The election is only a few days away and where do we stand? The presidential race dominates everything else, but there are big Senate and House races as well as state contests with national impact. No matter where you look, contests are tight and outcomes are within the margin of error.
The best political analyst of polls, Nate Silver, gives Obama a 76% chance of being re-elected. Silver, who called the 2008 election within one percentage point and accurately predicted 49 out of 50 Senate races, predicts Obama will capture 299 electoral votes. (You win with 270) The key to the election is Ohio. If Obama wins Ohio, Romney can't find a way to get to 270. Obama appears to be up 2 points in Ohio. (well within the margin of error) In every battleground state, the race is close and the outcome will be determined by who has the better ground game. Obama's advisors have gone all in and spent tens of millions of dollars setting up field offices and putting boots on the ground in order to turn out his base. Tuesday we will see if the bet paid off. If Obama can turn out Latinos, African Americans, women and young voters in numbers anywhere near those in 2008 he will win. If not, he loses. Romney truly can only sit back and watch. Obama's turnout will determine the next president no matter what Romney tries in the last few days.
(There is concern in Ohio about voting machines owned by a company which counts as some of its investors, Romney's son Tagg among others. Ohio was stolen from John Kerry in 2004. Had he won Ohio, he would have beaten Bush. If you want to follow one news story on Tuesday, follow Ohio and turnout and problems and who counts what and when they count them.)
A step below the presidential contest is the race for control of Congress. The House should stay Republican, but Republican hopes for taking back the Senate are less optimistic than a few months ago. They need a net increase of 4 seats to take over the Senate. They will probably pick up Nebraska and maybe Virginia. They are close in Wisconsin and Montana. However, what was thought to be a sure pick up in Missouri is no longer a sure thing. Sen. Claire McCaskell is benefitting from her opponent's belief in "legitimate rape" and she could hold on to her seat. In Indiana, the Republican, Mourdock, trails by as much as 10 points due to his belief that pregnancy which results from rape is a gift from God. In Maine, former governor Angus King should win. He is an independent but is expected to caucus with the Dems. This would be another loss for the Republicans. (a seat formerly held by Republican Olympia Snowe) Democrats should hold on to Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. They still might pick off Arizona and will hold New Mexico. The bottom line is it does not look likely the Republicans will get the 4 new seats they need.
In California, there are initiatives to end the death penalty, re-formulate the three strikes law, and raise taxes to benefit schools (two different proposals) among statewide issues. There is also an initiative to label genetically modified foods. All of these could cause waves around the country. Eliminating the death penalty could accelerate this trend nationwide. A willingness for taxpayers to raise their taxes for schools could spawn similar attempts in other states. Trends start in California, and if they vote to label genetically modified foods, it will create pressure to do so in various other states and localities.
Beyond California, you have a number of states voting on legalizing medical marijuana. This would be in direct defiance of the federal government and could add to pressure to change federal law to allow for medical marijuana and the creation of dispensaries in states all over the nation.
The presidential race, and who emerges victorious, can affect so much of American life, but Americans seem to ignore or lack concern over an issue that can touch their lives for generations...appointments to the Supreme Court. Court watchers say the next president could get 2 appointments over the next 4 years. If Romney wins, he will appoint Scalia clones and Roe v Wade will be overturned and the 4th amendment will finally be eliminated. If Obama wins, he would be able to maintain the court's ideological status quo as the two vacancies are expected to come from the progressive wing of the court. Despite its ability to touch the lives of all Americans for 20 or 30 years into the future, the court is almost never in the top 10 issues Americans care about in a presidential election. Some day someone will explain how that is possible in a nation almost divided down the middle, and where moral and ideological issues will find their way to the court for adjudication, Americans could care so little about who is president and who they would put on the court.
This presidential race illuminates some serious racial fault lines in the U.S. While white voters prefer Romney, Latinos and African Americans overwhelmingly want Obama. Men prefer Romney, while women by a smaller percentage than 4 years ago want Obama. The Republican Party has clearly become the party of the angry white voter. It's a fact which South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham says cannot continue since there aren't enough white voters to sustain Republicans as a national party.
Finally, Hurricane Sandy appears to be this election's October Surprise. Obama has benefitted from looking above politics and being presidential. The glowing praise from New Jersey governor Chris Christie boosts Obama's stock. (if they have any brains and any money left, there is already an ad playing in all the battleground states highlighting Christie's remarks) Romney and Ryan are on the record in favor of dismantling FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and turning the functions over to the states. Can you imagine how New Jersey would cope if there was no federal disaster relief money? Obama has argued government has a legitimate role in our lives while Romney argues for cutting everything from FEMA to the National Weather Service and even food stamps. Sandy reminds Americans what government can do and Obama is taking advantage of the visuals. It could be worth a point or two in a race which could be decided by a point or two.
I'm terrible at predictions, and never bet on anything I say, but I think Obama will win. I also think he will win the popular vote. Maybe I'm whistling past the graveyard, but I cannot imagine a Romney Whitehouse and the Darwinian ethos it would bring with it. I think the Dems will hold on to the Senate. I hope Californians will end the death penalty, fix 3 strikes and pour funding into our schools.
None of this happens if you don't vote. Please do something I would love to do but cannot.....VOTE !!!