And the Winner Will Be….

This is it, folks. What may be the longest—and certainly is the most expensive—presidential campaign ends Tuesday. And then all the polling, politicking and pontificating will be over. The American people will vote. Who will they choose?

I’ve examined RealClearPolitics’ composite polls and Nate Silver’s probability models at FiveThirtyEight. I’ve also considered The Huffington Post’s Pollster Model Estimates. I’ve reviewed the electoral histories of the major swing states and then I drew my map.

I’m projecting Barack Obama will be reelected president by a narrow Electoral College margin of 281-257.

Here’s how I get there. First, I’m keeping Florida and North Carolina in Mitt Romney’s column. The strong trend towards Romney in North Carolina has continued, and the Republican nominee is slightly ahead in the Sunshine State, where Nate Silver and the HuffPost’s Pollster also give him an edge. Plus, Florida gave President Obama a very narrow victory in 2008, and I don’t expect a repeat this time.

I had Virginia as a toss-up last week, but I see some movement to Romney, who I think will outperform in the northern Virginia DC suburbs and win handily in the state’s more traditional areas. Silver and the HuffPost’s Pollster both have the president winning here, but I’m breaking with them to give the Old Dominion to Romney in a nail biter.

I’ve also moved Colorado from toss-up to Romney. This is a very, very close race, which Silver and Pollster both see going President Obama’s way, but neither candidate seems to be generating much  momentum. Colorado, however, has gone Republican in eight of the last ten elections, only crossing over for Obama and Bill Clinton the first time. Strong mobilization of evangelicals and a move towards Romney by suburban moms may be the deciding factor here.

Nevada, meanwhile, looks pretty solid for the president, who won the state comfortably in 2008 and has a strong organization. It’s been trending blue for a while, and Romney’s not the candidate to turn that around.

My final Electoral College map, using 270towin.com’s map tools.

That brings us to the upper Midwest battleground, where I believe the president’s firewall will hold. Trends in Iowa have slightly favored Obama. Iowa has voted Democratic in every election since 1988, except for George W. Bush’s in 2004. The president’s formidable get-out-the-vote machinery should keep this small but important state on his side.

I think he’ll hold Wisconsin, too. The RCP average shows the president four points ahead, and though this state is highly polarized, it’s also voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1988. Silver’s probability of an Obama victory here is 94%. Those are very long odds.

And then there’s critical Ohio. No Republican in modern times has won the presidency without the Buckeye State. And the Obama campaign has prepared for this battle for four years, with massive field operations and deep data on potential voters. The bailout of General Motors and Chrysler is the decisive issue here and the president is on the right side of it. Romney’s dishonest ads about Jeep moving jobs to China have created a big backlash. Victory: Obama.

New Hampshire’s four electoral votes should be icing on the president’s victory cake. The polls have moved his way slightly, and the state has voted Democratic in four of the last five presidential elections, though favorite son Mitt Romney (who has a home there) will keep it very close.

My map shows Romney winning in the South, Southwest, and Mountain States. The president should take the entire Northeast, Midwest (except for Indiana) and the West Coast. Sums up the divisions in the country neatly, doesn’t it?

After I finished this map, I looked at the results of a huge electoral crowd sourcing done by the political website 270towin.com. In a contest that ended late Wednesday night, 16,000 users submitted their own electoral maps, and the result was…the exact same breakdown as mine, with a 281-257 consensus that’s held remarkably steady over the final week.

America’s Electoral Map, drawn from crowd sourcing 16,000 maps submitted by users of 270towin.

As a natural contrarian, that gives me pause. And this is politics, where anything can happen. Will this turn out to be the wisdom of the crowd or just the conventional wisdom? We should get our answer Tuesday night.

Also Read: The Choice We Face

The Case for Obama

The Case for Romney

 

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