romney and obama

Romney & Obama (3rd presidential debate)

*It’s all almost over.

Those wearying commercials, those debates, all the mudslinging, all the coverage, all the politics of the 2012 election … it’s all coming to a head. After Tuesday, either Barack Obama will remain the American president – or Mitt Romney will be the president-elect. That’s it. Thank God.

How’s it all going to turn out? Here are our picks for how that red / blue electoral college map will look at the end of the day on Tuesday night. So, a reminder – a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win. Let’s start off Obama, the incumbent, with a rock-solid base of 211 EVs. That includes all the real non-competitive states – California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, D.C., Maryland, Delaware and all of New England (except for New Hampshire), along with Wisconsin, where his polling has been very strong. Let’s give Romney, the challenger, 206 solid EVs. That’s the whole south (except for Florida, and including North Carolina), most of the Midwest (except for Colorado), Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. Chalk those 211 up blue and those 206 up red.

That leaves 121 electoral votes up for grabs over the real undecided states – Michigan, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia and Ohio, the million-dollar prize of this election. These nine states are the ones that are going to decide the election. On Tuesday, these are the ones you should be watching.

So which way will those nine vote? Well, count on Nevada and Michigan turning blue – Obama has polled very well in those states, and he should win by four or five points. That brings him to 233. The same with Iowa and Pennsylvania, where the Democratic candidate has consistently been in the lead; now we can bump the count up to 259. New Hampshire should eventually fall in like with its blue-state New England brethren; it’ll be close, but Obama should win. Now he’s up to 263. He’s seven points away.

Meanwhile, Romney should triumph in Florida – a red state at its heart – and will probably squeak out a victory in Virginia, bringing him up to 248. That leaves two states to decide the election, Ohio (with 18 EVs) and Colorado (with 9). Romney will need to win both to be the next man in the White House.

He won’t. Obama has built up a steady – not huge, but steady – lead on in Ohio, and his ground game will be enough to turn that state blue, just like it did in 2004.That puts Obama at a winning 281; a late triumph in the increasingly-blue Colorado brings it up to a 290-248 electoral college win for the incumbent president.