With eight days to go, the Presidential election could not be closer.  Both campaigns are fighting hard to reach the magic number of 270 on November 6, that is, the 270 electoral votes that are required to win the Presidency.  The national polls have tightened and depending on which ones you look at, President Obama or Mitt Romney is ahead by one or two points, all within the margin of error. For example, on October 29, Real Clear Politics, which is a website that aggregates and then averages all of the national polls they can find on the race, has Mitt Romney ahead 47.9 to President Obama’s 47.0 percent.  While it is always possible that one of the campaigns could make a major gaffe or mistake or there could be some other last minute “October surprise,” it seems increasingly unlikely that there will be anything like that at this point, having now gotten past all of the debates.

Thus, since the national polls are effectively tied, the race will be decided by a number of battleground swing states.  Those swing states number as high as eleven, depending on how pollsters count them and they could include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.  However, polling in a number of those states shows that several of them are leaning more towards one candidate than the other.  Governor Romney, as it stands right now, in our opinion, is likely to win Florida and North Carolina and President Obama is likely to win Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The remaining states of Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia is where the election will probably be decided.  Voter turnout will be critical in these states and may end up deciding the winner.  Both campaigns argue that they have excellent Get Out the Vote efforts, also called the “field campaign,” but the Obama campaign effectively never stopped this part of their campaign following the 2008 election and may have an advantage in this respect.  There are a number of conservative groups who have built strong voter turnout programs to assist the Romney campaign, so it is possible that these could offset the perceived advantage the Obama campaign has.  Several of these swing states have early voting which complicates the picture further.  It is the general consensus that the Obama campaign has an advantage with early voters, but probably not as great as his advantage with that group was in 2008.

In our opinion, this election could come down to one state, Ohio.  No Republican has ever won without Ohio.  Following the 2010 census, Ohio went from 20 to 18 electoral votes.  These 18 electoral votes could push one of the campaigns to or past the magic number of 270.  Most recent polls there show Obama with a slight lead, but it is still clearly in play. Both campaigns are also preparing for the possibility of recounts in close states and the smaller likelihood that there could be an electoral college tie of 269-269.  A tie would almost certainly go to Romney, as the newly elected House of Representatives decides the winner in the event of a tie.

As for the House and Senate, our expectation is not different from that of most pundits, we expect the House to stay in Republican hands, with the Democrats perhaps picking up 6-10 House seats and the Senate probably will stay in Democratic hands, with a breakdown of 51-49 or 52-48 looking increasingly likely.  In Illinois, we think that perhaps two or three House seats will change party control on November 6.  As you can gather, much is up in the air at this point, but election night is almost certain to be an exciting, late night.

David Beaudreau
DC Legislative and Regulatory Services

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