Twelve years ago I thought George W. Bush was going to comfortably defeat Al Gore for the presidency.
Yet on the night of the election, after the media called Pennsylvania (site of the 2000 Republican National Convention) and Florida (where the GOP nominee’s brother served as governor) for Gore, I actually dropped to my knees and prayed one of the fastest rosaries I’ve ever recited that the race would still be winnable.
It would later be revealed that the media, in their mad dash to be early in calling the election, had declared Florida for a candidate while residents in the state’s Central Time Zone were still voting, potentially influencing the results there and in other states.
Ever since that night, I’ve been a bit nervous about predicting something as complicated as an American presidential election until the evening before, as it technically involves 51 different contests though essentially boils down to less than a half-dozen true variables the closer to Election Day.
The growth of early voting has added a twist to the art of presidential prognostication since a poll on the eve of Election Day might measure of snapshot of candidates at that time but doesn’t reflect ballots cast on a previous day when the state’s political temperature gave a different reading.
There have been times where a candidate has won a state’s election day voting yet was so swamped in early voting that the latter trumped the former.
Though Mitt Romney had enjoyed a good bit of momentum as the race wound to its final days, Hurricane Sandy put all eyes on Barack Obama, who came off as presidential while the cameras were rolling, and helped the president’s standing.
Hurricane Sandy also rendered the valuable political service of further burying what little coverage the mainstream media was devoting to the Benghazi attack and the resulting cover-up by the Obama Administration.
But now that the president’s favorable photo ops with New Jersey governor Chris Christie and consoling storm victims in the northeast have been replaced with less flattering images of six hour long gas lines and people panicking over the lack of essential supplies, the possibility of a backlash to what should be perceived as the president’s “phoned in” relief effort could cost him over the next few days.
That being predicated on the mainstream media doing their jobs.
As America is 72 hours removed from Election Day, there are some reasonable assumptions that can be made.
First that North Carolina, Colorado and Florida are probably safe for Mitt Romney and that Minnesota, Michigan and Nevada will once again have Obama’s back, as the president likes to put it.
Virginia, which for decades has been one the most reliable Republican states in the south, is likely to return to the Republican fold while Pennsylvania, the state that has tempted the GOP in four presidential elections, will once again elude the Republicans’ grasp.
However either state could end up being a wild card pick up by the underdog and if one defies political conventional wisdom, the defecting state will be a bellwether of where the country is going on Tuesday night.
The election will likely be determined by W.I.N.Os.- that is voters in Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire and the all-important state of Ohio.
Ohio (18 electoral votes) has been the perpetual battleground for the presidency and the location of the most cajoled voters on the planet.
Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) is home of Romney’s running mate and site of the Republican victory in the contentious Walker recall, which was the second most important election in 2012.
Iowa (6 electoral votes) is where Obama proved that the fairy tale could come true by dispatching the inevitable Hillary Clinton nomination but also a state with many values voters.
And New Hampshire (4 electoral votes), the only “homestate” that Romney has a chance of carrying.
If Romney wins Ohio (along with the other assigned states), he will have reached 275 electoral votes and become the 45th president. If Obama wins the Buckeye State, then he still needs help as his electoral vote total would stand at 261.
The president would then have to carry either Wisconsin or New Hampshire and Iowa to secure re-election.
In the event Romney loses Ohio but wins Wisconsin and either New Hampshire or Iowa, then the Republican challenger would have reached the White House via an unconventional path.
For Romney, Ohio has the potential to be everything without being a necessity. For the president, Ohio is an almost essential component but Obama could still end up falling short after taking the “make or break” state.
The electoral vote map and its “conjunctions” favor Romney and the future of America is in the W.I.N.O.s’ hands now.