Election 2012: What to Look For

Election 2012 WatchThis piece is the culmination of a season of obsessively watching the polls, the averages of polls, the pundits and the pols. There is a lesson in this: friends don’t let their friends drive themselves nuts.

But seriously, if the polls are right we will have an extraordinarily tight election in the national popular vote, with Obama winning the Electoral College with several states to spare. We could easily have a repeat of the split verdict of 2000, when the popular vote winner lost the electoral vote (with a little help from the five conservative Republicans on the Supreme Court). But back then, Bush had to have Florida to win; this time, Obama should have a cushion of several states. The Senate will remain under Democratic control; the House under the GOP.

Why is it that we can have a virtual tie in the popular vote while Obama has a significant elelctoral vote edge? The fundamental reason is that Romney’s support is highly concentrated in the South, the Plains, and the Rockies. Even in the Rockies, he won’t get New Mexico and probably will not get Colorado or Nevada. But most of the states he gets will deliver landslide majorities.

Obama will also have a few landslide states: Massachusetts, New York, his native Illinois. But more typically, the states he wins will deliver modest majorities, under ten percent. And Obama looks likely to capture most of the remaining “toss-up” states, with margins under five percent.

As you watch on Tuesday evening, here are a few clues. If New Hampshire and Virginia go to Obama early, Romney has troubles. If Pennsylvania goes to Romney, Obama has big problems. If Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa go to Romney, Obama starts packing. If Florida and Ohio both go to Obama, Romney will start on his concession speech. Most of these results will be out before those of us on the East Coast stagger off to bed.

Lnate silver electin mapater clues include Colorado and Nevada, where polls are tight but lately favor Obama. If he takes both, that’s more nails in the coffin. The West Coast has no true swing states: all but Alaska are firmly in the Obama column. Obama should end up with about 300 electoral votes (270 wins it).

If Romney wins the popular vote and loses the Electoral College, reversing the 2000 situation, both major parties would have suffered the same fate only twelve years apart. We can only hope that it would finally generate enough political will across the country to amend the Constitution and abolish the Electoral College, an absurd, antidemocratic relic that has no place in a modern democracy.

You won’t learn much about the House results until Wednesday, but if you’re as crazed as I am, you’ll be able to ferret out some Senate results. At the beginning of this year,
few observers gave the Democrats much chance to hold their majority, since they would be defending twice as many seats as the Republicans, and many of those seats are in GOP-leaning states like North Dakota, Montana, and Missouri.

But then Tea-Partiers captured the nominations in Missouri and Indiana and allowed the Democrats to seize the center. Egregiously benighted statements about rape brought down both Todd Akin (Missouri) and Richard Mourdock (Indiana). Olympia Snowe’s retirement left Maine open, and Elizabeth Warren proved an able challenger to Scott Brown. The result is that the Democrats can expect not only to hold onto their majority; they may even gain seats.

Here are some key races to watch. Elizabeth Warren should win in Massachusetts, Chris Murphy in Connecticut, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Tim Kaine in Virginia, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, and Bill Nelson in Florida.

john peelerAs the evening wears on, watch Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, North Dakota, and Montana. If the Democrats win all these states, they will gain several seats. If Nebraska, Nevada, or Arizona go Democratic, it would be a surprise.

At some point in the evening, I hope you’ll do as I intend to do: have a stiff drink and go to bed. And then get up in the wee hours to check the results.

John Peeler

Posted: Saturday, 3 November 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on November 3, 2012
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About John Peeler

John Peeler is a retired professor of political science at Bucknell University, specializing in Latin American and international affairs. His op-ed essays have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and USA Today, as well as many in local papers in central Pennsylvania where he lives. He has had letters published in both the New York Times and the Washington Post.