A Last Look at the Battleground States

Judgment day.

On October 24, I reported on the polling data in the 11 battleground states–Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin–that will likely decide the election. Here are the latest data, compared to the earlier totals, courtesy of Real Clear Politics (RCP), on the eve of the election. (Electoral vote totals for each state are in parentheses.)

In Colorado (9), where Obama beat John McCain by 9 points in 2008, the race was a virtual tie, with only two-tenths of a percentage point separating the candidates on October 24. Before the first the debate, which was held in Denver, Obama had a three-point lead. As of yesterday, the president had inched forward to a 1.5 point edge, 48.8 to 47.3, in the historically Republican state.

In Florida (29), RCP gave Romney a 1.8-point lead on October 24, in a state Obama won by 2.8 points in 2008. As of yesterday, Romney’s edge there had shrunk to 1.5 percent, 49.7 to 48.2, in a state where Jewish Americans and the elderly will likely cast the decisive votes one way or the other.

In Iowa (6), which Obama carried by a 9.5-point margin in 2008, the president maintained a lead of two percentage points on October 24. Yesterday his lead was 2.4 points, 48.7 to 46.3, in a state where Democrats have carried five of the last six presidential elections.

In Michigan (16), Obama led by five points on October 24, despite a landslide 16.4-point victory in 2008. As of yesterday, Obama’s lead had shrunk to 3.8 points, 49.2 to 45.4. A Romney win here would be shocking, given that Michigan has voted Democrat in the last five presidential elections, and is a state where union workers, especially those in the auto industry, remain tried and true Democrats.

In Nevada (6), Obama held a 2.8-point lead on October 24, in a state he won by 12.5 points four years ago. Yesterday that lead remained exactly the same, at 50.2 to 47.4, despite Nevada’s reputation as the state with both the highest unemployment rate and the highest home foreclosure rate in the nation.

In New Hampshire (4) the race had tightened considerably in the two weeks leading up to October 24, despite a 9.6-point Obama victory in 2008. A 50-44 lead had been narrowed to a 1.4-point edge for the president. As of yesterday, that edge has widened marginally with the president maintaining a 2-point lead, 49.9 to 47.9, in a state that is fiscally conservative, but socially liberal.

In North Carolina (15), where Obama eked out a razor thin 0.3 percent victory in 2008, the move had been solidly in Romney’s direction, from a dead heat three weeks before October 24, to a 5-point lead. Romney’s lead has shrunk to 3 points as of yesterday, 49.2 to 46.2, in a state that has voted Democrat only twice in 40 years (for Carter and Obama), and one where Democrat campaign strategist Paul Begala admitted to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Democrats had essentially conceded the race to the Republican challenger.

In Ohio (18), a state no Republican has ever won the presidency without taking, Obama’s former lead of 5.5 had shrunk to 1.9 on October 24. The state where Obama beat McCain by almost five points in 2008 has now moved back in the president’s direction again, and Obama holds a 2.9 edge, 50.0 to 47.1 as of yesterday.

In Pennsylvania (20), the president’s lead had narrowed from almost nine points to 4.8 on October 24, in a state he carried by a comfortable 10.3-point margin in 2008. As of yesterday, the president’s lead had narrowed to a 3.8-point lead, 49.4 to 45.6.

Unsurprisingly, Romney plans to spend today making two final campaign stops: one in Pittsburgh and one in Cleveland.

In Virginia (13), the race had tightened, from a five-point Obama lead in September, to a 48-48 dead heat October 24. Virginia is traditionally a red state whose only Democratic presidential vote in the last 40 years went to Obama by 6.3 percent in 2008. As of yesterday, the president had edged in front by a razor-thin 0.3-point lead, 48.0 to 47.7.

Finally in Wisconsin (10), a state Obama won convincingly by almost 14 points in 2008, a 6-point lead two weeks before October 24 had dwindled to 2.7 points. As of yesterday, Obama had increased his margin back to 4.2 points, 50.4 to 46.2.

Looking at these totals, it would appear that much is in Obama’s favor. Yet, testerday, on Florida’s TalkRadio 610 WIOD’s Rich Minaya Show, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made an interesting observation. He noted that in presidential elections, the incumbent’s last point totals tend to be the totals with which he winds up, and that anything under 50 percent is an ominous sign. As the above battleground state polls reveal, the president has crossed that threshold only in Ohio and Wisconsin. Furthermore, RCP has Obama’s overall lead nationally below the 50 percent threshold as well, at 48.8 percent, compared to 48.1 percent for Romney.

In short, this election is too close to call, and as such has brought out all sorts of “what if” scenarios, most of which center around a possible reprise of the 2000 election, where Al Gore won the popular vote, but George Bush prevailed in the Electoral College. It has also brought out thousands of lawyers to monitor the process–and UN representatives as well. Ironically, those monitors, aka the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), will not be looking for voter fraud, but voter suppression--by conservatives.

With a modicum of luck, America will know who is running the country by tomorrow. If not, expect the rancor that has seemingly become part of the American fabric to ramp up considerably. Whatever the outcome, here’s hoping Americans respect the process. It’s that respect that informs an integral part of American exceptionalism.

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