Final thoughts (and predictions) for the U.S. presidential election

The state of the race

Of course, tomorrow’s election, in what’s still arguably the world’s most powerful country, will have huge implications for world politics — U.S. foreign policy obviously runs from the occupant of the Oval Office (more so than domestic policy), and with U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton stepping down in either case, the election result will determine the next top U.S. diplomat.  So it seemed natural to pull together some brief thoughts for Suffragio on election eve.

Nate Silver’s final post at FiveThirtyEight before tomorrow’s U.S. general election gives incumbent Barack Obama (pictured above, below with vice president Joe Biden at left) a 92.2% chance of winning.  I’m not so sure, but InTrade has Obama with 67.2% odds of winning.  National polls are essentially tied, with some giving either Obama a narrow edge or his challenger, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (pictured below), a slight edge.  State polls in swing states give Obama slight edges — the winner must win 270 out of 528 electoral votes (i.e., the presidential election is essentially 50 separate state contests — each state has a number of electoral votes ranging from three (the smallest states) to 55 (California).

Most notably of all, go read Foreign Policy‘s compendium of its best 2012 U.S. presidential election coverage, which is stellar as usual.

In terms of coverage, I’ll list favorite / obligatory pundits below:

  • Follow Slate‘s Dave Weigel here.
  • Follow Time‘s Mark Halperin here.
  • Follow National Review‘s The Corner here.
  • Follow Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog here.
  • Follow Matt Drudge here.
  • Follow Chris Cillizza’s Washington Post blog here.
  • Follow Ezra Klein’s policy blog at the Washington Post here.
Polls close between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET in Ohio, Virginia, Florida and other key states in the Electoral College, so we should have a relatively good idea of who’s won the presidency Tuesday night — unless the contest comes down to one state, likely Ohio, and that state is as close as Florida was in 2000, when we might not know the winner for a month or longer!

Don’t forget Puerto Rico elections

Although it’s a U.S. commonwealth, Puerto Rico will also go to the polls to select a governor, where incumbent Luis Fortuño (a Republican supporter) of the pro-statehood Partido Nuevo Progresista de Puerto Rico (the PNP, New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico) narrowly leads Alejandro García Padilla of the pro-commonwealth/status quo Partido Popular Democrático de Puerto Rico (the PPD, Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico).  Fortuño has cut Puerto Rico’s budget since taking office in 2009 and has nearly brought the island from deficit to surplus.  Nonetheless, economic growth has been elusive and while the unemployment rate has fallen, it’s still around 15%.  If Fortuño loses his race, but Romney wins, there’s a strong chance that Fortuño could be asked to take a position — or even a Cabinet-level post — in a Romney administration.

Puerto Rico will also hold yet another referendum on statehood in two parts: whether they are satisfied with Puerto Rico’s current status as a ‘commonwealth,’ and if not, whether they would prefer U.S. statehood, full independence or a confusing ‘sovereign associated state’ status.

With four million people, if Puerto Rico were independent, it would be the fourth-most populous country in the Caribbean, after Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Predictions

So now on to my own prediction.

We know the outcome of most states. Obama will almost certainly win California, New York (29 electoral votes), Illinois (20 electoral votes), New Jersey (14 electoral votes), Washington (12 electoral votes) and Romney’s Massachusetts (11 electoral votes), among others, and he is leading in Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) and Michigan (16 electoral votes), both of which voted for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, despite their loss in the wider Electoral College.

Romney will almost certainly win Texas (38 electoral votes), Georgia (16 electoral votes), and a swath of smaller states in the Old Confederacy South, the Great Plains states, and much of the Mountain West states.

The actual popular vote tally of all 50 states doesn’t matter, so I will whiff and say it’s too close to call — Hurricane Sandy may well depress voter turnout in Delaware, New Jersey and New York, but those states are solidly in favor of Obama.

For the electoral vote, my final prediction is Obama 276, Romney 262:

  • Obama wins Colorado (nine electoral votes) on the strength of Latino/a voters throughout the state, and it’s possible that the free-market liberal (and socially liberal) Libertarian party candidate, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson will win enough votes from small-government conservatives to depress Romney’s totals.
  • Obama wins Nevada (six electoral votes) on the strength of U.S. senator (and Senate majority leader) Harry Reid’s local turnout machine, based on casino unions in Clark County.
  • Obama wins Ohio (18 electoral votes) on the strength of urban voters in Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland, but especially in northern Ohio, where he’ll get credit for the 2009 auto bailout and Romney’s stumbles on the issue.
  • Romney wins North Carolina (15 electoral votes) — this was always a stretch for Obama, given he only narrowly won this state in 2008 by 0.8%, and former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory, who seems set to become the first Republican to win the governor’s mansion here since Jim Martin left office in 1993.
  • Romney wins Florida (29 electoral votes), and though it will be very close, it will largely comprise the same coalition of voters that won the U.S. senator race for Marco Rubio and the governor’s race for Rick Scott in 2010 and capitalize on senior’s fears about the health care reform enacted in 2010 by the Obama administration.
  • Romney wins Virginia (13 electoral votes), though I am even less sure about this one. I am sure that as northern Virginia continues to grow, Virginia will become an increasingly reliable Democratic state in presidential elections in 2016 and 2020, and I am fairly certain former Democratic governor Tim Kaine will win a tough Senate race there against former Republican governor George Allen.
  • Romney wins New Hampshire (four electoral votes) because his organization is strong here after executing a flawless Republican primary win here in January, he’s from neighboring Massachusetts, and it’s the most Republican-leaning state in New England (Bush nearly won it in 2004, for example).
  • Romney wins Wisconsin (10 electoral votes), despite the fact that it hasn’t voted for a Republican since 1984.  Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan’s presence on the ticket as Romney’s vice presidential candidate helps, as does the June 2012 recall vote against controversial governor Scott Walker, which allowed Republicans to mobilize a strong organization in opposition to the traditionally union-strong Democratic organization.
In short, I expect it’s going to be a damn close-run thing, though the leads in each state’s polls are so narrow that I could see either candidate winning 330 electoral votes if the turnout gap is high enough.
Although I won’t get into too many details, I predict that the Republicans will hold the U.S. House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress, while the Democrats will retain (narrowly) the U.S. Senate, the upper chamber.  That prediction is in line with most other predictions, though, so there’s nothing incredibly courageous about it.  A strong Republican showing, however, in enough states, could tilt the Senate away from the Democrats, though.

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