OnTheIssues.org predicts that President Obama will win re-election by an electoral margin of 279-259. We predict that the popular vote will be much closer, with Romney holding Obama to under 50% of the popular vote. Hence we predict that the pundits will claim that the third party candidates acted as "spoilers" in this race. Here is our state-by-state prediction, with electoral vote counts below the map, and then a detailed analysis:
We read hundreds of polls over the last several months, and we see that the mainstream media mostly ignores the Electoral College, reporting instead on the popular vote. In the presidential election, the electoral vote is all that matters -- but the mainstream media assumes that people understand the Electoral College, when in fact only political pundits do. We'll explain enough that you can follow the political pundits' arguments. Note that our map shows Romney overwhelmingly winning a geographic victory; but that same map says that Obama wins the electoral victory!
The candidate who wins the popular vote in a state gets all of that state's electoral votes. The number of electoral votes equals the number of Senators plus Representatives -- a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 55 for California. Because the popular vote per state determines that state's electors, the candidates do not bother campaigning where one candidate is far ahead. That applies to California for Obama and equally to Texas for Romney. The few states where the outcome of the popular vote is uncertain are called the "battleground states", and those are where the candidates focus all their resources.
Now let's look at that electoral map again. Here's how we determine our prediction for each of the 50 states. (There's an electoral spreadsheet if you want to follow the details).
- We start with the electoral outcome from 2008. If Obama won in 2008, we assume he will win again in 2012, with the exceptions below. This starts Obama with 365 electoral votes (270 needed to win, out of 538).
- The 2010 census redistricted a dozen states; because those states are more "red" states than "blue" states, Obama loses 7 electoral votes, reducing his starting total to 358.
- Note that our base assumption is that Romney will win all of the states that McCain won in 2008, plus more -- we predict that Obama will not gain ANY new states since 2008. Almost all polls support that assumption, along with the assumption that Romney can gain many states that McCain lost, which we list below....
- There were three states that Obama won in 2008 without a majority: in IN, NC, and NE. Because the Third Party candidates are stronger in 2012 than in previous elections, we assume they will turn those states to Romney, reducing Obama to 332 electoral votes.
- Paul Ryan hails from Wisconsin, which Obama won in 2008; Ryan is popular in his home state, so we award the 10 WI electoral votes to Romney.
- Now Obama stands at 322 electoral votes with only the "battleground states" left. All of the pundits' discussions are about these few remaining states; we award them all to Romney unless we have a reason to award them to Obama.
- The battleground states (and their electoral vote counts) are: NV (6); VA (13); CO (9); NH (4); NM (5); IA (6).
- Obama is down to 279 electoral votes with only three battleground states left: FL (29), OH (18), and MI (16).
- If Romney can win all of the battleground states we listed, plus any of those three, he wins. But we think Obama will win each of those three, because:
- FL: Seniors will overwhelmingly vote against Ryan due to his Medicare plans.
- OH and MI: Romney has been struggling to make the case that he supported the Detroit automakers during the Great Recession, but he hasn't made enough of a case to persuade the middle class.
- NV: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) is working hard for a repeat of Obama's 2008 victory here. But Nevada has a high Mormon population (over 6%) who we predict will vote overwhelmingly for Romney, and who are under-represented in the polls. We award all of the other swing states to Romney for similar reasons of the inherent bias in polls towards the last election results.
- Download even more details in our electoral spreadsheet.
What to watch for on Election Night TV coverage
In summary, you can get an early preview when the polls close for NH and VA at 7 PM EST -- if Obama takes those states (we predict them for Romney), it means a landslide for Obama. If not, then keep your eye on Florida, Ohio, and Michigan -- all three of which have their polls close by 9 PM EST. So turn on your TV at 9:15 and look at the results from those three states and we predict you'll know the next president. If Romney wins any of those three, Obama must win several of the other battleground states, or it'll be a Romney landslide. If, as we predict, Obama wins all three, the rest of the battleground states won't matter!