Leading up to the November 6 Presidential election, Weld is tracking the projected outcome in the Electoral College. Based on analysis of rolling monthly polling averages in each state, electoral votes are awarded in a tiered system that identifies every state as either Locked, Likely, Leaning or a Tossup. In determining the weekly vote totals, tossup states are awarded based on which candidate is leading in that state. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the Presidency.
Projected Electoral College result: Obama 347, Romney 191
This week’s analysis produces the first change in our projected Electoral College result since this scoreboard debuted at the end of August, as President Barack Obama has pulled ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in North Carolina. The margin is less than one point, but it’s the first time Obama has led in the polling average there since April. That’s an indication of the general trend toward Obama that we’ve been seeing over the past few weeks — a trend that has been especially notable in every key battleground state.
Locked for Obama (179 votes): California, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington
Locked for Romney (117 votes): Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming
No changes here from last week, though our latest numbers show that each candidate has at least a couple of “Likely” states trending in this direction.
Likely Obama (58 votes): Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania
Likely Romney (49 votes): Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee
This category, too, holds steady from last week. In an effort to find something positive to say about Romney’s prospects, we’ll note that his numbers continue to improve in Georgia. On the other hand, that state has gone Republican in the last four Presidential elections and six of the past seven, so the fact that it was ever close to begin with is a fair indication of the challenge the GOP nominee faces. The same is true for Tennessee (Republican in six of the last eight elections), South Carolina (where Jimmy Carter in 1976 is the only Democrat to win the state since 1960) and South Dakota (which has gone Democratic exactly three times in the past hundred years, voting for FDR in 1932 and 1936 and LBJ in 1964). Barring a complete implosion of his campaign, Romney is going to carry all of these states — but the fact that they’re not in the “Locked” category already speaks volumes.
Leaning Obama (28 votes): Ohio, Wisconsin
Leaning Romney (25 votes): Arizona, Indiana, Montana
No Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying Ohio, and you have to go back to Richard Nixon in 1960 to find a candidate of either party who won Ohio and lost the election. It has been a major battleground in the past three elections, but Obama now has enough of a lead there to move it from Tossup to Leaning in his direction. That moves the tally in non-tossup states to 265-191 in favor of the President.
Tossups (82 votes): Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia
Romney now trails Obama in our polling averages in all Tossup states — all of which the GOP nominee has to win to take the election. That’s a tall order.
Thumbnail analysis: The last time a Presidential debate had a major impact on the outcome of an election was 1960, when Nixon’s five o’clock shadow and Kennedy’s air of confidence helped propel JFK to the White House. Next week’s numbers will tell whether Romney can use this week’s debate as the springboard to a comeback. In the meantime, whether Obama is winning hearts and minds or Romney is losing them, the result is the same: The hole for Romney is getting deeper by the day, and his chances of climbing out of it slimmer.
Post-debate addendum: In the first Presidential debate, Romney did what he had to do to keep himself in the game — and perhaps more. In football terms, he controlled the line of scrimmage and kept the ball on Obama’s end of the field for most of the night. Obama, on the other hand, looked like a guy who was trying to sit on a lead and run out the clock.
If there’s a criticism of Romney’s approach to the debate, it’s that he scored his best rhetorical points by playing fast-and-loose with the facts, to the extent that he essentially repudiated his own tax plan and contradicted several other policy positions he’s been espousing on the campaign trail for the past year-and-a-half or so. It was, necessarily, a go-for-broke strategy that could come back to bite him if people are paying attention — and you can bet the Obama campaign is already working on television ads to run in swing states, helpfully pointing out the inconsistencies.
But that probably doesn’t matter in the short run, since it was imperative for Romney to put Obama on the defensive and arrest the momentum the President has gathered over the past several weeks. By any objective measure, that was accomplished.
So what does that mean to Weld’s Electoral College projection? As noted above in this week’s original analysis, the numbers from polling over the coming weekend will tell the tale for Romney. If there is significant movement in several states, then he’s given himself a shot at winning; if not, then he’s probably taken his best shot and come up short of the end zone.