Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Electoral Vote Ratings: One More Week

My previous electoral vote ratings: http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/2012/10/electoral-vote-rankings-obama.html

These are my 2nd to last Electoral rankings. My last will be right before election day. 

http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/2012/09/electoral-vote-rankings-2012.html  has more detailed writeups on Safe and Likely states. 

Also, I have eliminated the tossup category because I believe at this stage, states are either trending one way or the other.






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

Changes favoring Democrats
Colorado-Tossup-Tilt D 
Connecticut Likely D-Safe D

Changes favoring Republicans
Florida-Tossup-Tilt R
New Hampshire Lean D-Tilt D



Safe Democratic (179 electoral votes)
CA, CT DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA, NE, ND, OK,

Likely Democratic (22 electoral votes)
 MN, NM, OR

Lean Democratic (52 electoral votes)
MI, NV, PA, WI

Tilt Democratic (52 electoral votes)
CO, IA, OH, VA

Tilt Republican (44 electoral votes)
NC, FL

Lean Republican (11 electoral votes)
AZ, 

Likely Republican (37 electoral votes)
GA, IN, MO, MT, NE-02

Safe Republican (129 electoral votes)
AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

My projections for the lean and tilt states:
Lean D
MI O 53-46
NV O 53-46
PA O 52-46
WI O 51-47
Tilt D
CO O 50-48
IA O 51-48
NH O 51-48
OH O 51-48
VA O 50-49
Tilt R
FL O 49-50
NC O 48-50
Lean R
AZ O 45-53

More detailed writeups on the safe and likely states: http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/2012/09/electoral-vote-rankings-2012.html

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. Most recent polls show Obama leading in the high single digits but a shocker poll released recently shows Obama and Romney tied in Michigan. It is just one poll however so I do not trust it. If other polls however show a similar result, then I will be worried. 

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. Also, many Hispanics who speak Spanish only are harder to poll and they vote strongly Democratic. For Democrats to win in Nevada, they have to win 55%+ in Clark County (Las Vegas) which has a large fast growing Hispanic population. They also must win Washoe County which is a bellwether. 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. Also, the early voting numbers are strong for the Democrats being 47% Democratic and 37% Republican with 20% of Nevadans having early voted by 10/26/12. The Democrats' advantage in Clark County is showing itself too with the EV being 50% D and 31% R. Also, no poll in the last year has shown Romney ahead in NV, I am not worried about this state as long as the volunteers keep working. Even one of Gov. Brian Sandoval's (R) staff members says he thinks Obama will win Nevada. If I were Romney, I would pull out of here. His ground game cannot compete with the Democrats' ground game here. 

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. Recently though, the Democrats put an ad buy in the Pittsburgh area but that may be for Sen. Bob Casey (D) who is facing an unexpectedly tough race. 

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. Romney's Ryan pick seems to have helped Romney in Wisconsin. Obama has had small leads although not a single poll this month has shown Romney leading Obama in Wisconsin. Therefore, I am keeping Wisconsin at Lean Democratic. 

Tilt Democratic (37 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 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. Polls have been showing a near tie in Colorado but this may actually be an advantage for the Democrats. The reason is that Colorado has many Democratic leaning young and Hispanic voters who are harder to poll because many of them do not use landlines or respond to polls (in the case of Hispanics, some polls do not have Spanish options so Hispanics who do not speak English well may not respond.) This underpolling showed up in the 2008 Presidential race where the RCP average showed Obama ahead by 5, he won by 9 and in the 2010 Senatorial race, the RCP average showed Ken Buck (R) +1, he lost by 2 points. Still, this state is very close and the Democrats should take absolutely nothing for granted. 



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. Iowa though is still trending toward Obama, with Nate Silver giving Obama a 66% chance of winning due to polls showing a small lead for Obama. Also, early voting numbers have been strong here. One important note is that in 2008, polls showed Obama with a double digit lead but he won by only 9 so Republicans can overperform in polls here. 

New Hampshire (4 electoral votes) New Hampshire has a strong libertarian streak and Romney did very well here in the primary. 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 should have an advantage. Romney's moderation though is helping him personally because he pulled close in a few polls last week and even led in a few. The most recent ones suggest Obama is coming back and RCP has him leading by 2.0

Ohio (18 electoral votes) 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. Anyway, Obama was doing well here in late September but after the 1st debate, polls showed a closer race. Obama regained his lead though, only one poll conducted since October 17th has shown Romney in the lead out of 18 polls released since then. All polls do show a 20%+ lead for Obama among early voters though, suggesting his ground game is very strong in Ohio. 


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. Virginia looks to be decided by less than 1 point though. The southwest part of the state which delivered the 2004 election for Bush is turning out strongly but the African American community in the Hampton Roads is energized as are the Hispanics in Northern Virginia so it will be very close in Virginia. Polls seem to show Obama getting a small lead here. 





Toss Up/Tilt Republican (15 electoral votes)


Florida (29 electoral votes) Florida was a pure tossup back in August but seems to be slightly tilting towards Romney. 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. Polls are showing a slight Romney lead but early voting started last Sunday and the Secretary of State is reporting high numbers for the Democrats. 


North Carolina (15 electoral votes)  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. Also, the early voting numbers look good for the Democrats with a PPP poll showing a tied race but a 57%-42% lead for Obama in the early votes. Most polls though show a slight Romney lead. The Romney campaign shifted one staffer from NC to OH and spun it as "pulling out of NC" but NC is still being contested by both campaigns, even if Romney has an advantage. 

Lean Republican (12 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.  

So where do these rankings leave Obama? Although his path to winning seems more rocky than it did before the debate, Obama still has an advantage. He has maintained leads in the Gore/Kerry states which total 242 electoral votes. He also is ahead in New Mexico so the safe Obama states have a total of 247 electoral votes. To win, Obama needs 23 more electoral votes from the tilt Democratic or tossup states. Obama has been leading in Nevada so I will give him Nevada, giving him 253 electoral votes. From here, all Obama needs to do is win 17 more electoral votes. He can win that by winning VA + NH, NH + IA +CO, or simply win OH. Obama has strong leads in OH and IA so I would expect him to win those states. If he wins Gore/Kerry states, NV, IA and OH, he has 277 electoral votes which is enough to win. He is also leading in NH so he should get 281. The true tossup states are VA and CO and if Obama won both, he should win 303. From the looks of it now, Obama should receive between 281 and 303 electoral votes, enough to win. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Florida Election Prediction 2012

What makes Florida such a close swing state? What must the President and Romney do in order to win there? I will examine those questions in my post.

This is my 2nd post in my swing state series. The first post examined Colorado here: http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/2012/10/colorado-election-prediction-2012.html  In this post, I will look at the demographics and political trends of certain regions in Florida. I will also use election baselines to estimate what percentages the President needs to win Florida. For the baselines, I incorporated the 2008 Presidential election results and the 2010 Gubernatorial results. They show the minimum percentage the President needs in each county in order to win statewide. Anyway, here is a brief political history of Florida:

For the last 20 years, Florida has been a close swing state. It was heavily Republican in the 1980s but in 1996, Clinton won Florida by keeping down Republican margins in North Florida and winning big in the Gold Coast. In 2000 however, Al Gore (D) lost Florida by the painstaking margin of 537 votes. He won big margins in the Gold Coast area but did not do well enough in North Florida and the swing I-4 Corridor to win. When Bush won in 2004, it seemed that Florida was trending Republican because of the heavily Republican Cuban voters and the Republican trend in North Florida. In 2008 though, the President shocked many observers by pulling Florida back to the Democratic column. He did so by winning large margins in heavily Hispanic Miami Dade County. He won 57% of Hispanics statewide which helped him win the I-4 Corridor which is the swing part of the state. In 2012 though, Romney hopes to win Florida and he may be able to do so by eroding Obama's margins in the Gold Coast and doing well in the fast growing parts of Florida. Anyway, here are the three main regions of Florida:




Blue Counties = Gold Coast
Purple Counties = I-4 Corridor
Red Counties = Rest of Florida

The Gold Coast: 
The Gold Coast consists of four counties: Palm Beach, Broward, Miami Dade and Monroe Counties. This is the most Democratic area of Florida. The reason is that it has large African American and Jewish populations, especially in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. The counties are very urban, containing a combined 5+million people. They are filled with Jewish voters who moved down from the New York area and other residents of the Northeast. Although the African American and Jewish populations keep Palm Beach and Broward Counties strongly Democratic (they both voted 60%+ for the Democratic Presidential candidates since 2000,) Miami Dade is less Democratic. The reason is that it is 65% Hispanic and many of those Hispanics are Cubans. Cubans usually vote Republican because they view Republicans as tough on Castro. The Cubans in 2000 and 2004 prevented Gore and Kerry from winning more than 53% of the vote in Miami Dade County but Obama won 58% of the vote there. How? He turned out non Cuban Hispanics which are more sympathetic toward the Democratic Party and now outnumber Cubans in Florida. Also, many young American born Cubans consider Castro less of an issue than their parents did so they are now swing voters. A recent poll showed Obama leading Romney among Florida Hispanics by 30 points, suggesting that he is making inroads among young Cubans too. So if Obama is performing better among Hispanics than in 2008, why is he not leading in Florida? One issue, the elderly Jewish voters. In 2000, Gore performed well with them, most likely because of his VP candidate Joe Lieberman but Obama is having a tougher time connecting with those voters. Many of them dislike Obama's stance on Israel. but if Obama is able to offset losses among the Jewish voters with gains with Hispanics and high African American turnout, he stands a good chance to win.

Baselines:
Broward County: Obama 66%, Romney 34%
Miami Dade County: Obama 57%, Romney 43%
Palm Beach County: Obama 60%, Romney 40%

I-4 Corridor
The I-4 Corridor consists of the cities following I-4 which cuts across Central Florida. The I-4 Corridor contains the Tampa area, the Orlando area and the Daytona Beach area. It is the fastest growing part of Florida, has many middle class voters and 40 years ago, the Orlando area was mostly orange groves. The I-4 Corridor is a mix of retirees and families from the Midwest who lean Republican and a very fast growing Hispanic population (mostly Puerto Rican) who lean Democratic. In 2004, Bush trounced Kerry in the I-4 Corridor by winning over Hispanics. Bush lost only two counties in the I-4 Corridor. In 2008 though, Obama performed extremely well. He won large margins in the Orlando area, winning 59% in Orange County (which had a high African American turnout and a fast growing Hispanic population,) and 59% in Osceola County which is nearly majority Hispanic. He even performed well in the traditionally Republican Tampa area, winning traditionally Republican Hillsborough County (Tampa.) Hillsborough used to be more Republican than Florida but it is trending Democratic faster than Florida and in 2010, Gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink (D) won Hillsborough County by 4 points despite losing statewide by 1. Therefore, Obama must win Hillsborough County or he will be in trouble. Romney though hopes to do well in the I-4 Corridor by winning over Independents who voted for Obama in 2008 because of the economic downturn which hurt the I-4 Corridor. Also, turnout is very important too because some polls predict lower Hispanic turnout. Obama's ground game has been very active in the I-4 Corridor though which should help bring out the Hispanic vote and the sizable African American population in Hillsborough and Orange Counties. Also, a good bellwether to watch would be Volusia County (Daytona Beach) and Flager County. Volusia voted for Gore by 8 points but has trended Republican because its large number of native Floridians (there are many southern accented voters here,) have trended Republican throughout the rest of northern Florida. Flager County was the fastest growing county of the 2000s and was hard hit by the recession when it voted for Obama in 2008. It may swing to Romney though because of the economy. I expect Obama to lose strength in the Gold Coast area so for him to win statewide, he must win the I-4 Corridor.

Baselines:
Flager County: Obama 48%, Romney 52%
Hillsborough County: Obama 52%, Romney 48%
Osceola County: Obama 56%, Romney 44%
Orange County: Obama 57%, Romney 43%
Pinellas County: Obama 53%, Romney 47%
Volusia County: Obama 50.6%, Romney 49.4%

Rest of the State: 
The rest of Florida outside the I-4 Corridor and the Gold Coast is mostly very conservative. The rest of Florida consists of the west coast which has Midwestern retirees, southwest Florida with wealthy conservative retirees, Jacksonville with a sizable African American population and a conservative white population and the Panhandle which resembles Alabama more than Miami. North Florida used to be Democratic leaning but similarly to rural areas in Georgia and Alabama, North Florida has trended away from the Democrats. Demographically, North Florida west of Jacksonville is lower income culturally conservative voters similar to the rest of the rural South. Jacksonville is another story because Duval County (Jacksonville) voted for McCain by only 2 points as the African American population there grows and the conservative whites move into the suburbs such as fast growing Clay and Nassau Counties. Southwest Florida trended toward Obama in 2008 but should swing back to Romney in 2012 because he should perform well with the wealthy fiscal conservatives there. Also, since the retirees there are well off, Ryan's vouchercare is not a major issue for them. The only strongly Democratic areas here includes the Tallahassee area which has a large African American and Government workers population. For Obama to win Florida, he just has to keep margins down in this region by coming close in Jacksonville or winning it. Jacksonville recently elected a Democratic African American mayor which suggests Jacksonville may be trending towards the Democrats. Obama also needs to make inroads among the less wealthy retirees in Hernando and Citrus Counties by using the Medicare issue but he did not do well there in 2008 so he may have a harder time.

Baselines:
Duval County: Obama 48%, Romney 52%
Escambia County (Pensacola): Obama 40%, Romney 60%
Hernando County: Obama 46%, Romney 54%
Lee County (Fort Myers): Obama 41%, Romney 59%


Overall, keep a few ideas in mind on election night? Is Obama performing well in Miami Dade and Osceola Counties which have large Hispanic populations? Does Palm Beach County have a greatly reduced margin compared to 2008? How well is Romney doing in Citrus and Hernando Counties with middle income seniors? Also, how well is Obama performing in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties which have been trending Democratic quickly? These questions will show which candidate is winning in Florida.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Senate Ratings: Democrats Likely to Keep Senate Majority

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. In August, Republicans seemed to have a 50-50 shot at gaining the Senate but their chances fell in three tossup seats. Those seats include Missouri where Todd Akin (R) said his famous rape comments, and Wisconsin where Tammy Baldwin (D) has campaigned more energetically than her opponent Tommy Thompson (R) has. 

On another note, I am not including writeups on most Safe and Likely seats, they can be found here though: http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/2012/09/senate-rankings-september-2012.html







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

Seat changes favoring Democrats

AZ-Lean R-Tossup
FL-Lean D-Likely D
MA Tossup-Lean D
MI-Likely D-Safe D
VA-Tossup-Lean D
WI-Tossup-Lean D
Seat changes favoring Republicans: 
PA-Safe D-Likely D (moved because some polls are showing a single digit race.) 

Seat changes not favoring Independents: 

ME Safe I-Likely I

Safe Democratic (11 seats) CA, DE, MD, MI, MN, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA, WV

Likely Democratic (5 seats) FL, HI, NM, OH, PA

Lean Democratic (4 seats) CT, MA, MO, WI

Tossup (6 seats) AZ, IN, NV, MT, ND, VA

Lean Republican (0 seats)

Likely Republican (1 seat) NE

Safe Republican (5 seats) MS, TN, TX, UT, WY

Likely Independent (1 seat) ME


Lean Democratic (4 seats) 

Connecticut (Open-Joe Lieberman): Rep. Chris Murphy (D) is facing Linda McMahon (R), former WWE CEO who spent around $50 million in the 2010 Senate race (she lost by 11 points) but is running closer in the polls than in 2010. In late August, McMahon was tied in the polls after she sent an ad blitz into Connecticut. Murphy though was boosted after the DSCC spent money to help him. The most recent poll, Rasmussen shows him leading by 5 points. If even Rasmussen, a conservative leaning polling firm shows a mid single digit lead for Murphy, it suggests he has escaped danger. Also, McMahon at a recent debate said churches could deny emergency contraception pills to rape victims. In Connecticut which is a strong pro choice state, those comments should be very harmful to her. 

Massachusetts (Scott Brown (R)): Brown seemed to be invincible after winning Ted Kennedy's (D) former Senate seat in this heavily Democratic state in a 2010 Special Election until Elizabeth Warren (D), Obama's nominee for the Consumer Protection Bureau decided to run. Her fundraising has been strong. 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.) Warren has been a prolific fundraiser and is one of the top 15 highest fundraisers in Senate history. She also raised $12.4 million in the 3rd Quarter (compared to 7.45 million for Brown) and has performed well in the debates. Brown said his role model was Scalia which plays into Warren's strategy that a vote for Brown is a vote for a Republican to control the Senate. This is Warren's strategy because polls including a PPP one released on October 11th shows that 53%-36% of Massachusetts residents want Democrats to control the Senate. Brown has been running away from the Republican party but Warren has been tying him to the unpopular Republican Congress. Warren's strategy seems to be working though as her leads in the polls are mainly around 5-6 points which is high enough to put the race in the Lean Democratic category. 


Missouri (Claire McCaskill (D)): I was at first very worried about McCaskill's chances here because of Missouri's sharp turn to the right (it was the only swing state in 2008 to support John McCain and it voted Republican for Senate by 13 points in 2010.) Then Republican candidate Todd Akin (R) said his famous legitimate rape comment which turned a 5 point Akin lead into a 5 point McCaskill lead. I was worried that Akin could make up ground after the legitimate rape comments but McCaskill is holding steady and even Rasmussen is showing her ahead by 6 points. Also, McCaskill has 3.5 million CoH while Akin only has 500k CoH. 


Wisconsin (Open Herb Kohl (D)): Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) from Madison is running for the seat against former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R). At first, Republicans thought that this seat would be an easy pickup for them because Thompson is moderate and won reelection with 60%+ as Governor. Conventional wisdom also said Baldwin was too liberal for the district. What conventional wisdom did not say though was that Baldwin would campaign extremely hard throughout August and September while Thompson made only a few campaign appearances due to his "frail health." This is what happened and Baldwin's hard work has paid off because she has led in all of the nine polls conducted since September 17th (yes, even Rasmussen shows her ahead.) Also, Thompson's son said, "Obama should go back to Kenya," which should hurt the Thompson campaign. Baldwin's fundraising is going strong too, she has 3.5 million CoH compared to Thompson's 2.0 million CoH.


Tossup (6 seats)

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. He also is campaigning as an Independent frustrated with gridlock and has criticized the Bush Administration which is helping him with Independents. The Republican candidate is Rep. Jeff Flake (R)-Mesa who was leading early this year but the last two polls have shown Carmona ahead by 2 (PPP) and 4 points (Rocky Mountain) respectively. Carmona is also posting big leads among Hispanics, including a 36 point lead in the PPP poll. The Rocky Mountain polling firm is relatively unknown but since they used the words "Democrat Party" in their memo (that's a common phrase Republicans use to describe the Democratic Party,) I assume they are not affiliated with the Democratic Party. What the Rocky Mountain firm does do though is not undersample cellphone only voters and they also sample Spanish speaking voters (who usually vote Democratic.) 

Indiana (Open Richard Lugar (R)):  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. Polls have been showing a slight Mourdock lead but due to the sparse number of polls, it is difficult to gauge who is ahead. What polls do show though is that most undecided voters are Republicans (mainly those who voted for moderate Lugar and are worried about Mourdock's extremism,) so Donnelly has been tying himself to Lugar, including mentioning how Lugar and him both backed the auto bailout which saved Indiana jobs. Although Indiana is a Republican leaning state, I do see a path for Donnelly to win. Obama did win in 2008 so voters here are open to supporting Democrats. Nate Silver says Donnelly has a 52.5% chance to win, showing a very tight race. 



Montana (Jon Tester (D)): Rep. Danny Rehberg (R) is challenging Tester, a popular incumbent with strong campaign skills (who can forget his haircut ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joQi27QG7Cs) and his new ad with a similar Montana theme (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1pteKuWCEI&feature=channel&list=UL.) Rehberg however is well known and popular throughout this Republican leaning state, making it more difficult.  Like in 2006, this race could be one of the last Senatorial races decided and the polls reflect a very tight race. 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. In 2006, Tester won by carrying Native Americans and urban voters. He needs to replicate this to win. 

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.   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, Nevada is underpolled in the Democrats' favor. 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. Also, the Melman polling group found her ahead by 3 points and they were the only polling firm showing Reid with a lead right before November 6th. Melman's track record is very strong and if they show Berkley ahead, they are probably right.

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. Many North Dakotans vote for the person, not the party and Berg is not very personally popular which works in Hentkamp's favor. She is very likable and a news reporter described her as "the person who hugs everyone in the room while Berg is the person in the room who gives talking points about why you should vote for him."  North Dakota really likes personally popular candidates (Kent Conrad won easily because he is personally popular,)  but it is a Presidential year and North Dakota should go for Romney. Berg has been working to tie Heitkamp to Obama and he may receive support for the new conservative residents moving in after the oil boom. Heitkamp though hopes she can win over enough native North Dakotans who are used to voting for likable Democrats. A recent poll showed a tied race. 


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. In a recent debate though, Kaine made a gaffe about tax rates but it does not seem to have much backlash. Polls though have differed on Kaine's lead. PPP says Kaine is ahead by 7 but Rasmussen says Kaine is leading by only 1. I would guess it is somewhere in between, maybe around 3 points but it is still in the tossup zone. 
Lean Republican (0 seats) 

Likely Republican (5 seats) 
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. Kerrey received a recent boost from comedian Steve Martin who endorsed Kerrey and released a strong ad for him here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/05/steve-martin-bob-kerrey_n_1942521.html (Martin also has not endorsed candidates until now.) It may help move a few voters but Fischer's lead is too high for Kerrey to overcome. 

Likely 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. 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. Also, King has outraised the other candidates by more than 2-1.

Overall, what does the Republican path to the Senate majority look like? Well, they already have 47 seats and need 4 seats to win a majority, assuming Obama wins reelection and Biden is the tiebreaker. Nebraska is already likely R and Maine is Likely Independent (Angus King probably will caucus with the Democrats,) so Republicans need to sweep all tossups which includes retaining AZ, IN and NV and picking up VA, ND and MT. That still only gives them +3 so they must win one of the leaning Democratic seats, CT, MA, MO or WI. Democrats have leads in all those states so it makes it difficult for Republicans to make a surprise win. Overall, Republicans have a very difficult path to the Senate majority, even with the post first debate performance. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Electoral Vote Rankings: Obama Maintaining a slight lead

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.) Also, Obama's debate performance brought the race to a near tie. One point though is that debates never decided the popular vote winner since 1960. In 1988, George H.W Bush probably would have won even if Dukakis gave a better response to the question about his wife. In 1992, George H.W. Bush was losing even before he checked his watch. In 2004 though, Kerry won the debates and although this made a close race, it was not enough to win. This 2012 Presidential race reminds of me of 2004. There was a candidate from Massachusetts who was not very likeable, was not liked by the party base at first, had his strength attacked (Kerry's was his military experience, Romney's was his business experience,) and did well in the first debate. Another similarity is that Kerry had an electoral disadvantage with a strategy relying on only Ohio. Romney has an electoral disadvantage too. Even if the national popular vote is a near tie, Obama is still leading because he has an electoral advantage. He posts strong leads in all the Kerry states which equals 246 electoral votes. He also leads strongly in New Mexico which equals 251 electoral votes. To win, all Obama needs to do is find 19 more electoral votes.  Anyway though, here are the electoral vote rankings. In this post, I am just going to give writeups to states in the lean, tilt or tossup columns. My post here http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/2012/09/electoral-vote-rankings-2012.html  has more detailed writeups on Safe and Likely states. 





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

Changes favoring Democrats
Iowa Tossup-Tilt D
Virginia Tossup-Tilt D

Changes favoring Republicans
Missouri Lean R-Likely R
South Carolina Likely R-Safe R

Safe Democratic (172 electoral votes)
CA, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA, NE, ND, OK,

Likely Democratic (29 electoral votes)
CT, MN, NM, OR

Lean Democratic (56 electoral votes)
MI, NV, NH, PA, WI

Tilt Democratic (37 electoral votes)
 IA, OH, VA

Pure Tossup (38 electoral votes)
CO, FL

Tilt Republican (15 electoral votes)
NC

Lean Republican (12 electoral votes)
AZ, NE-02

Likely Republican (36 electoral votes)
GA, IN, MO, MT

Safe Republican (129 electoral votes)
AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

More detailed writeups:

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.

Update: Despite Michigan being Romney's home state, Obama should still win here. Voters have clearly not forgotten how he saved their state's economy. Romney's bounce is bringing him close to Obama in the polls but the polls should bounce back after Romney's bounce fades.

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.

Update: 
The post debate polls show the race is narrowing here too. However, Rasmussen shows only a tie, not a lead for Romney and since Rasmussen is known for their right wing bias, this suggests the President still has a slight lead in Nevada. Also, PPP shows Obama leading by 4 so I am not worried about Nevada until PPP shows Romney with a lead here that not even the Democrats ground game can fix. I am also keeping Nevada in the Lean D category because of how Nevada is underpolled. 

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.

Update: I really wanted to move Pennsylvania into the Likely Democratic category. All polls in September showed Obama with a high single digit lead. The media's response to the debate performance though has reduced Obama's standing in Pennsylvania as the Siena poll shows him with a 2-3 point lead. The Romney bounce should be temporary as long as Obama and Biden perform well in the upcoming debates. For now though, Pennsylvania stays in the lean Democratic column.



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.

Update:
Wisconsin is not giving Obama the best numbers after the debate so I am worried I may have to move it into the tilt Democratic column. Even after the bounce started to fade, the Quinnipec poll showed Obama with a 3 point lead here. This is enough to move into the tilt Democratic column for now.


Tilt Democratic (37 electoral votes)


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.

Update: After the media's attacks on Obama's debate performance, I immediately expected Iowa to follow along with Florida and see a Romney lead in the polls. Rasmussen's post debate poll though showed Obama leading here by 2, showing that Obama is still slightly ahead in Iowa. Also, another boost for the Democrats is that they are leading heavily in the early voting numbers too. On the first day of early voting, the number of Democrats who cast ballots outnumbered Republicans 4 to 1. We do not know who the Democrats voted for but assuming partisan trends are stable, about 90%-95% probably supported the President. 

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.

Update:
I wanted to move Ohio to the lean D category after the September polls but with the post debate bounce for Romney, this is difficult because the polls have tightened. An NBC4 poll showed a dead heat among likely voters. I felt that once the debate bounce faded, the polls should revert back toward Obama. Also, expectations for the President's next debate have been set so low that even an "okay" performance should be a win for him which could cause an even larger bounce. Many of the polls in Ohio have been from Republican leaning firms such as Gravis and Rasmussen which helped the media set the narrative for a Republican comeback. Now the CNN poll and the Quinnipec poll shows Obama leads of 4 and 6 respectively.


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. 

Update: Even after the attacks Obama received for his debate performance, he is still ahead by 3 points in Virginia in the latest PPP poll. Also, Quinnipec shows Obama is leading in Virginia by 5 but this poll was released on October 11th after the debate. Romney's debate definitely seems to have faded a bit so Obama is regaining his lead. Still, I am not quite ready to move Virginia into the lean Democratic category but if Obama posts more 5 point leads in polls, I will. 



Pure Toss Ups (38 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 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. I originally placed Colorado in the pure tossup category because Romney narrowed Obama's lead in August but Obama seems to have bounced back so I am placing the race in the tilt Democratic category.

Update: I was hoping to move Colorado in the tilt Democratic category but the new Quinnipec poll showed Romney with a 1 point lead here. Even though Obama seems to have bounced back in states such as Ohio and Virginia, Colorado is proving tougher for him than expected. The economy has not been super strong here. Also, Obama's message of saving the auto industry and looking out for the middle class may play well in states such as Ohio and Michigan but Colorado is more fiscally conservative so the argument does not work as well. If Romney brings social issues to the forefront though, Obama may bounce back here and take a strong lead instead of having a virtual tie.

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.

Update: This state remains in the tossup column despite Obama getting a strong lead here in late September. The media's attack on the President's debate performance has given a bounce to Romney in many areas including in Florida. While Obama maintains leads in a few other states, Florida is still a big tossup. The RCP average shows this race as exactly a tie while Nate Silver's 538 model shows Romney with a 51.7% chance of winning. That clearly states Florida is in the middle of the tossup category. I would not be surprised to see a result similar to 2000. Even the new Marist poll released on October 11th shows Obama up by only 1 point, Florida should remain extremely tight. 



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.

Update: If I had written this ranking list before the debate, North Carolina would belong in the pure tossup column.  The debate performance though has shifted North Carolina back in the Romney direction though. A Republican leaning firm showed Romney ahead by 9 and although the firm is Republican leaning, a 9 point lead is still very high. 

Lean Republican (12 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.  

Nebraska 02 (1 electoral vote) 
In 2004, Bush won 60% of the vote here so most pundits did not expect Obama to do well here. He surprised them though and won with 50% of the vote. NE-02 is a congressional district that covers Omaha and its suburbs in Sarpy County. Nebraska has an interesting system where it awards electoral votes based on who wins the congressional districts and two electoral votes to the statewide popular vote winner. The district has a fast growing Hispanic population which helped Obama out but after redistricting, Republicans added more Republicans areas in Sarpy County but the district is not completely out of reach for the Democrats. The reason is that the Republicans increased McCain's percentage minimally and Obama is again contesting the area. The polls are not suggesting a similar upset for Obama but if Obama regains the pre debate lead, this area could become close. 

So where do these rankings leave Obama? Although his path to winning seems more rocky than it did before the debate, Obama still has an advantage. He has maintained leads in the Kerry states which total 246 electoral votes. He also is ahead in New Mexico so the safe Obama states have a total of 251 electoral votes. To win, Obama needs 19 more electoral votes from the tilt Democratic or tossup states. One way is to win Florida which gives him 29 electoral votes. Another way is to win Nevada (which is already leaning Obama,) with 6 electoral votes plus Virginia's 13 electoral votes where Obama has a slight lead. Obama could also win Nevada (6), Colorado (9) and Iowa (6) for 21 more electoral votes. Obama could also win Nevada (6) and Ohio (18) for 24 more electoral votes. Even with Romney's debate bounce, Obama still has many options to win. Also, the debate bounce finally seems to be fading. The newest polls show Obama with leads in Ohio, Nevada and Virginia. What it is important to do now is look at the polls themselves and when they were conducted instead of buying the media narrative that Romney is suddenly sprouting leads. Many of the state polls showing Obama bouncing back were taken this week while the national polls showing Romney leading were partially taken late last week with Romney's bounce (this includes the Rasmussen and Gravis polls.) Overall, Obama seems to have settled on his feet a bit and hopefully his lead will return to him.