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Beam: Don’t be swayed by projections

Last Modified: Friday, October 19, 2012 6:01 PM

By Jim Beam / American Press

If you believed some of the polls and projections about the presidential election, it would already be over. President Obama would have another four-year term. However, as baseball’s Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

CBS-TV News said Thursday night its projections showed Obama with 255 electoral votes to 206 for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. That means the president would need only 15 more electoral votes to reach the magic number of 270, a virtual certainty at this point. The Associated Press on Oct. 1 reported that if the election were held that day Obama would have 271 electoral votes to 206 for Romney.

Look at other polls and projections and you soon learn they vary widely, depending on the source of the information. Real Clear Politics, for example, had Romney with 206 electoral votes to 201 for Obama. The other 131 were toss-ups.

Rasmussen Reports on Friday had Obama with 172 electoral votes, 38 likely his and 27 leaning in his direction, or a total of 237. Romney had 167, 11 likely and 18 leaning his way, or a total of 196. The other 105 are toss-ups.

The situation looked much different two months ago. Two University of Colorado political science professors said in August Romney would win the election with 320 electoral votes to 218 for Obama. It just goes to prove this election is going to shift from one side to the other until Election Day, and voters shouldn’t get too worked up about all of these predictions and projections.

Romney supporters were elated last week when the Gallup organization had him leading 52-to-45 percent in the popular vote, a 7-point margin.

The Huffington Post took issue with those numbers, saying, “The already controversial Gallup Daily Poll raised even more eyebrows on Thursday...” The Huffington story by Mark Blumenthal listed nine other polls where Romney led in four with a margin no higher than 4 percent. The other five had Obama ahead by nothing higher than 3 percent.

“The HuffPost Pollster tracking model, which combines all of these public polls as well as state level surveys into a national popular vote estimate, continues to show Obama and Romney in a virtual tie,” the story said.

Pollsters, commentators and news organizations are quick to point out that the popular vote isn’t the deciding factor when it comes to electing the president. That’s true, and that means the electoral votes in nine toss-up states hold the key to the election. They are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, a total of 105 electoral votes up for grabs.

The Electoral College system was worked out by this country’s founding fathers. It is a compromise between those who wanted Congress to elect the president and those who wanted it to be done by popular vote. There has been much talk over the years about eliminating the Electoral College and going to a popular vote. However, it has survived the test of time.

Each’s state’s electoral vote is based on the number of senators and representatives it has in Congress. Louisiana, for example, has eight electoral votes based on its two U.S. senators and six U.S. representatives. The winner of the popular vote in each state gets all of its electoral votes, except for Maine and Nebraska where they allocate those votes based on the candidates’ vote percentages.

The Electoral College has 538 electors based on 100 senators, 435 representatives and 3 for the District of Columbia. The winner has to get 270 votes, one more than half of the 538. It is also possible to have a tie at 269 votes each.

If that happens, the U.S. House picks the president with each of the 50 states getting to cast one vote. The Center for Politics at the University of Virginia said an analysis shows Romney would win if there were a tie this year.

National Journal, a political magazine in Washington, D.C., called eight of the swing states Campaign 2012. It doesn’t include Missouri. George E. Condon Jr. said the 82.8 million people who live in California, Texas and New York, the nation’s three largest, “are just bystanders in the most hotly contested presidential election in a decade.” He notes that in 1960 Richard Nixon campaigned in all 50 states and John F. Kennedy in 45.

The magazine said since June 5, the last day of the major primaries, each candidate has campaigned in only 10 states. And that is where they have spent more than half of the $600 million spent so far, according to NBC. Visits to other states have mostly been for fund-raisers, the magazine said.

It’s tough to sit on the sidelines and realize your state isn’t still in play. However, Romney is expected to carry Louisiana, and he needs its eight votes.

What all of this tells us is that much of the nation is divided into two camps, the blue and the red states. The focus from here on out will be on the swing states, and the candidate who holds the edge in those nine states is going to fluctuate between now and Nov. 6.

Don’t be misled by the poll numbers and predictions you will hear between now and Election Day. There may be only 16 days to go, but this one isn’t over by a long shot.

           •••
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com

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