The Blog

An Election Night Guide

6:00 AM, Nov 6, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Since the House passed Obamacare 961 days ago, on March 21, 2010 — two days before President Obama signed it into law — all eyes have been on November 6, 2012.  As Bill Kristol wrote on March 22, 2010: 

obama and romney

“Napoleon invaded Russia in June of 1812.  On September 7 of that year, the Grande Armée under Napoleon’s command attacked the Russian army near the village of Borodino.  Napoleon won the battle, the greatest of the Russian campaign, but at a terrible cost — about a third of his soldiers were killed or wounded….Last night was Obama’s Borodino.  Obama’s Waterloo will be November 6, 2012.”

More than two-and-a-half years later, we’ve now arrived at that decisive date. 

The outcome in nearly three-quarters of the states, plus the District of Columbia, is almost certain.  Unless something truly unforeseen happens, Mitt Romney will win in 23 of those states (including Texas), while Obama will win in 14 (including California, New York, and Illinois) plus Washington, D.C.  Through those 37 states and D.C. (aside from one electoral vote in Nebraska and one in Maine, to be discussed later), the electoral vote will almost surely be as follows: Romney 190, Obama 183.

Among the 13 remaining states, two appear to be just barely in play: North Carolina and Oregon.  The Obama campaign aggressively targeted North Carolina throughout most of the campaign, going so far as to stage the Democratic National Convention there. But it was always a doubtful proposition that, in a close race, Obama could triumph in a state in which he fared 7 points worse last time around than he did nationally. If Obama does manage to win in North Carolina, or if Romney somehow finds a way to win in (lightly contested) Oregon, feel free to switch over to reruns of The Office or The Simpsons — as the election will be over.  But if each candidate holds serve, as expected, then the tally through 39 states and D.C. will be as follows:  Romney 205, Obama 190.

Two states appear to be moderately in play: Michigan and Minnesota. Both states border Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, and Romney was born and raised in Michigan.  Obama won these states by double-digits in 2008, but his lead in each has now dwindled to the low single-digits in some polls, which means that these must-win states are no longer sure things for Obama. But if Obama does prevail as expected in the Wolverine and Gopher states, the tally through 41 states and D.C. will be as follows:  Obama 216, Romney 205.

That leaves the nine key swing states. 

The two largest of those are Florida (29 electoral votes) and Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes). At this point, both states look to be about equally in play. If Romney sweeps them, it might not yet be time for Republicans to pop the cork, but it’ll certainly be time to get the champagne glasses ready.  If Obama sweeps them, it’ll be time for Republicans to turn off the TV and grab the bourbon (no glasses needed). (Of course, they should first make sure the votes have been counted in the Panhandle.) If, however, Romney wins in the Sunshine State and Obama wins in the Keystone State, the tally will be as follows: Obama 236, Romney 234, with seven states remaining.

But in addition to those seven states, two races that haven’t gotten much attention will also affect the outcome. Unlike the other 48 states, Nebraska and Maine each allocate one electoral vote for each congressional district (and two statewide).  In 2008, Obama won Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District — which includes Omaha — by 1 percentage point (50 to 49 percent), thereby claiming one of the Cornhusker State’s five electoral votes despite losing the state by 15 points (57 to 42 percent).  Subsequent redistricting, along with Obama’s reduced popularity, makes it unlikely that Obama will win that electoral vote again — but it’s not out of the question.  In 2008, Obama won Maine’s 2nd Congressional District — a huge district spanning the northernmost 80 percent or so of the state — by 12 points (55 to 43 percent). Obama is still the favorite there this time around, but the district, and its electoral vote, could be in play for Romney.

Assuming that Romney wins in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, and Obama wins in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, the tally would be as follows:  Obama 237, Romney 235.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers