Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On the Credibility of Polls, A Brief Hiatus

Polls, Polls, Polls
As you know, I watch poll releases pretty closely and the state-wide polling numbers released by Quinnipiac today were startling to me.  The race has clearly been trending towards President Obama since the DNC and he is a solid favorite, trending towards a highly probable favorite at this stage of the gain.  So that Quinnipiac would release polls showing him leading in Florida and Ohio was no shocker - virtually every poll since the DNC in those 2 states has shown the President in the lead.

What was shocking was the margins - 9 points in Florida and 10 points in Ohio.  Just for perspective, these are significantly larger margins than the President's margin of victory in 2008, and nothing in the national polling picture suggests that he will replicate his 2008 victory.

So what the heck is going on here and how credible are these polls?

Conservative commentator John Nolte notes that the sampling calibration in those two polls seems out of whack.  First, a brief explanation for those new to polling.  All pollsters calibrate their poll results based on a projection of the composition of the electorate.  This is because they are unable to truly randomly reach people as certain demographic groups may be more likely to answer the phone and speak to a pollsters than others.  So, for instance, if a pollster conducts a poll but finds that 70% of the respondents are men, but knows that in virtually every election, women comprise 51 to 55% of the actual vote, he will adjust the weighting of the responses to reflect that electoral reality.

In the case of the two Quinnipiac polls in question, Nolte notes that they show 9% more Democrats than Republicans in both Ohio and Florida, whereas the actual 2008 election results showed only 3% more in Florida and 8% more in Ohio.  If you were to normalize based on 2008 election results, it would shrink Obama's lead to 9% in Ohio and 3% in Florida.  If you were to normalize based on the mid-point between the 2004 and 2008 elections, Florida would be a dead heat and Obama would lead in Ohio by 1%.

Other polls released in the past 3 days show the President up by 3-5% in Florida and anywhere from 1%-8% in Ohio.

I suspect the reality is probably closer to a 3% lead for the President in Florida and a 5 or 6% edge in Ohio.  The Quinnipiac polls would appear to me to be outliers, just as the national Rasmussen poll, which Republicans like to cite, is an outlier for Romney, showing the national race a dead heat.

A Brief Hiatus
It is the worst time of the political season to be doing this sort of thing, but I will be taking a break for the next 10 days from blogging.  It is an intensely personal decision to support the faltering European economy by drinking large quantities of beer in Munich during Octoberfest.

I hope the first debate finds you well and I look forward to keeping you informed on all the twists and turns of the race down the home stretch upon my return.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Big 2012 Electoral Map - Condition Critical for Mitt Romney?, What's the Deal with the 47% Anyway?

Is the Romney Campaign on Life Support?
Days Until The Election: 44
Projected Popular Vote Total: Obama +1.6% (down 1.7% from last week)
Projected Electoral Vote Total: Obama 347, Romney 191 (Obama +15 from last week)
Current Betting Odds: Obama 70%, Romney 30% (Obama +4% from last week)

On most fronts, it was a pretty bad week for Mitt Romney.  The media focus continued to be on his 47% comment (more on that later) which largely blunted his attempt to make the message about the state of the US economy.

He lost yet another state on our electoral map, with North Carolina moving into the Obama column and a slew of new polls in Ohio suggest that his opportunity to win that state is rapidly slipping away.  As things stand today, Romney would need every single one of the the states I have bucketed as "lean Obama" in order to eek out a 272-266 Electoral college victory and running the table in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada AND Virginia seems like a daunting task.

The betting odds on him winning slipped again to a new low in the campaign, with the betting markets projecting only a 30% probability of a Romney victory, down from 34% last week.

There is one, very important slice of good news for Mitt Romney amid all the bad news however, and that lies in the two large Presidential tracking polls.  As I noted before, Gallup and Rasmussen are the two largest-sample national tracking polls being conducted throughout the race (many other tracking polls will be added during the month of October if history holds), with the former being a 7-day tracking average and the later being a 3-day tracking average.  The good news for Romney is that in both polls, the President's bump from the convention has faded and both show the race a dead heat, with Gallup at 47-47 and Rasmussen at 46-46. 

How to process the tracking poll data in light of other national polls (the National Journal just released a similarly timed poll that shows Obama up by a 50-43% margin and, in fact, every other poll released during the month of September showed the President with a lead, although the margin varied between 1% and 8%) is a tricky question.  I've been at this for a few election cycles now and have found it incredibly hard to project a "best poll" for the national vote.  In 2000, the Investor's Business Daily poll had the most accurate results.  In 2004, it was the Battleground poll.  In 2008, the CNN / Opinion Research poll called it the most closely.  For perspective, these two particular tracking polls had Obama at +7% (Rasmussen) and +11% (Gallup) versus a +7.3% actual result.

Since nobody ever knows which poll will get it exactly right, my process of aggregation and multi-factor averaging has produced better results than individual polls and as such, my statistical approach gives no more or less weight to these polls than other similarly-sampled polls would have.  But it is interesting.

Looking at the map, one might naturally wonder why the President is campaigning in Wisconsin this weekend.  The recent polls don't make it look like Wisconsin is truly up for grabs at this stage even with Paul Ryan on the GOP ticket, although it did look that way a couple of weeks ago.  I believe that the answer may be that the President is trying to quickly narrow the field.  If he can lock down his support in the mid-west and put Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania out of reach (the Romney camp seems to have largely abandoned Pennsylvania already), then he lock Romney's path to victory down to one - sweeping all the close states.  Mitt Romney is in Colorado this weekend, obviously working those light blue states, then heads to Ohio and Virginia.

With all that said, here is my assessment of the state of the race.  Mitt Romney is running out of time, but is not yet completely out.  Each day that goes by hurts his chance of winning.  That is what is happening with the betting odds - it is not so much that the race has swung to Obama, in fact the national numbers and the electoral college look a lot like they looked a month ago, it is that his time to shift the natural course of the campaign is dwindling.  Each news cycle where he is not making an impact is hurting him at this point.

He needs a breakthrough performance in the first debate, but the likely outcome is something akin to a draw.  Both candidates will likely be very well prepped and both are pretty lucid speakers when they are on-script, so if I had to guess, I'd guess that it won't move the needle that much.  But it is 90 minutes for Romney to try to roll the dice and move the needle.

The 47%
Quite a lot of controversy has surrounded the release of video that showed Mitt Romney speaking of the 47% who don't pay taxes.

Out of fairness, first let me give you the entire Romney quote, in context:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. These are people who pay no income tax. My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Who exactly Romney is referring to when he talks about the "47%" is not 100% clear to me from the quote.  47% is approximately the percentage of people who don't pay income tax, as he mentions late in the quote and perhaps the most reasonable interpretation of the quote is to say that he is referring to those people.  He could also be referring to people who receive some form of government assistance.  If you include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Welfare, Pell Grants and every other federal assistance program, the 47% is pretty close to the percentage of people who get something from the government.

I have a couple of problems with his statement.  First, the notion that all the people who pay no taxes or receive government benefits are all going to vote for the President is absurd.  Mitt Romney is leading among senior citizens, who are the largest group that don't pay income taxes and receive government benefits, largely because many of them are retired and living off of Social Security and Medicare.  Enlisted members of the military are also polling for Romney and they are one of the largest recipients of Food Stamps, which is a national disgrace that we should discuss at a later date.  Also, working poor white voters overwhelmingly favor Romney.  More than 60% of the voters in West Virginia, for instance, pay no federal income tax, and Romney leads West Virginia by almost 20% in my numbers, an impossibility if the 60% all voted for Obama.  So the notion that the "47%" of non tax-paying, government benefit-receiving people are all lined up for Obama is on-face absurd.

Secondly, I think the important question is WHY they don't pay federal taxes and WHY they receive benefits.  Mitt Romney has said of his own taxes "I pay what is legally required and not a penny more" and I happen to agree with him - it's an unreasonable expectation that people should send checks to the government that are not required.  The 47% pay no federal income taxes because they are not REQUIRED to because largely of three things.  The first is the Earned Income Tax Credit, a concept pioneered by populist conservative Jack Kemp to encourage poor people to work rather than receive welfare by creating the economic incentive of subsidizing their income if they did.  The second is the expanded Child Tax Credit, an idea implemented by Bill Clinton, but also championed by Newt Gingrich and extended by George W. Bush.  The third is the Bush tax cuts, which slashed all rates and moved up the amount of the first dollar of income taxed.  So, largely, those who are NOT senior citizens (who, I guess we can blame FDR and LBJ for creating Social Security and Medicare for their not working and paying taxes) are not doing so because of conservative policies.

Thirdly, not paying income taxes or receiving some form of federal benefit is a poor yardstick for being a freeloader.  Most of the working poor who do not pay taxes still pay payroll taxes (Social Security, Medicare, etc.), federal gas taxes (who doesn't pay gas taxes!), federal alcohol and tobacco taxes and a whole bevy of state and local taxes (sales taxes, property taxes, etc.)  The yardstick of paying federal income taxes being equated to being a contributing member of society would mean that everyone who lived in the country before 1913 was a freeloader, since the federal government couldn't even impose one until the ratification of the 16th amendment.

As for receiving a federal benefit, that is also a very poor benchmark.  Most recipients of Social Security and Medicare, who paid into the system their whole lives and are no receiving their legally promised benefits, don't consider themselves freeloaders.  I'm sure Mitt doesn't consider his father, who was on welfare in his early adulthood, but went on to be a very successful businessman and politician, a freeloader.  I think most of you with kids in college that received Pell Grants to be freeloaders.  Three years ago, I took advantage of a tax rebate to put more energy-efficient windows in my house, I don't consider myself a freeloader.

Lost in all of this though is the fact that I DO agree with Mitt that the income tax system is not healthy and it is probably not a great idea as a matter of policy to have 47% of people pay no federal income tax.  But what exactly is he proposing that would solve it?  End the Bush tax cuts?  He's against it (as is President Obama for the income-brackets we are discussing.)  Repeal the Child Tax credit?  Both he and the President are opposed.  End the Earned Income Tax Credit?  Again, both candidates are against doing so.

The solution would be to create a graduated system with less deductions.  Romney has proposed to do so but won't say which deductions he would eliminate, other than that he wouldn't eliminate the two largest ones - the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable contribution deduction.

Maybe Mitt Romney, faced with the long odds he has now, will get serious about putting forward a more serious policy proposal on taxation.  That would be a great thing for the national dialogue.  But I'm not holding my breathe. 

If you like this site, tell your friends.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Big Electoral Map - Could This Already Be Close to Over?, A Survey of the Projection World

Days Until The Election: 52
Projected Popular Vote Total: Obama +3.3% (down 1.7% from last week)
Projected Electoral Vote Total: Obama 332, Romney 206 (unchanged from last week)

We are now a week removed from the conventions and one thing is very clear to me: Mitt Romney has a big uphill climb if he is going to unseat the President.  It is not so much that the polls are dramatically different from prior to Romney's selection of Paul Ryan and the two conventions, it is that time and the number of potentially game-changing events is dwindling.

Looking back at the history of the race, we are more or less exactly where we were the first week in August, when Obama led by 3.8% and had an identical electoral vote total (332) to today.  Since then, Romney selected Paul Ryan, surging to within 1.1% on the eve of the conventions and closing the electoral gap to 294-244.  GOP loyalists at that point no doubt hoped that a successful convention would vault the race to parity or better.

There are a few disconcerting things about what has happened since:
(1) In spite of a widely lauded pick of Paul Ryan, Romney's initially bounce from that pick has been entirely wiped out.
(2) We are now 52 days out from the election and Mitt Romney has never led and never had a map that is higher than 244 electoral votes.
(3) Romney's best chance to make hay between now and election day is in the debates and Barack Obama has historically shown a strong ability to compete in those events
(4) All of this is in spite of what would appear to be lousy economic news and unsettling news in the Arab world.
(5) To win at this point, Romney virtually needs to run the table in the remaining swing states, as he needs 64 of the 91 possible electoral votes in play and especially needs Ohio and Florida, both of which show the President with stable, although not huge leads.

The oddsmakers have noted these trends and the President has broken out o;postID=6984005523815463150Obf the range of betting odds on his victory, which had been bound between 50% and 60% for the entire year and, as of this morning, is a 66% favorite to win re-election.

The election is certainly not over as some unforeseen event could no doubt shift the balance of the race, but the natural arc of the race at this point would be an Obama victory.  Mitt Romney needs an ultra-strong victory in the first debate and a much more organized strategy.  Taking cheap midnight potshots at Obama's foreign policy isn't going to cut it at this point.

Maybe, just maybe, Romney will conclude that he needs to take a risk and present a real economic and budgetary plan, with details.  I sure hope so.

A Survey of the Projection World
I'm obviously not the only one looking at these electoral maps.  Here is a view from some of the other major sites that look at this stuff:

realclearpolitics (no toss-ups) -  Obama 332, Romney 206
CNN - Obama 237, Romney 191, 110 Toss-Up
Karl Rove - Obama 225, Romney 191, 122 Toss-Up
Joe Trippi - Obama 270, Romney 191, 77 Toss-Up - Obama 332, Romney 206
Huffington Post - Obama 316, Romney 206, 16 Toss-Up - Obama 332, Romney 206
New York Times - Obama 237, Romney 206, 95 Toss-Up

So, the picture others are looking at is largely similar to the one I am.  The 3 sites that don't have toss-ups all show an identical map to me.  The other sites largely give Romney either all the states I've given (the ones with 206 totals) or all the states I've given less North Carolina (leading to a 191 EV total) and don't give the President many of the states that I have as very light blue.

If you like this site, tell your friends.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Big Electoral Map - Obama's Big Convention Bounce - Will It Last?

Days Until The Election: 58
Projected Popular Vote Total: Obama +5.0% (up 4.2% from 2 weeks ago)
Projected Electoral Vote Total: Obama 332, Romney 206 (Obama +38 from last week)

We are just a few days removed from the back-to-back conventions and the polling verdict is in: advantage Obama.

He has surged in the national polls, breaking out of a range he had been in of +0-3% to go up a full 5 points nationally.  He reclaims all of the ground on the electoral map that Mitt Romney had chipped away following the announcement of Paul Ryan as his running mate.

There is good news and there is bad news for Romney related to these latest batch of polls.

The good news is that not all convention bounces stick.  Michael Dukakis was famously up versus George H.W. Bush in 1988 and went on to lose badly.  Bounces often happen for a few days as people bask in the patriotism and unity presented at these events, then fade as cooler heads prevail and people remember the reasons that they didn't like a candidate in the first place.

The bad news for Romney is that the shifts in national polling are not even yet fully reflected in the state polls as many of the state polls in my averages are still from prior to the DNC.  It is very possible that Romney is behind in North Carolina as I write this and that Obama's margins in key states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia are larger than I am currently reflecting.

There is still a lot of race left - 58 days is an eternity in Presidential politics and there are still the 4 debates (3 Presidential and 1 Vice-Presidential) to take place, all of which represent potential key turning points in the race, but Romney has his work cut out for him.

To give perspective - the odds on this race are presently at 59%-41% on Intrade, favoring Obama, but not by a massively larger amount than it has favored him for the bulk of this year.

As a reminder, here is the debate schedule for this year (all times are Eastern):
October 3rd - Denver, Colorado - 9 PM - Focus: Domestic Policy (Moderator: Jim Lehrer - PBS)
October 11th - Danville, Kentucky - 9 PM - VP Debate (Moderator: Martha Raddatz - ABC)
October 16th - Hempstead, New York - 9 PM - Focus: Open - Town Hall Format (Moderator: Candy Crowley - CNN)
October 22nd - Boca Raton, Florida - 9 PM - Focus: Foreign Policy (Moderator: Bob Schiffer - CBS)

Notably losing out on debate moderation is NBC, which hasn't had the same kind of gravitas in the political world since the death of Tim Russert, who surely would have scored one of the moderator roles, had he wanted it.  Also missing are the partisan MSNBC and Fox News.

What will be interesting in the lull period between now and the debates (which is almost 4 weeks) will be to see if Obama's post-convention bounce fades and if Romney's series of ads in 8 key swing states have an impact.

If Romney can chip away at Obama's lead in the next 4 weeks and make it a 1 or 2 point race come the first debate, then he will only need to perform solidly to stay in contention.  If he is not able to move the needle between now and then, he will need a game-changing performance.

If you like this site, tell your friends.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Democratic National Convention, Do the Conventions Matter at All Anymore?

Last week, I looked at the best and worst of the Republican National Convention.  This week, I do the same for the Democrats, who, as expected, had a similarly hyper-produced package of material for consumption by us politicos and whatever undecided voters actually still watch this kind of stuff.

Here is my rundown:

The Good (and Very Good)
(1) Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton and Bill Clinton
Love him or hate him, Bubba is the master.  I have never in my lifetime seen a politician who can break down complex arguments in simple ways that are equally compelling to the political in-the-know and the casual observer.

Clinton's strident defense of Obamacare, including citing insurance rate declines, arrested health care inflation and stories of the ill protected was truly compelling and frankly made me wonder where the heck the Obama administration has been in the defense of its signature policy.

His dismantling of Romney and Ryan's economic proposals was wicked red meat and incredibly quotable, containing such memorable one-lines as "double down on trickle down" and "they say we need to have the courage to make the tough choices but don't have the courage to tell us what choices they would make."

He made the strongest possible case for Obama, stronger than anyone else at the convention.

(2) Joe Biden
We knew that Clinton would be good - he has always been a great speaker.  The whole Democratic Party might have been nervous about Biden, who is often prone to gaffes and wild overstatements of arguments that make him vulnerable to criticism.

Biden's speech was fiery, but also emotionally connecting and persuasive.  After all the fire he has brought over the past 4 years, it is easy to see after that speech why the President liked him so much in the first place - at his best, Biden comes across as genuine, decent and loyal.

"Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive" will likely live on as a campaign mantra.

(3) Brian Switzer
The cowboy Governor of Montana is a hidden star in the Democratic party.  His dissection of Governor Romney's term in office, while less comprehensive than the speech delivered by Deval Patrick two days earlier, was more compelling in my mind because it made several simple points clearly - Romney left the state in greater debt and his claim of not raising taxes is a shell game.

The line "when you want to raise taxes and not tell anyone it's a tax increase, you call it a fee" cracked me up, as did his follow-up line about being mad at Romney about raising the cost of gun licenses.

Switzer is this decade's answer to Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

The Bad
(1) President Obama's Speech
I frankly found this to be the worst major speech of the President's career.  His attempt at lofty inspiration and appeal to our better natures felt vacant and flat to me in the face of the bitter partisanship and tough circumstances in which the country finds itself and of which the President has been a part.

He fired away at Romney and Ryan for not offering any specifics (a claim that is utterly fair) but then followed that by offering no real agenda of his own, other than some vague policy goals with long timeframes.

What exactly would the President prioritize if re-elected?  I'm not at all sure after watching that speech and that's not a good thing.

(2) The Long Line of Celebrities
Does everyone from Hollywood have to be given 15 minutes at these things?  I will admit that Eva Longoria gave a smart, poignant speech (she knows her stuff in politics), but the rest of the celebrity speeches sort of felt like an insult to the audience and left me wondering, what exactly qualifies them to be here telling me how to vote?

The Ugly
(1) The platform fight
This might or might not have life as an issue, but what the Democrats did relative to their platform change was a disgraceful subversion of Democracy.

To set context for those who didn't follow it, for whatever reason (oversight or intention), the platform initially omitted language which had been included in the 2008 platform pertaining to the State of Israel being our strongest ally in the Middle East and Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.

As the media and the GOP caught the shift and outraged ensued, the Democrats scrambled to change the platform back to the 2008 language (which also aligned with the state policy of the Obama administration.)

No problem with doing that, other than that convention rules require a vote of 2/3rds of the delegates to amend the platform after it has been adopted (which it already had.)  When the amendment was proposed on the floor, Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaragosa took a voice vote three separate times.  Each time, it appeared that the vote from the floor was no better than 50/50 for the platform change and clearly NOT a 2/3rds vote (plenty of video is available on YouTube.)  Nonetheless, Villaragosa decided that 2/3rds had voted for the change and it was adopted.

Shame on Villaragosa and shame on the party leaders for allowing this.  You cannot be the party of Democracy if you don't even practice it in your own party.

Overall, my impression is that the conventions were a relative wash - Romney was stronger than Obama in the nomination speeches but Biden was better than Ryan and Clinton was miles better than any speaker on the GOP side.

All of which leads to the key question:

Does Any of This Matter?
When I laid out my 7 key events to the last 100 days of the election (the selection of Romney's VP, the two conventions and the four debates), my assumption was that each of these 7 events could at least have the potential to shift polls in a meaningful way.  It is clear to me that the Paul Ryan nomination helped Romney at least some, possibly facilitating as much as a 2 point swing in the polls, which is significant in a close race.

So are the conventions having a similar effect?  It is too early to have numbers from the DNC, but we can see if there is an effect from the RNC by looking at the two tracking polls that are consistently publishing every day, the Rasmussen and the Gallup polls.

Both polls have their flaws - Scott Rasmussen is clearly a Republican-leaning, if not Republican-affiliated pollster and his polls early and in the middle of races consistently show the GOP doing better than virtually all independent polls.  Somehow, as elections draw near, his polls tend to intersect other polls, so his final numbers always look respectable.  So, I read the Rasmussen polls but always take them with a grain of salt if there are not other, independent polls that verify his findings.

Gallup certainly does not have polling bias, it is probably the most respected and storied polling firm in history.  My gripe with Gallup is that at this stage in the race, they use a registered voter sample rather than a likely voter sample.  Their argument has always been that until late, it is too difficult to effectively screen who is actually likely to voter, as each election has different turnout patterns.  There is validity to that argument, by the by-product of simply ignoring the likeliness of people to actually show up, Gallup can, at times, over-represent the Democratic vote.  This was not the case in 2008, when Democratic turnout was huge, but was most definitely the case in 2004, when Democratic turnout lagged GOP turnout.

Of the 2 polls, I prefer the Gallup poll, which is much more stable with a larger sample size and a longer tracking period (7 days versus 3 days for Rasmussen.)  I also like the fact that they make their tracking results available to the public (you have to pay to get the history on the Rasmussen poll, although they publish their daily number once per day free of charge.)  I will present the Gallup poll but tell you that the Rasmussen poll has tracked in the same general direction, but has been about 2-3 points consistently more favorable to Mitt Romney, for the reasons described above.

Here are the tracking changes in the Gallup poll through the convention season:
The RNC is an absolute flatline - no change in the polling whatsoever.  It remains to be seen whether the uptick in the poll yesterday for Obama is an outlier or the start of a trend up as a result of the DNC.

At any rate, while Romney was successful in changing his trajectory to some extent with the selection of Paul Ryan, it appears he was not successful in getting a "bounce" out of the RNC.

We now have a few weeks to argue over all this until the next major event, the first Presidential debate, on October 3rd.

The ads will start flying fast and furious in the meantime as the Romney campaign just announced a huge ad buy in 8 key swing states.  The choice of the 8 states is highly instructive as to his strategy. The ad buys are in: North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Florida and Nevada.  Notably missing are Michigan and Wisconsin, two states that I thought were at least marginally in play and represent big electoral prizes.  Also missing is Pennsylvania, a state every Republican candidate in my lifetime has tried to compete for but that the Republicans haven't won since 1988.

All 8 of the states are states Obama won in 2008.  Assuming Romney wins all the McCain states (a reasonable assumption as of all those states, only Missouri and Arizona are even marginally competitive and both appear likely to go to Romney in the end) and picks up Indiana with relatively little effort (also a fairly safe assumption, given recent polling), these 8 states would put Romney at 291 Electoral Votes, 21 more than he needs to win.

It still shows the tough electoral map for Romney.  He could run the table everywhere but Florida and he would still lose.  The reason he is competing in a 4 electoral vote state in New Hampshire is that if he losses Ohio, he needs all of the other 7, including New Hampshire to win (in actuality losing Ohio and New Hampshire and winning the other 6 creates an almost unthinkable 269-269 tie that would probably wind up with the House of Representative selecting Romney, but let's not even go there right now.)  He can lose a few of the smaller states if he takes the big prizes of Ohio and Florida.  He could lose Iowa, Nevada and Colorado in that scenario and still eek out a 270-268 victory.

Expect the President to push very hard in Ohio and Florida to try to score the knockout punch.  He has also shown a lot of energy for going after North Carolina, which would considerably complicate Romney's path.

The battlegrounds are fairly clear.  Get ready for the ad carpet bombs from the campaigns and the Super PACs.

If you like this site, tell your friends.