Who Will Be President in 2013?

This is a rewrite of our original article that appeared on February 11th now that we know that the candidates will be Obama and Romney.  The obvious answer to the question of who will win is that it depends upon what happens between now and then. As the 2000 presidential election reminded us, it is all about electoral votes. The electoral votes have changed since 2000 thanks to the 2010 census which transferred electoral votes from blue states to red states on the whole making it easier for a Republican to win.

First you need to forget just about everything you think you know about winning a presidential election because it is a whole new ballgame as a result of the change in electoral votes and therefore which states are battleground states. The answer to which party will control the White House comes down to a mere handful of states. You can forget about polling nationwide for which party will win the Presidency in 2012 because you only need to poll the new battleground states to know the answer.
Let's begin by looking at the revised electoral vote picture for the 2012 election.  In the original article, this table was ordered using the 2000 to 2008 average but now it is a matter of how many states Obama will lose in 2012 compared to 2008, if any.  Thus this table is now ordered by the 2008 results:
Party State 2008 Margin 2004 Margin
2000 Margin 00-08 Margin 2012 Votes Party Totals
D District of Columbia 85.74% 79.84% 76.21% 80.59% 3 3
D Hawaii 45.26% 8.75% 18.33% 24.12% 4 7
D Vermont 37.01% 20.14% 9.93% 22.36% 3 10
D Rhode Island 27.85% 20.75% 29.10% 25.90% 4 14
D New York 26.69% 18.29% 24.98% 23.32% 29 43
D Massachusetts 25.81% 25.16% 27.30% 26.09% 11 54
D Maryland 25.44% 12.98% 16.39% 18.27% 10 64
D Illinois 25.10% 10.34% 12.02% 15.82% 20 84
D Delaware 25.00% 7.60% 13.06% 15.22% 3 87
D California 24.06% 9.94% 11.08% 15.27% 55 142
 D Connecticut 22.37% 10.36% 17.47% 16.73% 7 149
D Maine 17.32% 8.99% 5.12% 10.48% 4 153
D Washington 17.18% 7.18% 5.58% 9.98% 12 165
D Michigan 16.47% 3.42% 5.13% 8.34% 16 181
D Oregon 16.35% 4.16% 0.44% 6.98% 7 188
D New Jersey 15.57% 6.68% 15.81% 12.69% 14 202
D New Mexico 15.13% 0.79% 0.06% 4.80% 5 207
D Wisconsin 13.90% 0.38% 0.22% 4.84% 10 217
D Nevada 12.49% 2.59% 3.54% 2.12% 6 223
D Pennsylvania 10.32% 2.50% 4.17% 5.66% 20 243
D Minnesota 10.24% 3.48% 2.41% 5.38% 10 253
I New Hampshire 9.61% 1.37% 1.27% 3.24% 4 257
I Iowa 9.53% 0.67% 0.31% 3.06% 6 263
I Colorado 8.95% 4.67% 8.36% 1.36% 9 272
I Virginia 6.30% 8.20% 8.03% 3.31% 13 266
I Ohio 4.54% 2.10% 3.51% 0.36% 18 253
I Florida 2.82% 5.01% 0.01% 2.21% 29 235
R Indiana 1.03% 20.68% 15.64% 11.76% 11 206
R North Carolina 0.33% 12.44% 5.53% 5.88% 15 195
R Missouri 0.13% 7.20% 3.34% 3.56% 10 180
R Montana 2.26% 20.51% 25.08% 15.95% 3 170
R Georgia 5.21% 16.60% 11.69% 11.17% 16 167
R South Dakota 8.41% 21.47% 22.74% 17.54% 3 151
R Arizona 8.52% 10.47% 6.29% 8.43% 11 148
R North Dakota 8.63% 27.36% 27.60% 21.20% 3 137
R South Carolina 8.98% 17.08% 15.94% 14.00% 9 134
R Texas 11.77% 22.87% 21.32% 18.65% 38 125
R West Virginia 13.12% 12.86% 6.33% 10.77% 5 87
R Mississippi 13.17% 19.69% 16.92% 16.60% 6 82
R Nebraska 14.93% 33.22% 29.00% 25.72% 5 76
R Kansas 14.96% 25.38% 20.80% 20.83% 6 71
R Tennessee 15.07% 14.27% 3.87% 11.07% 11 65
R Kentucky 16.23% 19.86% 15.13% 17.07% 8 54
R Louisiana 18.63% 14.50% 7.67% 13.60% 8 46
R Arkansas 19.85% 9.76% 5.45% 11.69% 6 38
R Alaska 21.54% 25.55% 30.95% 26.01% 3 32
R Alabama 21.58% 25.62% 14.91% 20.70% 9 29
R Idaho 25.43% 38.12% 39.53% 34.36% 4 20
R Utah 28.18% 45.54% 40.49% 38.07% 6 16
R Oklahoma 31.29% 31.14% 21.88% 28.11% 7 10
R Wyoming 32.24% 39.79% 40.06% 37.36% 3 3
Presidential Elections in a Nutshell

The first thing to notice is that even if Romney manages to take back North Carolina and Indiana which seems quite likely at this point, he only has 206 votes and he needs a minimum of 270.  That means he MUST also carry the next three states that McCain lost, namely Florida, Ohio and Virginia.  Even if does manage that feat, he still only has 266 votes as the right hand column shows.  As a general rule, a party is highly unlikely to carry a state that they previously lost to the same opponent by more than a 10 point margin.  While some optimistic Republicans still think that Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin and even New Mexico is in play, that is not what history tells us from previous election results.  Perhaps the Scott Walker recall election will show that Wisconsin is in play but the odds still are not good.


The next consideration is that President Obama made deep inroads into the Republican states so we must ask if he can repeat this feat. Therefore we need to look at the states he won that he might not be able to carry in 2012. If he won by better than a 5% margin then those states are a real problem for the Republicans. Virginia and Colorado were lost by more than that. As you look at what states might make up for Virginia, you will see that all of the states that are blue in the last column were lost by a greater margin than Virginia so if Obama carries Virginia in 2012, he wins re-election. If he carries Colorado which he won by 8.95%, he must lose New Hampshire which he carried by 9.61% or Iowa which he carried by 9.54%. Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire will decide the election because the Republicans must carry either Colorado or either Iowa or New Hampshire in addition to Virginia.

It goes without saying that Romney must also carry the other four states the Republicans lost by less than 5%. Thus polling those eight states will tell you who will win in 2012. Romney must be ahead in five of them and ahead in either Colorado, Iowa or New Hampshire. So what do we know about Romney's chances in those eight states? Here is what the 2010 House races told us in those eight states plus the next four just to make sure we are not missing any bets:
State 2008 Margin 2010 House Margin Average Margin
North Carolina 0.33%  14.44%  7.06%
Indiana 1.04%   28.20% 13.58%
Florida  2.81%   30.45% 13.82%
Ohio  4.54%    19.30%    7.38%
Virginia  6.30%   19.45% 6.58%
Colorado  8.95%  8.00% 0.48%
Iowa 9.54% 18.86% 4.66%
New Hampshire  9.61%  12.90%  1.65%
Minnesota 10.24%  2.65% 6.45%
Pennsylvania 10.32% 6.14% 2.09%
Nevada 12.50%  9.84% 2.66%
Wisconsin 13.91% 17.07% 3.16%
New Mexico 15.13%  2.50% 8.82%
If the voters repeat what they did in the 2010 House races, Obama is toast. Even if they wind up half way between what they did in 2008 and 2010, the Republicans win because they carry Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin which more than makes up for losing Colorado. If you want to know which party will control the White House in 2013, poll Colorado. If Romney is ahead of Obama, the Republicans will win 2012. If Obama is ahead in Colorado, poll Iowa and New Hampshire. If Romney is ahead in either state, the Republicans will win but if Romney is behind in both states, Obama will win. For an even cheaper answer, just poll Wisconsin. If Romney is ahead, Obama is all through. Yes, it really is that simple.

That being the case let's see what Real Clear Pollitics average of likely voter polls tell us about the current situation in these swing states. I am only keeping the polls of likely voters in the RCP averages unless there are not any because turnout means everything in this election. Even polls of registered voters are not good enough because not all registered voters turn out and Republicans always turn out better than Democrats so registered voter polls invariably are biased towards Democrats. Needless to say, polls of all adults are worthless for political purposes. As you can see, Obama wins if the election were held today because he holds Ohio and Virgina even though he loses Iowa and Colorado is a total toss-up.  Right now Romney needs to practically live in Ohio because without improving the situation there he is toast.
State Obama Romney Margin
North Carolina 44.0% 47.7% 3.7%
Indiana 40% 49% 9%
Florida 46.0% 45.0% 1%
Ohio 47.5% 43.0% 4.5%
Virginia 46.0% 45.5% 0.5%
Colorado 47% 47% Tie
Iowa 44% 46% 2%
New Hampshire 51% 42% 9%
Minnesota (RV only) 52% 38% 14%
Pennsylvania 47% 41% 6%
Nevada 52% 44% 8%
Wisconsin 48% 44.7% 3.3%
New Mexico 52% 36% 16%