Democrats are expected to gain seats in the House but not the 25 needed to recapture the majority lost in the Republican sweep of 2010. In the Senate, Democrats hold a 53-47 majority, including two independents who caucus with them. Although 10 or more races were considered too close to call through much of the fall, Democrats are now in a position to maintain their majority, although perhaps barely.
This election assessment, along with reports on all the states, is based on interviews by a team of Washington Post reporters with strategists in the two parties and both presidential campaigns, as well as state and local officials and independent analysts. The assessment includes an analysis of polls on individual states and races that have poured forth over the final weeks before the election.
In the presidential campaign, the biggest and most consequential unknowns at this point are the size and shape of the voting population. An electorate that resembles or even slightly exceeds 2008 in terms of the share of minority voters vs. white voters would clearly benefit Obama. A slight decline in the minority share of the electorate and a more even split between Democrats and Republicans — closer to the 2004 electorate than 2008 — would greatly help Romney. Obama, however, may do better among white voters in some of the battleground states than he will do nationally.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News national poll shows a dead heat this weekend, with Obama and Romney both at 48 percent among likely voters. The survey has barely fluctuated.
Obama spent part of this past week in his official capacity as commander in chief as Hurricane Sandy devastated the Atlantic Coast, pummeling New Jersey and New York the hardest. His attention to the cleanup earned praise from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Romney supporter who delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention.
Almost half of all Americans said Obama’s hurricane response would be a factor in their vote, according to the latest Post-ABC tracking poll. An earlier survey found that 79 percent rated his handling of the situation excellent or good. Another wild card is whether the latest jobs report will have a demonstrable effect on an electorate deeply polarized and with few undecided voters left. The report, released Friday, showed that 171,000 jobs were added while the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent.
Through much of the fall campaign, nine states have defined the presidential battleground: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.