Two weeks from now we will start to know who’s won. We might have an idea early, especially after the results from Florida and Ohio arrive. Or it’s possible we might not know the outcome of the election for days and weeks.
Heck we might not know the true results of the election until after the Electoral College actually meets and cast ballots in December.
But all of that is down the road. Right now all we know is what’s in the polls. And as of today that is a confusing story.
Nate Silver, whose column, FiveThirtyEight, in The New York Times writes about polling and statistics. He writes today that Ohio is the big prize this year.
“We are now running about 40,000 Electoral College simulations each day. In the simulations that we ran on Monday, the candidate who won Ohio won the election roughly 38,000 times, or in about 95 percent of the cases. (Mr. Romney won in about 1,400 simulations despite losing Ohio, while Mr. Obama did so roughly 550 times.) Whether you call Ohio a “must-win” is a matter of semantics, but its essential role in the Electoral College should not be hard to grasp.”
If Romney loses Ohio, he can still win the election. But it’s complicated. Silver says Romney would have to win Iowa and Nevada. He would also need to win New Hampshire in order to avoid a 269 to 269 Electoral College tie. If that happens, the Republican House of Representatives gets to pick the next President and the Democratic Senate would vote for Vice President.
Silver projects a one-in-ten chance of a recount in one of the key states. And less than a one percent chance, either way, of a landslide. He posted a 5.9 percent chance that Obama loses the popular vote, but still wins the election.
Overall Silver says Obama has more than a 70 percent chance of another term.
However Real Clear Politics, which basically is the poll of polls, show the race much closer. The RCP national average shows Romney ahead by seven-tenths of a point, 47.9 percent to Obama’s 47.2 percent. It also posts Intrade Odds – a sort of election betting service – with Obama the favorite.
RCP says the Electoral College stands at 201 votes for Obama and 206 for Romney without toss up states, add those in, the Obama moves in front by 24 points, 281 to 257 for Romney. It also projects Ohio for Obama, Florida for Romney, a tie in Virginia, a win for Obama in Iowa and New Hampshire and Romney carrying Colorado.
The most optimistic poll for Republicans comes from the firm Rasmussen Reports. That firm’s daily tracking poll has Romney at 50 percent and Obama at 46 percent. Its electoral scorecard is basically a tie, 237 for Obama and 235 for Romney with 66 votes up for grabs.
A conservative blog, Red State, also sees Ohio as the state to pick the winner. “The election will still boil down to Ohio, Ohio, Ohio,” writes Daniel Horowitz. “However, there is one major development over the past two weeks that has strengthened Romney’s hand in the Electoral College. The national surge in support for Romney has created such strong momentum in Florida, Virginia, and Colorado – both in the top line numbers and internal numbers – that it’s hard to see him losing any of those states.”
One problem for all the polls is early voting. It’s hard to add to the database a method that makes statistical sense. (If you add it as a question, then the poll has to be large enough to be representative.)
But like I said. In two weeks we’ll know. Maybe.
Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.