Reagan Is in the Driver's Seat Electoral Map on Reagan's Side; Electoral Map Works Against Carter
Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared on Nov. 2, 1980.
Ronald Reagan has the pieces in place and the machinery to deliver a Republican presidential victory on Tuesday.
About all that can save Jimmy Carter's job is the return of the hostages from Iran or some other event that persuades large majorities of the undecided and John B. Anderson voters in about a dozen key states that they want to see Carter -- not Reagan -- in the White House.
That is the message of a final pre-election, state-by-state wrapup by The Washington Post. The report is based on the judgments of professional politicians in both parties, the reports of correspondents in all 50 states, and a variety of private and public polls.
Although Carter has a narrow lead in some recent national polls, including one by The Washington Post, it appears that Reagan could lose the popular vote and still win an electoral vote victory, or he could win both.
The Post wrapup, detailed on pages C4 and C5, shows the former California governor ahead this weekend in 22 states with 207 electoral votes -- just 63 short of the 270 needed for victory. President Carter went into the final 48 hours leading in 15 states and the District of Columbia, with 163 electoral votes.
Thirteen states with 168 electoral votes were rated too close to call. To salvage the election that Reagan clearly would have won if the voting had taken place in the past 48 hours, Carter needs to win two-thirds of the electoral votes in the tossup category. As a practical matter, that probably means he must win three of the four big Great Lake states that have 99 of those votes.
The final frantic campaigning will focus on Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, but the latest available indicators from private and public polls are that it is Reagan -- not Carter -- who can claim whatever tiny edge there is in these tossup states and probably has the momentum in his direction in all of them but Pennsylvania.
State soundings confirm that Reagan gained a fairly consistent 5-point lift from his showing in last Tuesday night's televised debate with Carter. But that "ride" predictably had lost its force by Friday and overnight surveys in a few key states showed the race stabilizing.
The fact that Carter failed in the debate either to paint Reagan as a dangerous personality to occupy the Oval Office or to shift the issue from economics to foreign policy is one reason that attention increasingly has shifted to the possible hostage release as the issue that could salvage the election in the final 48 hours.
The president has experience with such turnabouts. In 1976, his Republican opponent, Gerlad R. Ford, came out of the final debate and put on a blitz that moved him ahead in the Sunday morning opinion polls. But then the voters took another look and decided to go back to the Democratic nominee.
But 1980 is not 1976. From the day he was nominated, Reagan has had a bigger margin in the Electoral College base than he has enjoyed in the national opinion polls.