For those who have never followed Nate Silvers’ work on his blog FiveThirtyEight (now hosted here at the New York Times), I’d strongly suggest checking it out.
Silver is an amazing numbers cruncher, and his dynamic modeling of the polling back in 2008 resulted in spot-on predictions about Obama’s win over McCain.
He’s obviously doing similar work this year, but this time he’s added all sorts of other variables to his model.
From a post yesterday, Election Forecast: Obama Begins With Tenuous Advantage:
Mr. Obama remains slightly ahead of Mr. Romney in most national polls, and he has had a somewhat clearer advantage in polling conducted at the state level. Mr. Obama would be about 80 percent likely to win an election held today, according to the model.
However, the outlook for the Nov. 6 election is much less certain, with Mr. Obama having winning odds of just over 60 percent. The forecast currently calls for Mr. Obama to win roughly 290 electoral votes, but outcomes ranging everywhere from about 160 to 390 electoral votes are plausible, given the long lead time until the election and the amount of news that could occur between now and then. Both polls and economic indicators are a pretty rough guide five months before an election.
The forecast works by running simulations of the Electoral College, which are designed to consider the uncertainty in the outcome at the national level and in individual states. It recognizes that voters in each state could be affected by universal factors — like a rising or falling economic tide — as well as by circumstances particular to each state.
Of the key swing states, the one that seems most important for Romney to secure would seem to be Florida. I have a hard time seeing how Romney could reach 270 electoral votes without Florida.
Silver notes Ohio and Virginia as key tipping point states, but I would say that Virginia might be the single most important state for Obama to secure in his column.
That’s obviously just speculation right now, of course.