Posts by David Rothschild, Yahoo! News
Update, Wednesday Nov. 7, 1:50 p.m.: Earlier today, Nevada was called for the Republicans and Montana for the Democrats, leaving only North Dakota unresolved. We give it a 90 percent chance of going Democratic.
This means we expect the Democrats to have 54 seats in the next Senate, plus the likely addition of independent Angus King of Maine.
Throughout the night, the Signal will be providing updates to our predictions for the presidency and Senate. This is not a real-time tally of results—Yahoo News has that covered—but rather a frequently updated set of our predictions, based on returns, exit polls and prediction markets.
Update, 11:22 p.m.: Obama is not longer virtually certain to win, just certain.
Update, 10:44 p.m.: Obama is virtually certain to win.
Update, 10:10 p.m.: The election continues to break as predicted. As we enter the last stage of the voting, we are waiting to see where FL, VA and OH end up.
Update, 9:50 p.m.: Ohio and Florida are now both strongly pointing toward an Obama victory.
As liftoff approaches Tuesday evening, the Signal will be focusing (like everyone else) on a small handful of states whose outcomes are not certain or nearly certain well before polls close. Here's a viewer's guide:
The no-drama states
There are 37 states, plus Washington, D.C., who we consider certain for one candidate or another. President Barack Obama controls 14 states and D.C., totaling 186 electoral votes. Gov. Mitt Romney controls 23 states, totaling 190 electoral votes. Virtually every news organization agrees on this list, with only minor variations. The only way Obama or Romney picks off one of these states is if the polls are wildly, wildly wrong and the entire country has shifted dramatically to one side.
The only-a-little-drama states
Seven more states are leaning hard toward one of the candidates (poll closing times in parentheses): Pennsylvania (8 PM ET), Michigan (8 PM and 9 PM ET), Minnesota (9 PM ET), New Mexico (9 PM ET), Wisconsin (9 PM ET), and Nevada (10 PM ET) are leaning heavily toward Obama, for a total of 67 electoral votes. North Carolina (7:30 PM ET), with 15 electoral votes, is leaning heavily toward Romney.
In the last two days, six new polls of Ohio voters have been released, five of which favor President Barack Obama, by leads of 6 points, 4 points, 4 points, 3 points and 2 points. The last reports a tie, from right-leaning Rasmussen, which gave former Gov. Mitt Romney a 2-point advantage last week. Obama now has a 3.1 percentage point lead in Pollster's average for Ohio and a 2.9 percentage point lead in the RealClearPolitics average for Ohio.
Since the final presidential debate, 15 polls have surveyed voter opinion in Ohio, the state that is more likely than any other to determine the election. President Barack Obama leads former Gov. Mitt Romney in 13 of them. The candidates tied in one, and Romney leads in one. Those last two polls were both conducted by Rasmussen, one of the more right-leaning polling institutions, as FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver has documented.
No one is saying Ohio is a walk for the president. The Huffington Post's Pollster and the RealClearPolitics average both have Obama leading with 51.2 percent among those who express a preference for either major candidate. There is still time for a shift toward Romney, and it's always possible that there is a systematic bias in the polls.
One would think that Gallup, Pew, Rasmussen, every sufficiently wealthy news organization and anyone else interested in conducting a poll would be familiar with the basics of the American electoral system. Why they all insist on continuing to waste precious ink on national polls, then, is completely mystifying.
Gallup's latest poll of registered voters reports that former Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are tied nationally, 48 to 48 percent. Gallup's latest poll of likely voters, based on a complex set of assumptions about voter turnout, has Romney leading Obama by 5 percentage points, 51 to 46.
These figures are based on a national sample, so they theoretically include voters from Ohio, Florida and Virginia. They also include voters from Wyoming, California, Alabama, Delaware and about 40 other states whose voters could not possibly be any less relevant to the outcome on Nov. 6.
If this election is starting to feel interminable, Sunday was an incredible anniversary: Oct. 28, 2012, was the one-year anniversary of the filing date for the New Hampshire primary.
I do not want to sell the election season short. The official campaign began a year ago, but the unofficial campaign began well before that. This time in 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry had already flamed out (although his "oops moment" was not until early November) and Herman Cain was dominating the polls.
The Republican Party has historically leveraged the subject of abortion far more effectively than Democrats. This year, it could cost them control of the Senate.
The Senate has been up for grabs since the beginning of the cycle. Democrats currently control 53 seats, including the two independents in their caucus, but are defending 23 seats to just 10 on the Republican side. The possibilities are multiplied by uncertainty over who will wield the tie-breaking vote—Vice President Joe Biden or Rep. Paul Ryan—and which party Maine independent Angus King will shack up with in the likely event that he wins.
Monday night was the final set piece of the 2012 election—the last scheduled event in which a significant national audience will tune in to develop or refine their impressions of the candidates. Barring any more secret tapes or raids on high-value terrorists, the remainder of the election is largely outside the candidates' control.
Instant polls of undecided voters after Monday night's debate by CBS, PPP and Xbox/YouGov all declared President Barack Obama the winner in the confrontation with former Gov. Mitt Romney. But the final debate has the smallest chance to make a difference in the election, and the president's performance failed to move the needle in his direction by more than a hair.
Sources: Betfair, Intrade, IEM, HuffPost Pollster and RealClearPolitics
For Democrats still stinging from the 2000 election—that is to say, any Democrat born before about 1985—2012 could be the year of retribution. There is a distinct possibility that former Gov. Mitt Romney could win the popular vote and still lose the election to President Barack Obama.