USA 2012: Are the toss-ups really that close?

Earlier today I blogged about how the number of battleground states has dwindled down to only eight states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa and Wisconsin.

All eight of these states were won by Barack Obama in 2008. Two states won by Obama in 2008, Indiana and North Carolina, are considered to be likely to fall to Romney and while there is an Obama campaign presence in those states, they appear to have been largely written off. Apart from these ten states, every other state is expected to be won by the same party as in 2008.

Considering how close this race looks, it is easy to write off the race as ‘too close to call’. Overall the race nationally appears to be very close. However when you look at key state polls, a trend emerges. It is clear that Obama has a solid, if slim, lead in enough states to give him 270 electoral votes.

The eight states considered tossups are coloured grey (click to visit Real Clear Politics’ ‘create your own map’ tool)

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has clearly stated that he thinks the race is no longer too close to call in a number of these swing states. Obama has been solidly ahead in polls in Ohio and a number of other states which would bring the vote above 50%.

At the moment the most likely scenario appears to be that Obama will win most of the swing states, with Romney holding on in Florida, with a decent shot at winning either Colorado or Virginia. If Obama wins all but Florida, the margin will be a solid 303-235 result. If Romney comes out on top in Colorado and Virginia, Obama would still win 281-257. In that scenario, the race would come down to Ohio. Winning Ohio would then give Romney a majority, but polls in Ohio have been solidly favouring Obama, even if they have been by small margins. If Obama wins Ohio, it’s very hard to see Romney win.

There are a number of other scenarios, most of which see Obama win. However, there is one scenario that would produce quite an interesting result. If Obama wins Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire and Colorado, and Romney wins Nevada, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, you end up with both candidates stuck on 269 votes each.

Electoral vote scenario which would produce a tie of 269 electoral votes each.

In such a scenario, the result would go to the US Congress to decide. In the House of Representatives, each state delegation casts one vote. Even if the Democrats regain control of the House, their seats are likely to be concentrated in larger states, with Republicans controlling a majority of states.

This would likely result in Mitt Romney being elected President. The House does not, however, decide the Vice Presidency, and the Senate would be likely to choose Joe Biden as Vice President, producing quite a strange ticket for the next four years.

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