Election Prediction 2012: President, Senate and House

The 2012 election cycle has been a long and costly battle against two very different ideologies. By this time tomorrow night we may very well know who the next president will be until January 2017. The most likely outcome based on polling, trends and historical state allegiances portends well for President Obama, Senate Democrats and House Republicans.


As I posted on Saturday, President Obama is a heavy favorite to win the Electoral College and thus the presidency. Nothing has changed in the two days since then to disrupt the status quo of the race. In fact, the numbers that have come in since then reinforce a narrow win for the incumbent. Based on the polling average from Pollster.com and on the trends of the race, I predict President Obama to be a 2-3 point favorite in the popular vote and a 332 to 206 favorite in the Electoral College.

For a deeper explanation of where these projections come from I would suggest reading Saturday’s post. The bottom line is that President Obama has a solid base of support in Democratic-leaning states along with consistent leads in a number of swing states (most notably Ohio). Obama has momentum in Florida and Colorado that should be enough to put him over the top in those states on Tuesday night. The map is below:


After losing six Senate seats in the 2010 election, Democrats looked likely to repeat a decline in their ranks in 2012. It was almost universally accepted that Democrats would lose control of the Senate, given the grim map where they had to defend 23 seats to only 10 for the GOP. A number of incumbent Democratic senators decided to retire in red states, making the situation that much worse for Democrats.

Against all odds, Democrats look poised to actually gain seats after this year’s election. A number of strategic blunders on the part of Republican primary voters, gaffes by candidates and surprisingly strong recruitment by the Democrats has led to a situation where I am predicting a net gain of 2 seats from 53 to 55.

Nothing underlines the Republican Party’s collapse in this year’s Senate races more than Todd Akin, who suggested that the female body had a way to “shut down” an unwanted pregnancy that resulted from rape and thus abortion in such cases was unnecessary. National Republicans pressured Akin to get out of the race but he stayed in and will likely cost their party a seat that they were otherwise likely to pick up from Senator Claire McCaskill. McCaskill is a first-term senator with middling approval ratings who won in the wave election of 2006 with less than 50% of the vote.

Republicans threw away another senate seat when they knocked off Indiana’s long-time senator, Dick Lugar, in a Republican primary. It is still not clear what exactly Lugar did to invoke the wrath of Tea Party conservatives – Lugar remains a stalwart conservative – but their choice of Richard Mourdock has not gone over well in Indiana. Mourdock’s Akin-like comment that God “intends” for pregnancy to occur from rape essentially guaranteed that Joe Donnelly would pick up the seat for Democrats.

A third candidate, Olympia Snowe, decided to retire rather than face the will of far-right Tea Party primary voters. Independent Angus King, who is heavily favored to win Tuesday, will caucus with Democrats. These three seats alone, which were otherwise shoe-ins for the Republican candidates, are the difference between Republicans gaining and losing seats. Democrats will at worst retain their majority on Tuesday and at best gain two seats.


Democrats hoped that the gain of over 60 seats for Republicans in 2010 would mean that the tide would fall back and result in a net gain of at least the 25 seats that are needed for Dems to win a majority. It does not appear to be in the cards. The average of polls shows the national popular vote for House races to be neck-and-neck. Gerrymandering by Republican legislatures in a number of large states, including Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, make reaching the necessary 25 seats unlikely. Republicans will retain their majority but Democrats will gain between 5 and 10 seats.


In 2008, I accurately projected the outcome in every state except three: Florida and Indiana (which went for Obama) and Missouri (which went for McCain). Ultimately, I was too conservative in my view of Obama’s performance in 2008. In 2010, I correctly projected the outcome of the country’s Senate races. We’ll see how 2012 turns out in the days to come as ballots are cast and votes are counted. I’ll analyze the results in a new post when all of the data is in. Until then, go out and vote!


A previous version accidentally colored West Virginia blue. The estimated Electoral Vote total of 332 is unaffected by this error.

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