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Election Day 2012

November 4, 2012

There were times when it seemed like we would never get here, but we’re finally coming to Election Day. This has probably been the longest campaign, and it certainly has been the most expensive. I would count it as the bitterest campaign in my memory, which in electoral terms runs back to Nixon-Humphrey-Wallace in 1968.  (I have only a seven-year-old’s memory of the Johnson-Goldwater race in 1964.)

It’s been clear to me for some time that President Obama will be re-elected. But for reasons too complicated to get into here, American liberals have a tendency toward self-doubting pessimism – so Obama partisans have never been convinced that he would win. After the first presidential debate in Denver, self-doubting liberals became so pessimistic that they have been unable to see the advantages of the President’s position. (Conversely, American conservatives have a tendency to minimize the strength and appeal of their political opponents. It’s probably conservatives’ biggest political weakness.)

My own opinion is not only that President Obama will win, but that he will win by a bigger margin than you expect if your main news source is the mainstream media. Those who look for deeper, data-driven analysis than the networks afford us will not be surprised Tuesday night.

For an early indication how the presidential race will go, the states to watch are Ohio, Virginia and Florida. Florida’s and Virginia’s polls close at 7 p.m., and Ohio’s close at 7:30 p.m. Mitt Romney needs to win Ohio to win the election, so when the networks call Ohio for Obama, they will effectively be calling the whole race for Obama.  If Obama wins Virginia, his electoral win will be solid.  If Obama pulls out Florida, his electoral win will be dramatic – in the neighborhood of 332 – 206.

I also expect Democrats to outdo their own pessimistic expectations in the Senate. Starting at 53 seats, Democrats are likely to lose three: Montana, North Dakota and Nebraska – although an upset by Montana’s Democratic incumbent, Jon Tester, is an outside possibility. Democrats are likely to pick up two seats: Maine Independent Angus King is likely to win and caucus with Democrats; and Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren is likely to unseat Scott Brown.  That would leave Democrats down one.

Here, the early indicator states are Indiana, Virginia and Florida.  If Democrats hold Virginia and Florida, it will be almost impossible for Republicans to do better than 48 Senate seats.  And if Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly beats Tea Party Republican Richard Mourdock, Democrats will almost certainly take at least 53 seats.  (The two most recent Indiana polls give Donnelly a significant lead.)  The other Democratic upset possibility, other than Montana, is Arizona, where Democrat Richard Carmona is running unexpectedly well against Republican Jeff Flake.

The House race is always hard to predict with any precision. I expect Democrats to pick up a few seats, and I’m hoping for some key Tea Party losses, like Allen West in Florida’s 18th District. But Democrats will fall well short of the 24-seat gain they would need to take a majority.

On Wednesday, I’ll do three posts:  one recapping the presidential race, one on the Senate, and one on five state referendums relating to same-sex marriage (four on the legal status of same-sex marriage, plus Iowa’s vote on retaining a state Supreme Court judge who was among the judges who declared same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right).

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