Not much has changed since April 11, 2011, when I blogged that, For Obama, it's Ohio or bust in the next election, save that Obama is weaker than ever. I still think Ohio is key to the election, but Romney could still pull out a win by putting together some other combinations. For Obama, it's take Ohio or he's toast. I used the www.270towin.com website for my predictions; it's a great tool for playing around with electoral college numbers.
Here's some things to consider when you hear presidential polling numbers.
1. Current polls aren't screening for likely voters. When these screening questions go into effect, the GOP candidate generally jumps by about five points.
2. The last election was an anomaly, with GOP voters totally dispirited while many independent and Democrat voters considered Obama to be a deity. No more. Many liberals and independents are just as disgusted with Obama as conservatives were with George Bush, which will increase GOP voter participation. In fact, recent special elections (Wisconsin, Arizona) show GOP results outperforming public opinion polls by about five or six percent, the traditional pattern. So the general rule is that if you hear the Democrat and Republican are tied in the polls, it means the Republican will likely win.
3. In some states, about two percent of registered voters are non-citizens, based on the percentage of people dismissed from juries for being non-citizens (juries are selected from voter rolls). These non-citizens and illegal immigrants tend to vote Democratic, and Voter ID laws and efforts to remove them from the voter rolls, such as those in Florida, will benefit the GOP.
4. Historically the GOP has had a built-in advantage in having its nominating convention last. The public is more attuned to politics closer to the election, and the pageantry of the convention just boosts the GOP nominee. No reason to believe things will be different this year. In fact, things are a mess for the Democrat convention in North Carolina, while the GOP will likely benefit from having a successful convention in Florida.
Polls are helpful, but at this point I don't trust them very much. For example, lots of polls are showing North Carolina as a toss-up state. Obama carried it in 2008 but I don't believe he has a chance this time around. Likewise Obama tends to have a poll lead in Virginia, but 2008 was the first time a Democrat had carried that state since 1964. Obama is a lot less popular today than in 2008, and I see no reason for Virginia not to return to form.
So I use my gut-feeling test in combination with poll results, and my gut feeling is that Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Florida are all moving over to the GOP column from 2008, along with Indiana and Missouri.
This gives Romney 257 votes and seven states from which to pick up the additional 13 electoral votes needed to get to 270. As things are going right now, that's not going to be a difficult task, but the winds of politics blow a different direction every day. It could get harder or it could get easier.
But the states Romney has to choose from are Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. I see these as the real battleground states, although a few more will still require work to remain in the fold. My personal prediction is that Romney has a good chance to take Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and New Hampshire, giving him 295 electoral votes to 243 for Obama.
Times change, predictions change, but that's mine as of today. But even though times change, my map doesn't look much different than it did in April, 2011. And Ohio still remains the state that will put Romney over the top and into the White House.