Thursday, September 27, 2012

Competitive California Congressional Districts

My last analysis of the California Congressional Districts was in May before the top two primary elections which will determine the two candidates who will face each other in the congressional elections in November 6th, 2012. The Republican turnout in these primaries was higher, mostly because it seemed that there were more competitive primaries on the Republican side, especially in Southern California. Also, the Los Angeles area Democrats did not turn out strongly because there were few competitive primaries in the heavily Democratic districts there such as CA-37 but Republicans had more competitive primaries in conservative districts such as CA-08. Another reason for the low Democratic turnout in Southern California is that many of the voters there are sporadic voters and tend to vote in high turnout elections such as the 2008 Presidential election or the 2010 Gubernatorial election. Democratic turnout though was high in Northern California where Marin County for example voted 76% Democratic while statewide the congressional races voted 51% Democratic and in 2008, Obama won 78% of the vote in Marin while winning 61% statewide. Low turnout for the Democrats caused problems such as CA-31 which is a swing districts but the top two vote getters were Republicans, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) lost by 2 points there but in 2014, this seat will be a prime pickup opportunity. The primary elections though did shed some light on other competitive races, such as CA-52 which usually leans Republican locally but the primary results suggest it may lean more Democratic.

Anyway, this analysis will only examine races that are competitive or potentially competitive. This analysis will not examine races such as CA-13 where Rep. Barbara Lee (D) is easily winning reelection or CA-37 where Rep. Karen Bass (D) is winning easily too in her 84% Obama district. The post will examine races pundits expect to be close such as CA-10, CA-26 and CA-52 for example. 

Anyway, here is my past post on the California Congressional Districts:

Here is my map of the competitive districts

This map is courtesy of 270towin where I changed the district colors. 

CA-03 (district demographics and partisan data. Each link next to the district summary has the demographics and partisan info.) 
The competitive primary here was on the Republican side, yet Garamendi won a majority with 53% of the vote in this district without general election turnout from UC Davis. Also, the competitive primary was on the Republican side instead of the Democratic side. This 55% Obama district should be considered a Tossup but Garamendi is a good fit for this district because of his understanding of agricultural issues which are important in the northern part of the district. Also, his opponent Kim Dolbow Vann (R) is from the northern part of the district so it should be harder for her to make inroads in the southern part of the district which is heavily Democratic. He seems to be pulling away pretty strongly here.
Likely Democratic

This race should be one of the most competitive and close races in this election cycle. It contains the Sacramento suburbs which used to be strongly Republican but have been trending Democratic recently. Democrats have gained the two State Assembly seats in the Sacramento suburbs, gaining one in 2010 which was the only seat they gained in the State Assembly that year. Democratic challenger Ami Bera (D) has outraised Lungren but Lungren is raising money quickly too which shows he will not be caught napping. Lungren beat Bera by 10 points in the June 5th Primary but the June 5th Primary is not a good indicator of the general election because Bera was assured a spot in the top two primary so Democrats did not need to turn out extra heavily to support him. Also, a poll from the Hill in late August showed a tied race but Bera’s favorables were +4 higher than Lungren’s.

Gregg Imus (R) and Assemblyman Paul Cook (R) are facing each other in this extremely red district covering exurbs in San Bernardino County and the desert. There have been no polls in this heavily Republican district and Imus won 16% of the vote to Cook’s 15% in the primary so both candidates are close. Cook though seems to have the slight advantage because he has outraised Imus 4-1 but there have been no polls on this race so it is difficult to tell who is leading. Until a new poll is released, I will give Cook the advantage.
Lean Cook

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) did well in the top two primary against Ricky Gill (R) and since the primary had lower Democratic turnout than the general election usually does, especially in the valley, this is a good sign for McNerney. Although Gill has been a strong fundraiser, McNerney is no slouch either when it comes to fundraising. Also, Gill’s experience is an issue because Gill is in his mid 20s and is a UC Berkeley law student. Even though Gill has money and moderate views, McNerney has faced tough races before and won. McNerney even won in 2010 in a more Republican district so if McNerney can survive 2010, he should be able to survive 2012.
Lean Democratic

This district voted 50-47 for Obama which in California means a Republican leaning district because Republicans tend to over perform in down ballot races. Also, the Republican candidate is State Sen. Jeff Denham (R) who frequently won in a Democratic leaning district. The Democrats though found a strong candidate in former Astronaut Jose Hernandez (D). He has received strong financial backing from the DCCC and is a strong campaigner. He has a strong slogan saying how Washington is full of lawyers who know how to argue but he is an engineer who knows how to solve problems instead of just arguing about them. He also mentions his agricultural roots and his hard work to become an astronaut which is an inspiring life story. A poll was released showing Hernandez leading by 2. Although it is from the DCCC, it shows Obama leading Romney by 1 which is similar to Obama’s 3 point lead in 2008 so there may not be much oversampling of Democrats. Therefore, I am moving this race to Tossup from Lean Republican.

Rep. Pete Stark (D) has been a representative in Congress since the 1970s when he ran as the young candidate challenging an elderly incumbent. The tables are reversed this time though with
Eric Swalwell (D) running as the young candidate challenging the elderly incumbent. Recently, Stark came under fire for recent gaffes so Swalwell has a strong shot. Also, the redrawn district added areas Stark is unfamiliar with the voters such as Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and San Ramon. These areas are less liberal than Hayward and Union City which Stark has always represented. Swalwell is hoping to capitalize on support in the inland areas to beat Stark. Stark won 42% of the vote to Swalwell’s 36% so Swalwell has room to grow.
Tossup between Swalwell and Stark.

This race is one where Hispanic Chamber of Commerce member David Hernandez (D) has underrated chances. State Assemblyman David Valadao (R) performed well in the primary, winning 57% of the vote. At a first glance, this suggests that Valadao should win easily but I expect a much closer race. The reason is that Hispanic turnout which should favor Hernandez was extremely low in this district during the primary. Low Hispanic turnout in the primary was felt in other areas too. Grace Napolitano's (D) district for example was heavily Hispanic and had much lower turnout than usual. In most elections though, Hispanic turnout is higher in the general which should help Hernandez. If it rises really strongly, then Hernandez should have a shot but for now, the race is Lean Republican.
Lean Republican

Rep. Lois Capps (D) the incumbent did not do well in the primary because she won less than 50% of the vote, suggesting former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado (R) has a shot. The problem in the primary was that UCSB had very low turnout like it did in 2010. Obama however seems to have regained excitement with young voters so he should be able to turnout voters there. I expect Capps to win. Also, Capps has won tough races before including in the 90s when her district had similar lines and was less Democratic.
Lean Democratic

This race is definitely one of the most if not the most competitive race in the state. Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) faces State Senator Tony Strickland (R) for the seat which covers all of Ventura County except heavily Republican Simi Valley. Brownley faced Strickland and Ventura Supervisor Linda Parks (I) in the primary but Parks received 3rd place so Brownley will be competing against Strickland. Brownley has attacked Strickland for his views on a woman’s right to choose and contraception in this district with many suburban women who are swing voters. The Thousand Oaks and Camarillo areas are more fiscally conservative but Democrats have an opening on social issues. Brownley has been sending out mailers too which worked for her in the primary. Emily's List has been involved in the race too and sent out many mailers as well.  A recent poll showed Brownley ahead. This is a very competitive race but I would give Brownley the slight edge because Strickland just seems too conservative for the district.
Tossup/Tilt Democratic

The battle of the titans it is! Democratic Reps. Howard Berman (D) and Brad Sherman (D) are running in the same district. At first, Berman seems to have the advantages because he has received endorsements from almost all of the high profile Democrats. Sherman though has outraised Berman $3.5 million to $2.7 million and his old district covered 58% of this one compared to 20% for Berman. Also, Sherman won 42% of the vote in the primary compared to Berman’s 32%. Berman though has tried to win the 1/3 of the district which votes Republican by receiving endorsements from Republicans such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R) from the San Diego area. Trying to win over Republicans though may hurt Berman so I am going to give the race to Lean Sherman for now.
Lean Sherman

Democrats had a chance to win this district with Redlands mayor Pete Aguilar (D) but other Democratic candidates stole votes from him so he could not make it to the top two. The Democrats mostly focused on helping Julia Brownley in CA-26 and while they got her into the top two, they did not focus on this race. The two Republican candidates are State Senator Bob Dutton (R) and Rep. Gary Miller (R) who is carpetbagging. In 2014, Democrats will have a good chance to win this 56% Obama district but Dutton is trying to win over Democrats. He has announced a few endorsements from Democrats but Miller has an advantage because he has support of the national Republicans as well as more money.
Lean Miller

Mary Bono Mack (R) is moderate and very popular in this district. She has won close elections in 2008 and 2010, even while the Democrats had a strong candidate in Steve Pougent (D) the mayor of Palm Springs. The Democrats found another strong candidate though with Dr. Raul Ruiz (D). He is a doctor and the first Hispanic to receive three graduate degrees from Harvard. Bono Mack though seemed to be leading because Obama only won 50-47 here and she had moderate views. A recent poll showed her ahead by only 3 so if there is a Democratic mini wave; this will be one of the seats that shifts enough for us to win. Also, Bono Mack recently referred to Coachella which is in her district as a “third world toilet,” which should cost her some votes. I am going to keep this race at lean Republican for now but I am very tempted to move this to tossup if I see another poll showing a close race.
Lean Republican

This district in Riverside County voted 59% for Obama and has a high Hispanic population but the Republican candidate Riverside County Supervisor John Taviglione (R) is running a competitive campaign here. The Democrats have a strong candidate too though in Mark Takano (D) who is openly gay and ran for a similar seat in 1992 and lost by less than 1 percent. Being openly gay may not play well with the large number of socially conservative voters in the district (the district voted strongly for Prop 8,) but Takano’s campaign skills and the district’s Democratic lean should be enough to help him.
Lean Democratic

Rep. Laura Richardson (D) and Rep. Janice Hahn (D) face off in this district. Although Hahn’s current congressional district only has a small portion of the new 44th, her former city council district covered a large part of the 44th so many voters here are familiar with her. Richardson though is in trouble due to ethics issues. Also, she has run racially divisive campaigns in her primaries which will make it hard for her to win over the 68% Hispanic population in the district. Hahn though is popular in the Hispanic community and she won in the primary with 60% of the vote. Richardson is in trouble.
Safe Hahn

State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D) faces Long Beach City Councilmember Gary DeLong (R). This race at first seemed competitive, despite the district’s Democratic lean because Lowenthal had trouble raising money. Lowenthal though seems to have stepped up his fundraising and polls show him leading DeLong. This district also should have high turnout in the Long Beach portion in the 2012 election, cancelling out the Republican leaning areas in Orange County.
Likely Democratic

This is another extremely competitive race in California. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) is a moderate Republican who represented a 51% Obama district but redistricting increased it to 55%. The Democrats also have a strong candidate in Scott Peters (D) who is the Port Commissioner for San Diego and the former City Council President. Peters has been running a strong campaign and has been attacking Bilbray over his career as a lobbyist and receiving two taxpayer funded pensions. No polls have been released on this race but due to the district’s Democratic lean and Peters’s strong campaign skills, Peters has a slight advantage but not enough to move it out of tossup. Also, Peters received the endorsement of the Independent San Diego Mayoral candidate who was a former Republican.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Senate Rankings September 2012

In 2010, Democrats lost control of the House but retained control of the Senate. While retaining control though, they lost six seats and have a 53-47 advantage over the Republicans. Therefore, Republicans could gain three Senate seats and win control of the Senate if Romney becomes President because Romney's Vice President will cast the tiebreaking vote. Assuming Obama wins reelection which most polls suggest now, Republicans will need to gain four Senate seats in order to have 51 Senators to bypass Vice President Joe Biden's (D) tiebreaking vote. 

2012 is one of the worst years for Democrats to retain control of the Senate because they have 23 seats up for reelection in 2012 while the Republicans have only 10 (before the Scott Brown (R) win in the special election in Massachusetts, the Democrats would have had 24 seats to defend in 2012.) The Democrats gained six of their Senate seats up for the 2012 election cycle in 2006 when conservatives stayed home because they had depressed enthusiasm due to the Bush Administration's failures with the Iraq War. This is 2012 though where the Republicans are more enthusiastic because of their opposition to Obama. The focus this year is more on the Presidential election too but if Republicans regain control of the Senate, they have a chance to win the Government trifecta. Missouri recently moved toward the Democrats but the Republicans have a new opportunity in Connecticut showing that they can still win a majority. I still believe Democrats have a better chance to retain the Senate than Republicans do and they strengthened that chance by shoring up potentially competitive seats such as Hawaii and New Mexico. They still have yet to move seats out of Tossup though besides Missouri. If Democrats swept the Tossup seats, they would gain three Republican seats but if the Republicans swept the Tossups, they would gain four seats which they need to take the Senate assuming Obama wins reelection. I also plan on updating these rankings more frequently now that the election is only in seven weeks. This post contains my last rankings with an update to most of the seats. Anyway, here are the rankings: 

Dark blue = Safe Democratic
Blue =Likely Democratic
Light Blue = Lean Democratic
Light Red=Lean Republican
Red=Likely Republican
Dark Red/Brown=Safe Republican
Green = Safe Independent
Gray= no election

Seat changes favoring Democrats
New Jersey-Likely D-Safe D
West Virginia-Likely D-Safe D
Hawaii-Lean D-Likely D
New Mexico Lean D-Likely D
Missouri-Tossup-Lean D

Seat changes favoring Republicans: 
Connecticut-Likely D-Lean D

Safe Democratic (11 seats)
California (Dianne Feinstein): Republicans had a chance to nominate birther queen Orly Taitz (R) to run against Feinstein but they instead picked anti autism advocate Elizabeth Emken (R). Republicans could have picked worse but Feinstein is too popular, too well funded and California is too Democratic to elect a Republican.

Delaware (Tom Carper:) Only state where the Governor and the entire congressional delegation is Democratic. Carper is not losing any races anytime soon. 

Maryland (Ben Cardin): This is Maryland. 

Minnesota (Amy Klobuchar): Minnesota may not be as Democratic as it once was but Klobuchar is extremely popular.

New Jersey (Robert Menendez (D)): Excluding the 2009 Gubernatorial race, Republicans have not won a statewide election in New Jersey since 1997 although they usually come close. Democratic incumbents in New Jersey are usually not very popular but seem to win in the end. Menendez is facing State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R) from Morris County. If it were 2010, Menendez would be in a tough race but polls have been showing him ahead by around 10. He should win.

Update: I have decided to move this race to Safe D because Kyrillos has not made this race competitive and although Menendez is not extremely popular, Kyrillos has failed to capitalize on that. 

New York (Kristen Gillibrand): This is New York and the most recent poll showed Gillibrand ahead by 43 points. 

Pennsylvania (Bob Casey): I debated putting this race in the Likely Democratic column but I decided to put it in the Safe Democratic one. 

Rhode Island (Sheldon Whitehouse): Whitehouse may not be residing in the White House but he will be residing in the Senate next year. 

Vermont (Bernie Sanders): Another strongly Democratic seat. (note: Sanders is a registered Independent but caucuses with the Democrats so I included this race in the Safe Democratic column.) 

Washington (Maria Cantwell): Republicans have a chance to win the Governorship in Washington but all polls suggest they are not winning the Senate seat. 

West Virginia (Joe Manchin (D)): Former Governor Joe Manchin (D) faces a rematch with rich businessman John Raese (R). West Virginia is a traditionally Democratic state that started voting Republican for Federal offices 10 years ago. The state still votes Democratic statewide but like formerly Democratic states across the South, West Virginia may start voting Republican statewide too. Not this year though. Manchin is moderate, popular and connects with voters very well. Raese though is rich and is from Florida, not West Virginia. Manchin even won by 11 points in 2010, a horrible year for Democrats so his margin should improve in 2010. This race will stay at Likely Democratic though due to West Virginia's Republican trend but is close to Safe Democratic. 

I moved this race to Safe Democratic because there were no indications that John Raese would pull it close this time like he did in 2010. A recent PPP poll showed Manchin up by 39 points and with no pushback from the Raese campaign, this race seems strongly in the Safe Democratic column. 

Likely Democratic (4 seats) 

Hawaii (Open Daniel Akaka (D)): I debated placing this race in the Tossup or Lean D status but I chose Lean D because of Hawaii's Democratic nature and favorite son Obama's presence on the ticket. Also, Republicans have done well in Hawaii previously because many voters in Hawaii traditionally support the incumbent (explaining why Bush performed well in Hawaii in 2004,) but this is an open race without an incumbent. This race pits Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) against former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) against each other in a rematch of the 2002 Gubernatorial race where Hirono lost by 5. Hirono however faces a primary challenge from former Rep. Ed Case (D). He is famous for playing spoiler in the 2010 Hawaii CD 1 special election where he took votes from Colleen Hanabusa (D) so Charles Djou (R) snuck by and won (Hanabusa won the seat in November though.) Most polls show Hirono with a slight lead though over Case. She also led by 5 in the last poll against Lingle (she polls better against Lingle than Case does.) 

Hirono seems to have opened a strong lead here and Hawaii just seems too Democratic to elect Lingle. Hirono has been taking advantage of that by running ads saying how important it is for Democrats to control the Senate. Therefore, I am moving this seat to Likely Democratic.

Michigan (Debbie Stabenow (D)): At first, this race appeared to be competitive after Michigan's sharp turn right in 2010 when the Republicans gained the Governorship and the State House. The Republicans even nominated popular Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R). The race appeared competitive until Hoekstra ran an ad that many observers viewed as racist toward Chinese people
Even many Republicans criticized the ad and due to the backlash from the ad, Stabenow has led in the last four polls from 9-16 points. 

Update: Hoekstra seemed to be closing the gap in a few polls in August but since September, all polls show Stabenow leading. The extremely reputable EPIC-MRA conducted 9/8-9/11 shows Stabenow with an 11 point lead. 

New Mexico (Open Jeff Bingaman (D)): This race pits two moderate representatives from Albuquerque against each other (Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) and former Rep. Heather Wilson (R).) Recently, the Sierra club who is backing Heinrich has been launching an ad blitz attacking Wilson for conservative environmental positions. It seems to be working because the most recent poll showed Heinrich up by 9, the largest lead he has enjoyed since April. 

Update: Two new polls have been released, showing Heinrich in the high single digits. One poll was conducted by PPP. A few months ago, the race seemed close but now that most polls are showing Heinrich going into the lead, he seems to have a big advantage. Also, many of the Republican super PACs have been pulling out of New Mexico and even the Wilson campaign's internals show her losing by 5. Due to all the poor polling for Wilson and the super PACs pulling out of New Mexico, I have changed New Mexico's ranking to Likely D. 

Ohio (Sherrod Brown (D)): About six months again, Brown seemed to be clearly in the lead but Republicans Super PACs started bombarding Ohio with ads, cutting into Brown's lead. The Republican candidate is State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) who is young but may be too inexperienced for some voters and is extremely conservative. Brown is no moderate either and has a reputation for his liberal views but he is popular among the working class voters in eastern Ohio, a key swing group so he has a good chance to win. The RCP average has Brown ahead by 10, just enough for the race to be considered Likely Democratic. 

I was very tempted to move this race to the Lean Democratic category and if I had written this post a few weeks ago, I would have because of two polls released in mid August showing a tied race in Ohio. The Super PACs seemed to narrow the race for a bit because of their money advantage. Brown has retained the advantage though and even the Republican leaning polling firm Gravitas shows him ahead by 6. Also, PPP shows Brown ahead by 8, running ahead of Obama who is ahead by 5. Therefore, I expect Brown to win if Obama wins Ohio and I see Obama with an advantage here.

Lean Democratic (3 seats) 

Connecticut (Open-Joe Liberman): Lieberman is retiring so there is a slightly competitive race to replace him. The Democrats face a competitive primary between Congressman Peter Murphy (D) and Secretary of State Susan Byschelwitz (D). Murphy seems to have the edge in the primary and he also polls better against the Republicans than Byschelwitz does. The Republicans are former Rep. Chris Shays (R) from southwest Connecticut (he is the more moderate candidate) and Linda McMahon (R), former WWE CEO who spent around $50 million in the 2010 Senate race (she lost by 11 points.) If McMahon wins the primary (which is likely because the Republican base in Connecticut has grown more conservative,) expect Democrats to have a stronger chance here. 

Linda McMahon (R) won the Republican primary and has launched an ad blitz, outspending Rep. Peter Murphy (D). This ad blitz has shown the race tightening in a few polls and a Quinnipec poll even gave McMahon a small lead. This could be the result of the ad blitz but this race has gotten closer, that is for sure. In 2010 though,  McMahon ran for Senate and released an ad blitz that created a close race with Richard Blumenthal (D) running for the seat. He pulled away in the end by 10 points though. If the polls continue to show a close race though in 2012, then the Senate seat will go in the tossup column but it is lean Democratic for now.

Florida (Bill Nelson (D)): Since he was elected in 2000, Nelson has maintained high approval ratings for his moderate views and likability. Republicans however have fielded  Rep. Connie Mack IV (R), part of the Mack line who has owned baseball teams and represented Florida in the Senate. He originally declined to run but decided half a year later to run because he thought no other candidate could beat Nelson. Six months ago, the race was tied but Nelson seems to have regained the lead (the last PPP poll showed him up by 5,) after negative revelations about Mack's financial issues, including homestead taxes. Also, Mack is not personally popular (Nelson is,) which is hurting Mack. Nelson also raised $1.8 million last quarter, a strong haul but he may need a bit more for the 4th most populous state. Mack has been fundraising poorly but the Super PACs are strongly supporting him, erasing Nelson's money advantage. To win, Nelson needs to make inroads in the rural areas and the I-4 Corridor (which he has done in past elections,) but he may need to rely more on the I-4 Corridor because the rural areas are trending away from the Democrats. 

Update: Nelson has been running negative ads against Mack which has caused Mack's favorables to go to 25% favorable, 37% unfavorable in a new poll conducted by Survey USA which is Republican leaning. The poll also showed Nelson leading by 11. Although Mack will receive $1 million in Super PAC funds, all other polls and indications suggest Nelson is in the lead. I could see this race shifting to Likely Democratic soon. 

Missouri (Claire McCaskill (D)): I am worried about McCaskill's chances here. Missouri has been trending away from the Democrats recently; it was one of the few battleground states Obama lost in 2008. McCaskill won in 2006 by making inroads in rural areas but the rural areas have been trending far right recently (longtime Rep. Ike Skelton (D) from the rural areas recently lost his reelection race.) Also, Republicans face a tight primary with Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R) receiving Sarah Palin's endorsement and leading in the last three polls. Her extremely conservative views may hinder her but she should probably beat McCaskill by a few points. 

Update: Todd Akin (R) won the Republican primary and the Republican party is not very happy about that (that is an understatement.) The reason is that he became a household name after he made his legitimate rape comments, causing his large lead to turn into a McCaskill lead. Even the Republican leaning Rasmussen polling firm showed McCaskill ahead by 6. Akin is also staying in the race after Republicans keep telling him to leave it. The Republican primary voters chose Akin, he should listen to them and stay in the race. The final deadline for leaving the race is September 23rd but Akin is staying. What is also staying is the memory of his comments. Akin said that women can reject pregnancies from rape. That is not true but what women can reject is marking Todd Akin's name on the ballot and the polls are suggesting they will reject it.

Tossup (7 seats)

Indiana (Open Richard Lugar (R)): This race is difficult to classify because no polls have been released for this race since late March (a Howey/DePauw poll showed the race tied,) but a close race is likely, even for Republican leaning Indiana. The Republican Legislature gave Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) a Republican leaning seat after redistricting which urged Donnelly to run for Senate (if Donnelly wins, Republican candidate and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) is not going to be happy with the legislature.) Mourdock defeated 36 year incumbent Lugar in a primary by claiming Lugar was not conservative enough for Indiana (Democrats may win though because Mourdock may be too conservative for Indiana.) To win, Donnelly needs to convince the voters that is the case. He also needs to perform well in not only Indianapolis and the Chicago suburbs but also win a big margin out of St. Joseph County (South Bend,) which is in his district and hit 40%+ in heavily Republican Elkhart County which is also in his district. Donnelly's strong campaign skills (he survived 2010,) and moderate views should help him though. 

Update: Donnelly has been running as a moderate and is portraying Mourdock as an extremist. Throughout August, Mourdock did not make any gaffes until early September when he could not name a Democrat he would work with in the Senate. This goes with his theme of partisanship when he said that bipartisanship means Democrats capitulate to Republicans. Donnelly should highlight that in ads but what the Democrats have not done is focus more on this race. Also, a Donnelly internal poll was released on September 17th showing Donnelly ahead by 3 points. This is the first poll that shows him ahead but then again, no polls have been released for this race in over a month. The poll should be taken with a grain of salt because Donnelly's campaign conducted the poll but if the Mourdock campaign does not release a poll of their own showing Mourdock ahead, they may be seeing numbers they dislike. Also, the DSCC has reserved about 500k in ads here so this race is finally getting the attention it deserves. 

Massachusetts (Scott Brown (R)): If any race this cycle takes the prize for the most competitive and exciting, it will be this one. Brown seemed to be invincible after winning Ted Kennedy's (D) former Senate seat in this heavily Democratic state in a 2010 Special Election. High profile Democrats such as Vicki Kennedy (Ted Kennedy's wife,) declined to run but Elizabeth Warren (D), Obama's nominee for the Consumer Protection Bureau decided to run. Her fundraising has been strong, she has raised $24.5 million so far, making her the 15th most successful fundraiser in Senate history and outraised Brown's $19.9 million. For Brown to win, he needs to win more than 2/3rds of the Independents because he won in 2010 by winning Independents in the Boston exurbs while underperforming in the college towns and Boston proper (but Obama should increase turnout in those areas and some colleges were not in session in the 2010 Special election.) In the end, I believe Warren should win by around 3-5 points as the turnout should be higher in the Democratic areas and her message could resonate with the traditionally Democratic suburban voters who supported Brown (Brown's last opponent Martha Coakley (D) was portrayed as out of touch but Warren is doing everything possible to appear in touch with the middle class.)

Update: In August, the polls showed Warren was falling in the polls but a new poll released recently shows Brown ahead only by 1 and that 1 in 5 Obama voters plan to support Brown. Warren needs to tie herself as close as possible to Obama because he is polling really well in the state. The recent poll showing Brown ahead by 1 though is probably understating Warren's support. The reason is that 50% of the voters polled were 60+ while 25% of the Massachusetts voters are 60+. Also, Brown does better among the older voters so this poll understates Warren's support by a few points. Personally, I just do not see how Brown will win in a blue state in a Presidential election year. 65% of the undecideds support Obama, 7% support Romney so the undecided voters should come home to Warren like they came home to Kerry in his close 1996 Senate race. On September 17th though, two new polls were released showing Warren ahead, one was by PPP which showed Warren ahead by 2. 53%-36% of the voters wanted Democrats to control the Senate and 76%-2% of the undecideds are voting for Obama over Romney. Warren's job is to bring these Democratic leaning voters back to the fold. A few of them seem to have done so already but she needs to continue winning them to beat Brown and I think she can. 

Montana (Jon Tester (D)): Rep. Danny Rehberg (R) is challenging Tester, a popular incumbent with strong campaign skills (who can forget his haircut ad: and his new ad with a similar Montana theme ( Rehberg however is well known and popular throughout this Republican leaning state, making it more difficult. 

Update: Like in 2006, this race could be one of the last Senatorial races decided. In the polling front, this race has been a war between Rasmussen and PPP with Rasmussen showing leads for Rehberg and PPP showing leads for Tester. While Rasmussen is Republican leaning, the last poll showed Rehberg ahead by 4 which suggests the race is much closer or even favoring Tester because I automatically give Rasmussen a 5 point Republican bounce. The last PPP poll showed Tester ahead by 2 and PPP has a reputation for being extremely accurate so I trust them more. Still though, they show a very close race between two well known Montana politicians. What Tester has to do is to win over some Romney voters who are conservative on guns while capitalizing on Obama turnout in the cities. 

Nevada (Dean Heller (R)): This is another chance for a Democratic pickup as Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) from Las Vegas challenges appointed Senator Heller, a former Representative from the northern part of the state. Berkley however has some ethics issues involving her husband's kidney transplant center. This does not seem to have affected her poll numbers. She is down by 3 points in most polls but polls in Nevada frequently understate Democratic strength due to the impressive Democratic GOTV operation. In the 2010 Senate race, all polls showed Harry Reid (D) down by 4 but he won by 5. Berkley is not taking any chances though.  Recently Berkley is making a wise campaign move by campaigning heavily in Reno because voters there are unfamiliar with her. She does not want to repeat the 2006 gubernatorial race where Dina Titus (D), a Las Vegas centric candidate over performed in Vegas but lost because she underperformed in Reno. Heavy turnout in Las Vegas should help Berkley (Obama will be targeting Clark County too due to the large base there,) but unless she can win Clark County by more than 10 points, she needs to make inroads in Heller's base. Also, Hispanics are expected to turn out strongly for the Democrats so Berkley will receive help there. A personal anecdote was that I was calling some Nevada voters in late July for Obama and Berkley. I talked to a few Romney supporters but many of them were undecided on the Berkley/Heller race and Heller did not seem to be personally popular with many of the voters. This suggests that Berkley may be winning over some conservatives and is underperforming in the polls (also, no voters mentioned any of her ethics issues.) 

Update: The most recent poll, a PPP one showed Heller leading by only 2 after polls in the summer showed him ahead by 5, suggesting the race is tightening. Even if Heller has an advantage in the polls right now, I have come to the conclusion that Berkley should pull off this race. The reason is that Obama is polling well in Nevada and OFA is registering voters like crazy and volunteers are flooding the state to help out Obama. This made a big difference in 2008 when polls showed Obama leading by 6 but he ended up winning by 12 in Nevada. Also, the Harry Reid organization is working strong for Berkley and the large Las Vegas turnout for Obama should be enough for her to win. 

North Dakota (Open Kent Conrad (D)): At first, this seat seemed to be an easy Republican pickup for Rep. Rick Berg (R). This race has narrowed after former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) announced her candidacy. A poll showed her ahead by 6 while showing Obama losing by 20. Many North Dakotans vote for the person, not the party and Berg is not very personally popular which works in Hentkamp's favor. North Dakota is a very Republican state though but they have ticket split for Senatorial candidates in the past so Heitkamp still has a great chance to win. 

Update: There have no new polls on this race since my last post. Both sides however are buying airtime in the very inexpensive North Dakota media markets. Although there are no new polls, Heitkamp has a real shot because she is a very likable candidate while Berg is much less likable. North Dakota really likes personally popular candidates but it is a Presidential year and North Dakota should go for Romney. Heitkamp has to run ahead of Obama to win. 

Virginia (Open Jim Webb (D)): This race pits two former Governors against each other, Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R). Most polls show this race to be extremely close although Kaine seems to have gained a slight edge. A Rasmussen poll (a Republican leaning polling firm,) with a likely voter model showed a dead heat between the two. Also, Allen may face some backlash from the racial slur “macaca” he said to a campaign worker for Jim Webb while complaining that the campaign worker would catch any gaffes he made. Also, another hopeful sign for Kaine is that Obama barely leads in Virginia and while there are many Romney-Kaine voters (a recent New York Times article showed how many southwest Virginians were ticket splitting,) but there were almost no Obama-Allen voters. For Kaine to win, he has to perform well in Northern Virginia, winning with 60%+ in Fairfax County and carrying bellwether Loudon County. Also, high African American turnout in the Hampton Roads/Richmond area should help Kaine too. Kaine and Allen are both well known so most voters have chosen a side so the candidates have to focus on turning out their voters.

Update: This race continues to be tight even though Kaine still has a small lead with Republican leaning Rasmussen showing him ahead by 2. Obama's standing has improved in Virginia though so that may be helping Kaine a bit but this race is still extremely tight. 
Wisconsin (Open Herb Kohl (D)): Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) from Madison is running for the seat with an easy path to the nomination but the Republicans have a competitive primary. Former Governor Tommy Thompson (R) has a slight lead ahead of Baldwin in most polls but a recent PPP poll showed businessman Eric Hovde (R) in a close race for the nomination after Hovde released a barrage of attack ads on Thompson. This would help Baldwin because she performs better against Hovde in the polls. As for Baldwin, she is popular with the netroots and the Daily Kos crowd so she should no trouble raising money but she needs to appeal to the rural moderates of western Wisconsin. The 2012 Gubernatorial recall results showed that Democrats cannot win simply by having high turnout in Milwaukee and Madison, they have to win rural areas too. If Baldwin can do that, she has a strong chance at winning but Thompson seems to have a slight edge currently.

Update: Thompson won the primary which gives Baldwin a rockier road to become Senator. Polls throughout August showed Thompson in the high single digits. He is doing well most likely because he appears as a moderate to voters. A new poll was released on September 17th though showing Baldwin ahead by 5. It was a Baldwin internal so I was not too sure about its accuracy at first but then the reliable PPP released a poll showing Baldwin ahead by 3, showing she is surging back. Hopefully she can keep the lead. 
Lean Republican (1 seat)
Arizona (Open Jon Kyl (R)): Democrats seemed to have found a strong candidate here in former Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D). He served under George W. Bush and was a registered Independent until recently. The Republican candidate is Rep. Jeff Flake (R)-Mesa who is facing a primary challenge from the right but after receiving Palin’s endorsement, Flake seems to be on track to win the nomination. Carmona’s Hispanic background could help appeal to Arizona’s large Hispanic population or not because Carmona is Puerto Rican while most of Arizona’s Hispanics are Mexican and Carmona grew up in Harlem, not Arizona. There does not seem to be strong animosity between Puerto Ricans and Mexicans so Carmona’s background should help a bit however. Besides Rasmussen, most polls show Flake with a 2-4 point lead and Arizona’s Republican lean may be too strong for Carmona. This is still a race to watch though.

Update: Carmona has been running a strong campaign and is running ads not mentioning his party label. Also, a new poll shows the race tied but the Democratic party still views this seat as Republican leaning. I am going to keep it at Republican leaning for now but if more polls show the race extremely tight, I may move it to tossup. 
Likely Republican (1 seat)
Nebraska (Open Ben Nelson (D)): Conservative Democrat Ben Nelson has retired and Democrats found former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D), their best candidate to retake this seat. Kerrey was once very popular in Nebraska but since his Senate retirement, Kerrey has been President of Eugene Lang College in New York City, hurting his Nebraska roots. Also, polls have shown the Republican candidate Debbie Fischer (R) with a 10-18 point lead, suggesting this will be a Republican pickup.

Update: The polls remain the same showing Kerrey far down in the polls while Fischer leads. I almost moved this race to Safe Republican but since Kerrey formerly represented Nebraska in the Senate and was popular then, I am keeping it at Likely Republican. 
Safe Republican: (5 seats)
Mississippi (Roger Wicker (R)): An easy win for Republicans in the heavily Republican state of Mississippi.
Tennessee (Bob Corker (R)): Corker faced a tough race in 2006 against Harold Ford (D) but Corker is now extremely popular and Tennessee has become more Republican.
Texas (Open Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R)): Democrats fielded a strong candidate in this race but he dropped out so Republicans will have a clear shot. The question now is whether Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (R) will beat tea party backed Ted Cruz (R) in the runoff for Senate.
Utah (Orrin Hatch (R)): Hatch is going nowhere in the extremely Republican state of Utah.
Wyoming (John Barrasso (R)): This is Wyoming.

Safe Independent: (1 seat)
Maine (Open Olympia Snowe (R)): Moderate Republican Snowe is retiring (who can blame her? She was a swing vote in the Senate and felt pressure from both parties.) This race seemed to be a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats until former Governor Angus King (I) threw his hat in the ring and polls show him ahead 20%+. He has not announced which party he will caucus with but his liberal leaning views such as his support for Obamacare and marriage equality suggest he may caucus with the Democrats. He also endorsed John Kerry for President in 2004 as well as endorsing Obama in both 2008 and 2012.  
Update: Republicans think they can win this race and have been backing their Republican candidate. Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill (D) is polling below 10% though so she will probably not be a big spoiler. Also, most pundits are suggesting King will caucus with the Democrats (although he has not officially announced yet,) so this race should be considered a Democratic pickup.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Electoral Vote Rankings 2012

In the elections of 2000 and 2004, the electoral vote was closely divided between the two candidates with Florida and Ohio as the main swing states. In 2008 though, Obama changed the electoral map by competing in previously Republican states such as Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana and Colorado. His competition expanded electoral opportunities for Democrats and made those areas more swingy. Indiana seems to have reverted back to its Republican roots for 2012 but the states of Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina still remain swing states. This will be extremely helpful to Obama because he has many possible combinations to win against Romney. Obama is facing blame for an economy that is not improving fast enough according to some voters and a higher than hoped for unemployment rate. Then nationwide polls show a small Obama +2 lead nationwide but due to Obama's expansion of the electoral map, Obama definitely has an advantage by holding leads in the swing states. Also, Obama has benefited from the fact that he is more like able than Romney. This historically helps Obama because when did the less like able candidate win the Presidency? Not 2008, not 2004, not 2000, most likely 1976. The reason the national polls are so close is that Romney has solid leads in red states and has cut into Obama's margin in a few Northeastern states (although not enough to win any except maybe Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.) Anyway though, here are the electoral vote rankings.

Dark Blue = Safe Democratic
Blue = Likely Democratic
Lean = Light Blue
Toss Up/Tilt Democratic = very light blue
Toss Up = clear
Toss Up/Tilt Republican = Light red
Lean Republican = Orange
Likely Republican = Red
Safe Republican = Very Red

Safe Democratic: (172 electoral votes)

California (55 electoral votes) Polls consistently show Obama 20%+ here, Obama is going to have no trouble winning. All he needs to do now is make sure the Democrats here can make phone calls out to battleground states such as Colorado.

Delaware (3 electoral votes) This is Joe Biden's home state and the state that voted against Christine O'Donnell by 17 points. Obama will do just dandy here.

District of Columbia (3 electoral votes) I would not be surprised if Obama hits 90%+ here.

Hawaii (4 electoral votes) Obama was born in Hawaii, Tupac is dead and 9/11 was not caused by the Bush Administration and Obama should do great here. It was his best state in 2008.

Illinois (20 electoral votes) Obama's other home state where he served as Senator. Despite Mark Kirk's (R) Senatorial win in 2010, Obama should win easily here. He won by 25 points in 2008.

Maine (4 electoral votes) According to political analyst Michael Barone "Mainers vote for the person, not the party." Romney may have represented a New England state as Governor but he does not win the like ability contest, even if he wins the Presidential one.

Maryland (10 electoral votes) With a state that has a 30% African American population and a large white liberal population in Montgomery County, Maryland is staying strongly Democratic.

Massachusetts (11 electoral votes) Romney was the former Governor of Massachusetts but as he continues to bash the state on his campaign trail (and all the bills he passed for the state, including Romneycare,) he should lose any goodwill he has left. Hopefully Sen. Scott Brown (R) falls down with him.

New Jersey (15 electoral votes) Despite New Jersey's large number of fiscal conservatives, the Republican party has become too conservative socially for Romney to appeal here.

New York (29 electoral votes) Democrats did not do well downballot in New York in 2010 but they did well statewide, winning all statewide offices and the Governorship by 28 points. Obama will win here easily.

Rhode Island (4 electoral votes) Another solid Obama state.

Vermont (3 electoral votes) This was Obama's best state in the Continental U.S. and it should go strongly for him again in 2012. As goes Maine, so goes Vermont.

Washington (12 electoral votes) Washington may have a competitive gubernatorial race but the Presidential race is not competitive. Obama will win here easily, the TPM polling average has him ahead by 14.

Likely Democratic (29 electoral votes)

Connecticut (7 electoral votes) This state seems to have been going strongly for the Democrats until a new poll was released showing Obama ahead by only 7. I am not too sure about the poll's accuracy though because Connecticut went for Obama by 23 points in 2008 so Connecticut is one of those states where if it is competitive, that means Obama has tanked nationally. It is still an extremely close race nationally so unless all polls suggest Obama is going to lose in a landslide nationally, I am not believing any poll showing Connecticut close.

Minnesota (10 electoral votes) Minnesota has not voted Republican since 1972 and it looks like it will stay that way this year.

New Mexico (5 electoral votes) I almost considered putting New Mexico in the Safe Democratic column but I decided on the Likely Democratic column. Obama should still do very well here though due to the state's large Hispanic population.

Oregon (7 electoral votes) Most polls show Obama with a 10 point lead here, I would expect Oregon to support Obama again like in 2008.

Lean Democratic (56 electoral votes)

Michigan (16 electoral votes) On paper, Romney seems to have a real shot in Michigan. His family hails from Michigan and in 2010, Michigan took a sharp turn to the right as the Republicans won the Governorship, the State Senate and two U.S House seats. Obama is doing well here because he revived the auto industry after it seemed to be dead and Romney appeared out of touch with Michigan because he wrote an article titled, "Let Detroit go bankrupt." He also is famous for saying, "The trees are just the right height," when referring to how he remembered Michigan from his boyhood days. For Obama to win in Michigan, he needs a large African American turnout in Detroit and needs to perform well in the Detroit suburbs, especially Oakland and Macomb Counties. Romney needs a strong turnout in the western part of the state where the auto industry is less prevalent but the tea party is prevalent. A few polls earlier in August showed a close race after the Ryan pick but the most recent poll, done by reliable PPP showed Obama ahead by seven. Also, Romney has pulled out of Michigan so if his own campaign thinks they will not win, then I doubt Romney will win Michigan.

Nevada (6 electoral votes) Most polls show Obama with a small lead here. Nevada also has a history of having polls underestimate Democratic strength because of the Democrats' strong ground game and the large number of cellphone only voters. For Democrats to win in Nevada, they have to win 55%+ in Clark County (Las Vegas) which has a large fast growing Hispanic population. Romney's numbers with Hispanics are extremely low but he may make up some ground with the large Mormon population in the rural areas (known as the Cow Counties.) It will be hard for Romney to compete with the Democrats' organization and the changing demographics though.

New Hampshire (4 electoral votes) New Hampshire has a strong libertarian streak and Romney did very well here in the primary so one would expect New Hampshire to be a pure tossup state this year. Most polls here though show Obama with a lead of about 5 which is just enough to put New Hampshire in the lean Democratic category. The Republicans' views on social issues have gone too far to the right to win over enough New Hampshire voters. Romney needs to win New Hampshire by doing will in Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties but since the Republican party brand is unpopular in New Hampshire this year (Democrats are looking to regain both house seats,) Obama has an advantage.

Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) Earlier this year, Romney hoped to make Pennsylvania competitive by winning over disgruntled working class voters in western Pennsylvania. With the revival of the auto industry though, it seems that Obama will hold enough western Pennsylvania voters to win statewide. For Obama to win, he needs to do very well in the Philadelphia area, win its suburbs and win enough western Pennsylvania voters. Republicans generally win elections in Pennsylvania by doing well in the center of the state and winning the swing area which is the cities between Philadelphia and the Appalachian mountains. Those areas include Harrisburg, Reading and Allentown/Bethlehem. Obama in 2008 won those areas and those cities usually vote a few points more Republican than the rest of the state so if Obama wins them, he wins statewide. Most polls show Obama with a high single digit lead so I almost considered putting Pennsylvania in the likely Democratic column. I may move it closer to the election but it is lean Democratic for now.

Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) Wisconsin has had a Republican surge recently with the election of Scott Walker (R) as Governor and the failed recall. The Republican trend may be explained by Democrats moving out of Wisconsin and other Midwestern/Northern States. Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan (R) also put Wisconsin in play because Ryan is from Wisconsin. For Democrats to win in Wisconsin, they not only need to increase turnout in Milwaukee and Madison, they have to win the rural counties in the western part of the state. They learned this in the Walker recall when Walker performed poorly in Madison and Milwaukee but won because he overperformed in the rural parts of the state. The polls show a slight 2-3 point Obama lead after Ryan was picked. Then again, this could be part of the Ryan bounce which came late but still boosted Romney and Ryan.  Despite the closeness of the polls, Wisconsin is rated as Lean Democratic because Romney is not running any ads there, suggesting his internal numbers show Obama doing well there. One of the mistakes by the Romney campaign is that they are not spending extra money in states that lean blue to see if they move toward the Republicans. Obama did the same in states that lean red in 2008 when he targeted Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia and North Dakota. He was not successful in all of them but he picked off Indiana and North Carolina because he tried for at least a bit and found a good response.

Toss Up/Tilt Democratic (18 electoral votes)

Ohio (18 electoral votes) The RCP average shows a tied race right now but since many of the polls showing  are conducted by Republican leaning polling firms such as Gravitas, I am shifting Ohio to toss up/tilt Democratic. Ohio is a state where I first thought Obama would fare poorly because he is not too popular with the state's large working class population. Romney however seems more out of touch with them and his opposition to the bailout which resurrected the auto industry does not help either. Obama is benefiting from the auto industry's revival and Ohio's low unemployment rate. This could help him in the important swing areas in Ohio he needs to win. For Obama to win Ohio, he needs high turnout in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland,) Franklin County (Columbus,) Summit County (Akron,) and Lucas County (Toledo.) The swing areas include Hamilton County (Cincinnati,) the rural counties between Toledo and Cleveland and the rural counties along the Ohio River.

Pure Toss Ups (47 electoral votes)

Colorado (9 electoral votes) Obama won here by nine points, more than his countrywide average and the demographics here favor Democrats so if Obama wins the Presidency, he's probably winning Colorado too. Colorado is divided between the liberal areas of Denver, Boulder and the Rocky Mountain ski areas and the conservative areas of Colorado Springs, west Colorado and the Plains. The important swing areas though are the suburban counties of Larmier, Jefferson and Arahaphoe. Those areas are socially liberal but not fiscally liberal. 2010 Senatorial candidate Michael Bennett (D) won statewide by winning over socially liberal suburban women so Obama needs to do the same in order to win Colorado. Also, Obama needs to excite the youth vote in Boulder because they were an important part of his winning coalition. Still, the most important factor is suburban women and if Obama can highlight Ryan's extreme views on abortion rights, Obama has a strong chance here.

Florida (29 electoral votes) If any state were the purest of tossups, this would be the state. The polls currently show a tie here but Obama may bounce a few points once seniors hear about Ryan's Medicare plan. I was in Florida recently and would see a Political ad every minute. I even saw one Romney ad attacking Obama on welfare reform and the next ad after that was an Obama ad saying why the Romney ad was false. Demographically though, Florida is divided into three distinct regions. The Gold Coast, the I-4 Corridor and the rest of the state. The Gold Coast is southeast Florida (Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade Counties,) which is filled with Jewish retirees, African Americans and Cubans. The area usually votes Democratic but Cubans in Miami Dade County usually prevent Democrats from receiving more than 55% of the vote in that county. Broward and Palm Beach Counties have less Cubans though and usually vote 60%-65% Democratic but turnout in those areas is crucial. In 2010, Gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink (D) barely lost statewide because turnout in Palm Beach and Broward Counties was low. Obama though has been working on outreach to Hispanics, especially non Cuban Hispanics. The non Cuban Hispanics have a large presence on the I-4 Corridor and helped swing it strongly toward Obama. They have a large presence in Orlando and Tampa and are a fast growing segment of the population. Also, many of them are Puerto Rican which means they are citizens and can vote so Democrats have lots of voters to register. Obama has around 70 field offices in Florida compared to Romney's 30 so Democrats definitely have an advantage on the ground. The third part of the state is the rest of the state which consists of rural northern Florida, Jacksonville and conservative retirement communities along the southwest Florida coast. Romney is expected to do very well in this area but if Obama can win Duval County (Jacksonville) which has a large African American population, he will probably win Florida. Overall, the polls show the race within 1 point of each candidate. Political analyst Nate Silver made an interesting point though, "Romney has only a 0.3% chance of winning the election without Florida." Silver is right and it also means if Obama wins Florida + Kerry states, he hits 275 electoral votes so Romney has to win 6 electoral votes from the Kerry states and prevent Obama from winning any state that voted for Bush in 2004 (with New Mexico and Nevada leaning Democratic this year, that looks pretty unlikely.) So if Romney wants to be President, he has to win Florida.

Iowa (6 electoral votes) Iowa seems Republican at first. It is mostly rural and mostly white like the heavily Republican states of Kansas and Nebraska. The large number of universities, family farms and farms producing ethanol balance out the conservative evangelicals in the western part of the state. Obama won statewide by 9 points, thanks to strong support in the eastern part of the state but the Republican base in western Iowa seems more excited this year, making it harder for Obama.

Virginia (13 electoral votes) Obama won Virginia by seven points in 2008, Obama won the Presidency by seven points in 2008. It seems that Virginia will be a tipping point state again this year with the RCP average showing Obama with a 1 point lead there. Virginia has done well under Obama though with a lower than average unemployment rate. The Obama Administration's Defense spending has helped create jobs here due to the military presence of the Pentagon and in the Hampton Roads area. For Obama to win here, he has to win big in Northern Virginia which has helped Virginia trend Democratic as immigrants and upper middle class families from DC (like my family,) moved out to the suburbs to raise their kids. Also, he needs to increase African American turnout in the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions which have large African American populations. Republicans need to rely on their base of rural southwest Virginia and win the exurban counties surrounding the urban Democratic areas in Northern Virginia and Richmond. The bellwether counties include Loudon and Henrico Counties. Loudon County is the nation's 4th fastest growing county and has a mix of rural conservatives with Asians, Hispanics and residents from the inner DC area. Loudon County was crucial for Jim Webb's (D) successful Senate election in 2006 as well as Tim Kaine's (D) successful Gubernatorial election in 2005 because Loudon County shows whether rural Virginia or suburban Virginia turned out stronger. Henrico County is a Richmond suburb which has a large African American population and if Obama wins there, it shows he has successfully increased African American turnout

Toss Up/Tilt Republican (15 electoral votes)

North Carolina (15 electoral votes) A few polls including the extremely reliable PPP have shown the race to be a tie here and North Carolina is trending Democratic demographically but I do not believe the Democrats are winning here this time. The reason is that in 2008, Obama completely maxxed out the turnout in Durham (which may not be repeated because the large numbers of young voters are less excited this year than in 2008,) Charlotte, the heavily African American northeastern part of the state and Obama still won by only 14,000 votes. North Carolina is a base state where Democrats and Republicans have to bring out their bases in order to win (Republicans bring out the exurban and rural white conservatives, Democrats bring out the college students and the African Americans,) instead of a state such as Iowa and Ohio where Democrats win by persuading voters. In 2008, the Republican base was not very excited and the Republicans barely even targeted North Carolina. All the Republicans need to do is erase a 14,000 vote lead and that should be pretty easy for them. I predict the demographic changes will help the Democrats make it close but I still see a 2-3 point win for Republicans here.

Lean Republican (21 electoral votes)

Arizona (11 electoral votes) Earlier this year, the Obama campaign talked about putting Arizona in play. On paper, Arizona seems to be trending Democratic because it has a fast growing Hispanic population and lots of college students (Arizona State has 70,000 students, it is the largest public university in the country.) Also, Democrats are looking to gain two congressional seats too. Arizona though has a very conservative non persuadable base though in the Phoenix area who are strongly for Romney. Also, the state's Mormon population will boost him. 

Missouri (10 electoral votes) Since 1960, Missouri has always voted for the national winner in electoral votes except in one year. That year was 2008. Obama maxxed out turnout in the St. Louis area and in Kansas City but his coalition of African Americans and suburban whites which helped him win in Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana did not help him win in Missouri. Why? There were simply not enough populationwise to offset the rural conservatives in Missouri. Democrats probably will win Missouri's Senate seat where Republican candidate Todd Akin (R) made his famous legitimate rape comments but Romney should still prevail with increased Republican turnout in the rural areas.

Likely Republican (40 electoral votes)

Georgia (16 electoral votes) Maybe in ten years Georgia will be competitive if the African American population continues to increase and the upper income whites in Atlanta trend Democratic. For now though, it should stay in Romney's column. The Republican Atlanta suburbs and northern Georgia still outvote the Democratic areas of Atlanta and Central Georgia.

Indiana (11 electoral votes) Obama won Indiana by 26,000 votes in 2008 which was a surprise to most political observers. Indiana had not voted Democratic since 1964 and had voted for Bush in 2004 by 21 points. Obama won mostly because McCain did not bother to compete there in 2008. In 2012 though, Republicans are being careful and polls show Romney with a high single digit lead. The Obama campaign has stopped targeting Indiana too.

Montana (3 electoral votes) Democrats have some pockets of support here in Missoula, Bozeman and Butte but the rural Republican areas have more votes. Obama came close in 2008 but the state seems to be trending toward Romney.

Nebraska (1 electoral vote) Obama picked off this one electoral vote from Nebraska in 2008. With redistricting though and the fact that Obama has not been strongly contesting this electoral vote, it should probably go Republican this year.

South Carolina (9 electoral votes) South Carolina is a very polarized state and the polarization favors the Republicans. A few polls showed a close race here awhile back but I expect Romney to win by 10. 

Safe Republican (124 electoral votes)

Alabama (9 electoral votes) A strong Republican state in the strongly Republican South.

Alaska (3 electoral votes) Sarah Palin may not be on the ballot this year but Romney should cruise here anyway.

Arkansas (6 electoral votes) Bill Clinton may have given a great speech but his homestate will come home to Romney.

Idaho (4 electoral votes) This should be one of Romney's best states.

Kansas (6 electoral votes) Toto, I don't think they are many Democrats in Kansas anymore.

Kentucky (8 electoral votes) The Democrats may have a popular Governor but the Republican brand is popular in the Presidential race.

Louisiana (8 electoral votes) Another strong Republican state for Romney.

Mississippi (6 electoral votes) Mississippi may have a 37% African American population but Democrats are not winning here for a long time because Republicans routinely win 80%+ of the white vote.

Nebraska (4 electoral votes) The rest of Nebraska is firmly in Republican hands.

North Dakota (3 electoral votes) Most polls here show Romney around 15 points. He should cruise here.

Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) Democrats have not won a single county in a national race in Oklahoma since 2000. They will probably not win any again anytime soon.

South Dakota (3 electoral votes) Same story as North Dakota.

Tennessee (11 electoral votes) Gone are the days when Tennessee would vote Democratic for President. It has found a firm spot in the Republican column. One poll a few months ago showed a small Romney lead but unless I see more polls showing the same story, I'm going to believe it's an anomaly.

Texas (38 electoral votes) In ten years, Texas may be competitive as the Hispanic population continues to grow but for now, it is firmly in the Republican column.

West Virginia (5 electoral votes) West Virginia still votes Democratic for statewide offices, even in 2010 but it has voted Republican for national office recently and is trending further to the right.

Wyoming (3 electoral votes) I think we all know how this state will play out.

So how do the states stack up? There are 172 solid Obama votes, 29 likely Obama votes and 56 lean Obama votes bringing the electoral votes Obama will probably win to 257 electoral votes. There are 124 solid Romney votes, 40 likely Romney votes, 21 lean Romney votes which gives Romney 185 electoral votes. This means that in order to win, Obama has to win 13 out of the 80 electoral votes in the tossup column. He can achieve this by winning any one of the tossup or tossup/tilt states or Colorado +Iowa. Many of these states are 50/50 for either candidate but for Romney, he has to win every single state in the tossup/tilt category (unless the one state he loses is Colorado or Iowa.) While Romney should certainly win some of the tossup states, can he really win all of the states he is 50/50 in? Also, Ohio probably has a more than 50/50 chance of going for Obama and if Obama wins his 257 electoral votes + Ohio, Malia and Sasha will be the first kids for another four years so Romney needs more paths to victory. He also needs to pick off some of the lean Democratic states but with his recent decision to not run ads in WI and MI, it makes it harder for him to steal any of the Kerry states which except New Hampshire have all voted Democratic since 1992. Overall, Obama certainly has an advantage and unless Romney's ads make a real dent in the electorate, Obama should probably win reelection.