President Barack Obama leads or ties Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the last 17 national polls, leaving some to wonder if the election is already over.
Charlie Cook at the National Journal insists that, “if something doesn’t happen to shake up the race, Romney will lose.”
But although the current Pollster estimate shows Obama with a commanding lead over Romney, it also shows a possible path to victory for Romney that now includes a handful of states. According to The Huffington Post map, Romney would have to focus his attention on some classic swing states while attempting to get additional support in the Midwest.
The map relies on the newly introduced Pollster model, which uses historical voting data as one guideline in assessing the presidential match-up. The model serves as a snapshot of the election if it were held today, and therefore, the map is likely to change in the next five weeks. The estimate also accounts for random error in the individual polls. Additionally, the model combines national and statewide polling, and draws on geographic patterns in past elections to determine the current standing of the two candidates in individual states. It considers “house effects” of different polling firms, adjusting for Republican- and Democratic-leaning pollsters whose results are consistently on one side or the other.
Initially, Romney’s battle seems uphill: If the election were held today, Obama would win 332 electoral votes, with Romney garnering 191. North Carolina’s 15 votes are currently for the taking, according to the model, but would not swing the outcome of the election.
If Romney could shave 3 or 4 points off of Obama’s lead nationally, however, the electoral map might shift, showing the closest “Lean Obama” states, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Virginia and New Hampshire voting Republican. In that case, Romney would win his lean states, and North Carolina slides easily to his side.
Unfortunately for Romney, that map is a losing map.
Iowa and Ohio then become essential. Obama and Romney are currently about 5 and 6 points apart, respectively, in the states, and it has been as close as 1 to 2 points in Iowa and 2 to 3 points in Ohio, although Obama has yet to trail in the average of polls in either state in 2012. Move one or the other to Romney red, though, and he would win the presidency.
This outcome is certainly possible. Ohio voted twice for former President George W. Bush, and Iowa tends to be an indicator of the national mood, voting with the winner of the popular vote in every election since 1992. Wisconsin, too, could swing for the Republicans, riding the wave of what would be a dramatic shift in public sentiment against the incumbent through October.
In that case, Romney gets to 301 electoral votes and essentially is in Obama’s current position.
While these outcomes might seem unlikely to some, the Romney campaign believes it is in a very tight race. There are also the day-to-day phenomena influencing public opinion. Obama, for example, could still be receiving a boost from the Democratic Convention, and Romney’s "47 percent" remarks appear to have affected the polls. Through the next month, the latest numbers for the incumbent could subside.
Still, Obama seems to have many paths to victory. With less than six weeks to go until Election Day, Romney's strategy is likely focused on the upcoming series of debates -- two of the three are in “Lean Obama” states, Colorado and Florida -- and on making a strong case to the few undecided voters that remain.
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