The key data points for me are the figures for independents. I assume that Republicans will vote overwhelmingly for Romney and Democrats will vote overwhelmingly for Obama, because my observation over the past few years is that we have become a more polarized country.
Put differently, do you know what you call a Reagan Democrat in 2012? A Republican.
I also assume that Republicans and Democrats will turn out about evenly in 2012. Republicans may get a slight edge because of higher enthusiasm, but there is no way that Democrats will have a D+7 advantage like they produced in 2008 in a giant wave election for the first black President. No way.
So, if Republicans and Democrats are split evenly, the race will be decided by independents.
In the recent polls, here are the figures:
- CBS/NY Times (10/28) - Romney leads among independents by 12 points, 51-39.
- Pew (10/28) - Romney leads among independents by 8 points, 48-40.
- Investors Business Daily (10/27) - Romney leads among independents by 8 points, 46-38.
Independents are about a third of the electorate. That means that, if Romney has a roughly ten point lead among independents, even if Republicans and Democrats split evenly and turnout evenly, Romney will win by 3-4 points.
And that's before the undecideds vote, who will break, as they almost always do, against the incumbent.
I'm going to be conservative and say Romney wins 52-48.
If he does that, there is no way he loses the Electoral College.