The shouting has almost stopped. Weeks ago the voting began, but Tuesday the balloting storm reaches landfall. It is time for pontificators to prognosticate. So here you go. My call:
Romney 52%, 277 electoral votes; Obama 47%, 261 electoral votes. Romney wins Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, and Wisconsin -- and loses Ohio, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
Yes, Michael Barone comes in 38 electoral votes higher (see his Examiner rundown). Figure that, between us, we've bracketed the range. For my part, I am giving Romney all the states in which Rasmussen has him up even by a point, and all the ties (with the exception of Ohio) where Rasmussen shows a tie. I am giving the president all of the states where he is up even by a point.
Why do the ties go to Romney?
At the recent American Enterprise Institute briefing on the election, Karlyn Bowman, AEI's polling expert (actually, AEI has a number of polling experts, including Barone, who also sat on that day's panel), noted that undecideds generally break between 55% and 60% for the challenger. That would give Romney the advantage in each of the poll-tied states. He won't necessarily win all those states, of course, but by giving up Ohio I've built in a cushion.
I endorse Michael's reasoning about fundamentals driving elections, as well as about state-by-state dynamics, even if I don't endorse all his picks.
On top of that, I am very impressed with Gallup's profile "What the Electorate Looks Like in 2012." The sample is of all likely voters Gallup contacted in their nightly tracking between October 1-24 -- 9,424 respondents all together, significantly larger than any other published sampling this year.
You may have read about the findings. While likely voter demographics this year (gender, age, education, ethnicity, regional balance) are pretty much the same as in 2008, party balance has shifted markedly. Last time the Democrats had a ten point edge on the Republicans. This time, the Republicans lead by a point (36-35). With independents breaking to Romney and Republicans significantly more passionate than Democrats, how plausible is it that the race is really tied, much less that the president leads?
At the New York Times' 538 blog, Nate Silver dismisses the plausibility of a Romney victory, putting the odds at 16%. Silver has a naive faith that all polls are created equal. One thing everyone should have figured out by now: it ain't so, particularly for polls with comparatively small sample sizes, which is the case with most state polls. Averaging a bunch of dreck findings doesn't give you a smaller margin of error. It gives you a bigger pile of dreck.