney States -- 21 States -- 170 Electoral Votes
Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3)
You'll notice that this time around, we've set the bar pretty high for "safe" states, for both candidates. This is so we can individually address all the states that have even been slightly close during this race. Many of these are either the pipe dreams of campaign spinmeisters, or the ravings of a mainstream media which requires every single election to be a "close race," because it boosts their ratings. Which is why it's such a long list. Here are the fourteen states we'll all be looking at tomorrow night, to some degree or another, and my picks for each of them. Electoral vote totals are given for each state (in parenthesis). These are presented in roughly in the order that I am confident of my own pick. The states at the top I'm surest of, and the states at the bottom are where we get into gut feelings and coin-flipping, to put it another way.
Mitt Romney will lose the state he was born in, and the state his father was governor of. Detroit remembers who saved them, and who would have stood by while the auto industry collapsed. Michigan goes comfortably for Obama.
Mitt Romney's team has convinced themselves that there's a giant wave of Pennsylvanians which will put this state in his column tomorrow night. They are wrong. Pennsylvania goes strongly for Obama.
This is another one that both the media and the Romney team have been desperately trying to pull the wool over our eyes on, but it will comfortably vote for President Obama.
Arizona, due to a contentious Senate race, almost looked like it was heading into Obama's territory for a while there, but in the end it will vote for Mitt Romney. The Latino vote will be bigger than expected, but it won't be enough to put Obama over the top here.
Nevada will also have a much bigger Latino turnout than expected, and will wind up being a comfortable win for Obama. Latino polling in Nevada has been underrepresented, and this shows up in the bigger-than-expected Obama margin tomorrow night.
Missouri, also due to a wild Senate race, looked extremely weak for Romney, right after Akin's infamous comments on rape, pregnancy, and abortion. But in the end, the state will be a solid win for Romney.
Wisconsin actually has a "favorite son" on the ballot, but Paul Ryan will be denied a victory here. Wisconsin will be closer than expected, but in the end will indeed be part of a "Midwestern firewall" for Barack Obama.
Iowa will go solidly for Obama, in a bigger margin than is now predicted. Iowa is the second brick in Obama's Midwestern firewall, and it will hold firm for him in the end.
North Carolina (15)
North Carolina is where the entire rest of this list gets a whole lot harder to call. Mitt Romney seemed to have sewn the state up roughly two weeks ago, and has been doing well in the polling. However, a last-minute wave seems to have emerged for Obama, and he's been doing a lot better in the polls from the last week or so. In the end, however, I think Obama's wave here is going to fall short. I predict this will be a closer race than the Romney team expects, but that Romney wins it by a slim margin in the end.
New Hampshire (4)
New Hampshire is a tough one to call, since the polls have been all over the map of late. But when the dust settles, I think Obama will win the Granite State, and by a healthier margin than the polls have indicated. This is mostly just a gut feeling, I should admit.
Ohio is supposed to be the hardest state to call, because it is the state which has gotten the most media attention in the past month. However, I find that Ohio is not the last state on my own list, in terms of confidence in the outcome. Barack Obama will win Ohio, for the same reason he's going to win Michigan -- saving Detroit. When one in eight jobs in the state depend on a healthy auto industry, the people remember the bailout with gratitude. Ohio will garner the most media attention tomorrow night, but I predict it'll actually be called fairly early in the evening.
Virginia is going to be closer than Ohio, I think. Obama held an early advantage here, but Mitt Romney made up the ground after the first debate, and the state pulled into a tie for weeks. But Obama has seen a last-minute surge here, and my prediction is that, unlike North Carolina, this surge will be enough to put Obama over the top. Virginia going for Obama may be the earliest big shock to the mainstream media pundits on election night, and the first indication of the wave of momentum breaking in Obama's favor.
But Virginia won't be the biggest shock to the media tomorrow night -- that will occur when Florida goes for Obama. Yes, you heard me right -- Obama will defy expectations, and win the Sunshine State in a very close victory. Now, perhaps this is Obama bias or excessive exuberance on my part, but then again perhaps not. Obama's been seeing some better poll numbers here, since (and this is crucial) Hurricane Sandy hit. Federal response to hurricanes is a big deal in Florida, since the state's highest elevation is less than 350 feet, and Florida stands in the direct path of so many hurricanes. To put it another way, Chris Christie may have put Florida into Obama's column. Now, I admit that I'm pretty far out on a limb calling Florida for Obama, but maybe it's just because I want to see all the jaws drop on all the pundits in the media when everyone realizes that by losing Florida, the election is essentially over for Mitt Romney, and we can all just go to bed early tomorrow night. For whatever reason, though, I'm going to stick my neck out and call a very narrow edge in Florida for Barack Obama.
The closest race in the country, however, will be none other than Colorado. Obama really should have this state sewn up by now, but the polls have been almost perfectly tied for a solid month here. I think the ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana is going to have an odd effect on the Colorado presidential race. The conventional ways of looking at this may in fact be wrong. The first of these is that pro-weed voters are libertarian, and therefore they will steal votes from Romney. The second of these conventional attitudes is that pro-weed voters are young, therefore they will break for Obama. Both of these may be true to some extent, but there's a third way of looking at it that I think is more correct: the pro-weed people are young and libertarian, but they are most decidedly not in Obama's corner, because of the hostility the Obama Justice Department has shown towards medical marijuana in the state (and elsewhere). Therefore, the pro-weed vote is going to break for Gary Johnson. Colorado is truly the coin-flippiest of states this year, and it is anybody's guess how it'll vote. The only confidence I have is to predict it'll be one of the closest -- if not the closest -- state races tomorrow night. We may not even know who won until Wednesday morning, in fact. But in the end, by a razor-thin margin, I'm going to go ahead and say Obama ekes out his smallest victory of the night here.
My Electoral College Prediction
Adding up what could prove to be my rash and exuberant predictions above, the final Electoral College tally will be:
Barack Obama -- 332 Electoral Votes
Mitt Romney -- 206 Electoral Votes
I could be wrong, but those are my 2012 election picks. What are yours? Let me know in the comments, which I'll be checking tomorrow night as well. Everyone ready? Let the ballot-counting begin!
Electoral Math Column Series Archive:
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant