Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The narrow path

There have been only four candidates in U.S. Presidential election history where the winner did not garner the the majority of popular votes. Those four were John Quincy Adams (1824), Rutherford B Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888) and of course George W. Bush in 2000.

If the latest presidential polling is any indication, that scenario has a fair chance of occurring yet again.

The University of Colorado (CU) prediction renowned for perfect accuracy will predict a popular-vote win for Mitt Romney later this month, Campus Reform has learned.

The poll has accurately predicted every presidential election since it was developed in 1980. It is unique in that it employs factors outside of state economic indicators to predict the next president.

CU Political Science Professor Dr. Michael Berry, who spoke with Campus Reform at length on Tuesday, said there is at least 77 percent chance that Romney will win the popular vote.

That number is significant, not only in its size, but because of the fact that only four presidents since the nation’s founding have won the presidency without capturing the popular vote, the last being George W. Bush in 2000.

Berry noted his model has never been wrong at predicting the outcome of a presidential election.

“For the last eight presidential elections, this model has correctly predicted the winner,” he said.

Again, the referenced model is only a predictor of popular votes. It doesn't account for the electoral college, which is what determines the winner.

In 2008, Barack Obama flipped nine states which went to President Bush in 2004. Obama's '08 opponent, John McCain, didn't flip a single state that went to Senator John Kerry four years earlier. With that in mind, we can safely assume that Romney has sewn up the 22 states McCain captured in '08. If you factor in the one electoral vote Obama won in Nebraska (a state which allocates its electoral votes by Congressional District), then Romney starts off with a base of 179 EVs (270 are needed to win).

From there, it's pretty much a certainty that the Republicans will take back two states (plus the one Congressional district in Nebraska seized by Obama) which normally are in the "R" column but switched to "D" in 2008. Those would be Indiana and North Carolina, which now increases the EV total to 206.

In addition to NC, the two other key swing states of Florida and Virginia have been declared "red" by David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. Paleologos was so confident in this declaration that he stated his organization is not even "polling any of those states again." If that's the case, Romney makes a huge leap to 248.

New Hampshire is the one state in New England where Republicans are typically competitive if not victorious. Bush won it in 2000 by a scant 1.27% whereas Kerry emerged victorious in 2004 with a 1.37% margin (Obama's 10-point win in '08 was an anomaly). Romney has made such significant gains in NH over the past month to the point where the latest Real Clear Politics average show him within less than 1% of the President. Colorado went to Bush in '00 and '04 with Obama claiming the Rocky Mountain state with a 10-point win in '08. Despite trailing in Colorado throughout the summer, Romney started to escalate in the polls prior to the first debate. In fact, he now has a slight lead! With those two states very much in play, that inches the tally to 261.

From there, it appears to be a very narrow path for Romney to get to 270. If all of the above scenarios play out to allow Romney to get to at least 261 electoral votes, snagging the state of Wisconsin (10 EV) would effectively put him over the top. The problem is Romney has never lead the President in head-to-head polling there, which has been tracked since January. Even though Romney is within striking distance in Wisconsin (down 2 points as of today), the fact he's never been ahead, combined with today being less than three weeks from election day, makes winning that state rather tenuous (Although I'm ripe for a surprise).

Winning Nevada (6) and Iowa (6) could also allow Romney to declare victory. But like Wisconsin, Obama has never trailed in either of these states and is still up 2-3% in both.

Finally we arrive at Ohio. Since 1944, the Buckeye state has only once sided with the loser (1960, choosing Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy) in a Presidential election. If Romney could secure this state and its 18 electoral votes, it would allow him a margin for error if he were to fall short in, say, Colorado or New Hampshire. And while Romney has lead in a couple of different polls recently (Gravis Marketing and ARG, both by a mere 1%), the RCP average once again shows him as having never lead in 2012.  However, Romney's at least still within the magical 2-3% margin.

Bottom line: We have a fair chance to witness history one way or another this election cycle. It could be merely the fifth time in 224 years where a candidate won an election despite not garnering the majority of popular votes. Or it could be only the second time in 68 years a Presidential candidate has emerged victorious without winning the state of Ohio.

If history has to be made, I'm of course hoping for the latter outcome.


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