Presidential Polls: Electoral College Map Math is Still Daunting for Romney Despite Momentum


The polls are as tight as can be for the upcoming presidential election. If you look at the national poll average on Real Clear Politics (RCP), you will see a tie with both candidates at 47.4%. Nonetheless, other statistics, such as state-by-state polls will tell you infinitely more about the likely outcomes on Election Day, and if you look closely enough you can probably even predict who will win.

According to, President Obama has 237 strong or likely electoral votes, out of a requisite 270 to achieve electoral vote majority. That means he only needs 33 additional electoral votes to win the election. On the other hand, Governor Romney has 191 strong or likely electoral votes, meaning he needs 79 additional votes. With days left until the election, this seems like a steep hill to climb.

Should Obama win Ohio and Wisconsin, which recent polls suggest he will do (RCP average has Obama up by 2.3 in Ohio and up by 3.7 in Wisconsin), he would only need an additional five electoral votes to win the election. This could be achieved by winning just one of Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, or Florida. Winning New Hampshire would get him an electoral tie. (RCP has Obama with a slight lead in Nevada and Iowa. Romney has the lead in North Carolina. Colorado, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire are basically tied. The outcome of these states will likely be determined by which sides’ supporters have a higher voter turnout).

The likelihood that Obama would lose all 7 of these swing states is remote. These facts, however, show how critical wins in Ohio and Wisconsin are for either Obama or Romney. Yet, even if Romney wins both Ohio and Wisconsin, he would need 51 out of the 82 electoral votes distributed among these seven states. If Obama wins Florida and any of these other swing states, this will be mathematically impossible and the election is over. While there are many permutations of Romney attaining the 270 votes total, clearly the math is in Obama’s favor.

Besides electoral vote math, there are other statistics that people may point at to indicate a likely Obama victory. Gamblers have been right on the money (pun intended). In 2008, 90% of gamblers predicted an Obama win. They also correctly predicted that the 2004 presidential election would go to George W. Bush (as early as August). In 2000, the polls early on in the election indicated George W. Bush had a strong lead, while as early as May the betting market predicted the race to be a dead heat. Currently, the betting market favors Obama at around 65-67%.

There are also some less conventional predictors, if that’s your thing. In the spirit of the recent holiday, Obama masks have outsold Romney masks at Spirit Halloween, the U.S.’s largest Halloween retailer, by a margin of 60% to 40%. Spirit Halloween mask sales have accurately predicted the election winner since 1996. 7-Eleven is also running its fourth “7-Election” campaign; customers can choose either a red Romney cup or blue Obama cup for their coffee. In the previous three campaigns, coffee cup choices have actually closely mirrored the election results. Currently, the 7-Eleven website shows Obama leading Romney 59%-41%. As a disclaimer, these two examples are hardly scientific.

Whatever your prediction model, an incumbent reelection looms large.