The Washington Post

And where the presidential race sits

With only three more campaigning days remaining, how does the presidential race look? Nate Silver sums it up in four words: “Obama’s ahead in Ohio.”

Since we’re going into the weekend, it’s worth a slightly more detailed look. First, the national vote appears to be about as close to tied as it can be. As usual, I used the HuffPollster poll-of-polls trend line, which now shows Barack Obama with a tiny 0.3% lead, which happens to match match the Real Clear Politics average.

But has been the case for most of the campaign, the distribution of the votes within the states appear to give Obama an advantage. It’s an advantage of only two percentage points, but that turns out to be enormous, if true, and it gives Obama a solid electoral-college edge.

Basically, Obama currently leads in every state he won in 2008 except three: Indiana, where Mitt Romney has a decisive lead; North Carolina, which Romney leads by a fairly safe margin; and Florida, which is just about dead-even. Obama’s leads are small enough in three states — Virginia (1.1 percent lead in the HuffPollster estimate), New Hampshire (2.3), and Colorado (1.2) — that it wouldn’t be surprising if those leads were just random polling error, but then again polling error could be in either direction.

In every other state, including Ohio, the lead is larger and would just about have to be a result of something more than luck.

The good news for Obama is that the states where he holds some kind of lead add up to a whopping 303 electoral votes, far more than the 270 he needs. In order to win, Romney would have to win Florida; overcome narrow Obama leads in Virginia, New Hampshire and Colorado; and still find more. At that point, any of three states with relatively narrow Obama leads would do it for Romney — Ohio, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania. But there’s simply no reason to believe that any of them are very close right now. And even if he gets one, it won’t do him much good if, for example, Obama’s lead in Virginia holds.

That’s really the problem. It wouldn’t be a shocker if Obama’s lead in Ohio, for example, doesn’t hold — it would be a surprise, yes, but odder things have happened. But for Romney to win, it’s going to take broad, across-the-board changes from where the polls are now. Given how unlikely that a last-minute event can do that, what’s really remaining is the highly unlikely possibility that dozens and dozens of independently run polls are, collectively, getting something really wrong.

No one should consider this election a lock. The margins in these polls aren’t quite enough for that. But Barack Obama is certainly a very solid favorite right now, given everything we know.


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