This post is cross-posted at IndependentVotersOfAmerica.com.
Election day is finally here. And, like many of you, I have been reading all the articles, studying all the polls, and -- most of all -- waiting for this day for a long, long time.
This should be a close run, maybe the closest election since 2000. In my estimation/guess, President Barack Obama will win reelection with between 280-290 electoral votes. When all the shouting is over, here's how I see the final electoral college map.
(By the way, you can go to www.270towin.com and make up your own map).
Independents will once again be the deciding factor, despite the pains of both campaigns to pooh-pooh the impact of self-identified independent voters like you. Governor Romney needs to carry independents by a large margin in order to win.
Conversely, President Obama is betting everything on his long-in-the-making voter turnout machine, which his campaign is counting on to bring in enough new voters, Hispanic voters and young voters to offset the number of independent voters they will lose versus 2008.
If Obama loses, it will be in large part because his campaign didn't do enough to find independent voters, and didn't know what to say to them when they did find us.
Here's what to watch for tonight:
Virginia: Many pollsters and pundits say President Obama is well ahead in VA. But I think it's going to Governor Romney, largely on the basis of independent voters. If it doesn't, though, it could pave the way for a bigger-than-expected Obama win.
Florida: A must-have for the challenger. If Romney doesn't win here, it's pretty much all over, and Obama wins by a big margin (over 300 electoral votes).
New Hampshire: If not pretty much Mitt Romney's home, it's certainly his backyard. The Romney campaign will need New Hampshire, ultimately, to win.
Pennsylvania, Michigan & Minnesota: All of these should be in the Obama column. If any of them are not, it will be a big upset, and could portend a Romney blowout.
Ohio, Ohio, Ohio: Ok, all we've heard for the past few weeks is that this election comes down to Ohio. And that's probably correct. Ten days ago, we had the race down to Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio. Iowa seems to have moved squarely into the Obama camp. And Wisconsin and Iowa won't matter if Obama wins Ohio. So the conventional thinking is pretty correct in saying the race will be decided in Ohio.
Upset keys to watch: But what if it isn't? Look to two states where independent voters could move to Romney, and tilt the whole race--Colorado and Wisconsin.
Both are definitely in play, despite the confidence in the Obama campaign that they have CO & WI sewed up. Colorado has two Democratic U.S. Senators and a Democrat in the governor's office, and its Republican Party has been in disarray. But independents in Colorado, as in many other states, tend to break in favor of fiscally conservative candidates. If the Obama campaign prevails, it will be in large part because of popular moderate Democrat John Hickenlooper, one of the mountain Democrats who do know how to talk to independents.
Hickenlooper is enjoying job approval ratings of over 60%, but the pressure is on him to make sure Colorado remains a firewall for the Obama campaign.
Wisconsin is an electoral tinderbox, with a very tight U.S. Senate race and many voters still smarting from a nasty gubernatorial recall election. Add in Mitt Romney's choice for Vice President, Wisconsin U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, and it's easy to see how this longtime Democratic presidential stronghold could shift under the Obama campaign's feet.
If Governor Romney can win both Colorado and Wisconsin, he doesn't need Iowa, and he doesn't need Ohio--he wins with nearly the barest of margins, 271 electoral votes.
Tell me what you think below. More importantly, be sure to get out there and vote today, and help make the result you want most a reality.