One Week Out: Electoral Math
Date posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Will the candidates tie? Breaking down potential scenarios for next week.
Down the stretch they come!
We’re a week away from what many are hyperbolically calling the most important election of our lifetime.1 It makes a pundit giddy. I’ve now been counting this down for months, and it’s finally around the corner. Granted, I was a little bit giddier last week before recent revelations about polling accuracy, but some giddiness nevertheless remains. Over the remainder of the week, I look forward to breaking down the electoral math as the two campaigns make their penultimate pushes for victory. Then, next week, the final breakdown.2
As you’ll see, I like to organize my electoral breakdown into several categories:
- First, I’ll have what I call the “Rock Hard Floor.” With the RHF numbers, we’re looking at totals that the candidates are all but guaranteed to reach. These include states where the average poll lead for the candidate is greater than five points. In one week, it’ll be almost impossible for a polling lead of five points to evaporate.3
- Next, I’ll have the “Likely Floor” numbers. These include states that I’m comfortable projecting for either candidate, either based on polls, momentum, or other indicators.
- Third, I’ll have the “If the Election Were Today.” This projection will award the states based on the polls being perfectly accurate. In IEWT, a Real Clear Politics average lead of about two or more would be considered enough to award the state. (I’ll take liberties if a state is around 2 but moving in one direction or the other.)
- Fourth, I’ll offer a “Scenario of the Day,” where I’ll play with the numbers to see how different scenarios might play out.
- This process will be repeated several more times between now and Election Day, if my editors allow it.4
Lastly, fair warning: there is a lot of arithmetic here. You’ve been warned. Without further ado . . .
Rock Hard Floor
Electoral Projection: Obama 201, Romney 191 (11 states, 146 electoral votes remaining)
States remaining, in order of weight: Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4)
Explanation: This (and all material below) comes straight from Real Clear Politics’ map. Other sources have their own battlegrounds identified, but they almost all think fewer states are up for grabs. If we really want a Rock Hard Floor, we want the most conservative projections.
Analysis: Too close to call. Anyone’s contest.
Rock Hard Floor states awarded: Pennsylvania and Michigan to Obama. North Carolina to Romney.
Explanation: Obama is up by 4.7 in Pennsylvania and 4.0 in Michigan. Romney is up 3 in North Carolina. All remaining states have a spread of fewer than 3 points.
New totals: Obama 237, Romney 206
States remaining (8 states for a total of 95 electoral votes): Florida (29), Ohio (18), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4)
Analysis: Obama’s Likely Floor looks tremendous. At 237, with those states remaining, he can take Florida and any state but New Hampshire for the win. He also has myriad combinations without Florida. Romney, meanwhile, is in trouble. If he loses Florida, he has to run the table on the other seven states to win the election. That being said, if he wins Florida, which many expect him to, he’s up to 235, and the two candidates are essentially tied.
If the Election Were Today
Likely Floor stated awarded: Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire for Obama. Florida for Romney.
Explanation: Obama leads each of these five new states by 2 to 3 points. Romney leads Florida by 2.
New totals: Obama 281, Romney 235
States remaining: Virginia (13), Colorado (9). Both are tied.
Analysis: As I said yesterday, if the polls are accurate, Obama will be re-elected. Even if tied Virginia and Colorado break toward Romney that puts the Republican at a final count of only 257. Moreover, if any one of the eleven “Rock Hard Floor” battleground states were to swing to Romney, the only way it leads to a Romney victory would be if that one state were Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Ohio. Remember, though, I awarded Pennsylvania and Michigan as part of Obama’s “Likely Floor” because their polling shows that Obama has pretty safe leads north of four points in each state.
Thus, we return to Ohio as the big battle. In the plausible scenario that Romney wins Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Colorado, simply flipping Ohio would put him over the top.
Scenario of the Day: The Electoral Tie
Premise: Return to the Likely Floor. Obama 237, Romney 206, eight states remaining.
Remaining states: Obama takes Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire. Romney takes Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada.
Making the case:
- Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire are realistic wins for the President, as shown in “If Election Was Today.”
- Florida is on its way to Romney, as shown in the “If Election Were Today.”
- Virginia and Colorado are tied, and tied states often make late breaks toward the challenger. (They had four years to buy into the incumbent and still haven’t.)
- Iowa: The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s most important newspaper, endorsed Romney—the first time it endorsed a Republican in 40 years. Obama’s 2.3 RCP lead is heavily influenced by an 8-point spread from NBC in a poll taken two weeks ago. Without it, it’s just a one-point lead for the president. The Register could flip that tiny advantage.
- Nevada: It was a red state in both Bush elections. It has the highest unemployment in the country. It had a foreclosure rate tops in the nation and still in the top five. Might they break away from the candidate who reigned over this economic catastrophe in the Silver State and return to the Republicans? It’s certainly possible.
The result: A 269-269 tie. I’m telling you—it’s not that unlikely!
Down the stretch they come, indeed.
Stay tuned to Construction for updates throughout the week! There are three more columnists coming your way in the next three days, and you might even hear from me, too. One week out!