The Presidential race is essentially tied, by all metrics. The topline number is even. Internal crosstabs favor Romney demographically. State polls slightly favor Obama. Net outcome? A tie. This makes a prediction nearly impossible. Indeed, as of last night, I was baffled.
OBAMA PICKUP STATES
Let's look at the states the President won that Bush did not. First, the one indispensible state, the tipping state, is Virginia. That is because Romney cannot win without Virginia, and the President can.
Most expect Romney to win IN and NC. Romney has gained the advantage in FL, which he obviously needs to win, and I think he will. President Obama has held a tight but tenacious lead in four key states - NH, CO, OH, and IO. Despite GOP claims to a lead, he also is essentially tied in VA.
As I predicted ages ago, PA is moving toward Romney. The same holds true in WI. Some say Romney is closing in MI and MN, but I find that doubtful. I think the President will win NV, as the hospitality unions knock doors. Many Republicans are confident about CO, but I am not. The Democratic ground game in CO cities have excelled in the past three cycles. It leans Obama, but is still in play.
So the President will win if he holds OH, and wins both NH and IO, or just WI or CO.
Romney can lose OH and still win with VA, WI, CO and either NH or CO. But he cannot win without VA. Thus, Virginia is to this election what FL was to 2000 and OH was to 2004.
I think Romney will win at least one of the bigger Midwest states - OH, WI, PA, MI, MN (the latter two being doubtful). He also will get at least one of the smaller swing states - CO, NH, IO.
So as of Monday night, I saw the race at Obama 243, Romney 235 with CO, IO, WI, OH, VI and NH outstanding. In this scenario, Obama wins PA. That is in question, but I have it there as a placeholder. PA will be close. (Pace John Heilemann.)
In today's world, one does not win independents and lose very often. Similarly, Catholics are a swing vote that usually favor the Democrats. If a Republican wins them, Romney is favored.
I weighed the final IBD and Politico polls, and some state polls, identifying three key vectors.
IBD has Romney extending his lead among Catholics to 17, from 1 a month ago. He won't get that, but even 7 would be decisive.
Politico has Romney leading by 15 among independents in the swing states. This continues a trend of double-digit leads in this cohort over the past several weeks, Again, if true, decisive, but his team would be pleased with anything north of six points, so this is a continuing source of optimism for his campaign.
The Gravis and four other polls in swing states continue to show Obama with a 47% approval rating, even in states where he earns 50% of the vote. This will not happen -- he will be closer to 48%. Indeed, I expect him to get only 48% of the overall vote nationally.
Several polls, including PPP in VA and IBD nationally, which show the race tied or Obama up close, have Obama getting 40% of the white vote. I think he will garner no more than 38% of this vote, which is 70+% of the electorate.
These demographic trends help Romney in swing areas of swing states, such as the OH and PA suburbs (married women, Catholics). Because of Romney's growth among suburbanites and married women, he does have a fighting chance in PA.
The early vote still favors Obama, but not as much this year. Finally, long lines this morning in Lake County, OH and Tampa, FL indicate intensity among the base GOP vote.
Because of all these vectors, it is very hard to make a state-by-state call now, mainly because I am not confident in the outcome in VA, which will effect the final electoral college count. I do not have clarity on which way the final six states will vote. But these late polls and anecdotal evidence of turnout intensity give me the clarity to say Romney has a very good chance in OH, PA, and WI (Catholics), and also IO and NH (independents.) I still see CO as leaning to the President. .
So I cannot call the electoral total, but I can confidently say Romney will win the popular vote, with the President at about 48% of the total.
As for the winner, if Obama gets over 40% of whites, or if Romney gets 17% of Catholics, all bets are off. But if Romney wins the Catholic vote by four or more, and the independents by seven or more -- and if he can win all-important Virginia -- he will not only win the popular vote, he will win the election.