Instead of having politicians guest on Face the Nation this morning, CBS’ Bob Schieffer welcomed veteran political analysts to try to get a read on the final polls going into Tuesday.
“I think the popular vote looks even or close to even, Bob. And I think anybody would be crazy to confidently predict how that’s going to go,” said Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report. “I still think the electoral college is easier for the president to get to 270. It’s not impossible for Governor Romney, but all the pieces have to fit together for him. There are a number of must-win states so it’s more difficult.”
“Republicans have some problems with the state numbers. They say that most of the state polls are too Democratic. The samples are too Democratic. And in their hearts, I truly believe that the Romney folks and most Republican strategists believe that they have at least an even-money chance on this,” Rothenberg elaborated. “But when you look at the dispassionate polls, the independent polls, the media polls, they seem to mirror the Democratic numbers a bit more.”
Larry Sabato said there are three toss-ups left at his Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
“We called all the other states. And we think the president’s likely to win with 277 to 303 electoral votes,” he said.
Virginia, meanwhile, is “a lot closer than either side expected.”
“Now, I don’t think Virginia’s representative of the country. I do think the president has an edge in Ohio. I expect him to win Ohio. I expect him to win Wisconsin. I think he’s going to win Iowa,” Sabato said. “And frankly, given the Democratic base in the other states, that’s all she wrote.”
“I see Florida going to Romney. Although, I’ve got to say, Romney is closer to losing Florida than Obama is close to losing Ohio. Now that tells you something. I think North Carolina is Romney’s. I think, as I said, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa are all going to go to Obama. New Hampshire is tight as a tick, it Colorado is tight as a tick, and Virginia is tight as a tick,” he said. “Nevada is Obama’s. And there we are.”
Rothenberg said that the first presidential debate “fundamentally altered the race.”
“And if you look at the most recent polls in terms of image, Mitt Romney’s favorable is significantly up. A number of polls have him virtually even with the president,” he said.
Sabato said he also looks in close races “for the last-minute trend that may lift one candidate a point, a critical point.”
“What happened this last week? Hurricane Sandy lifted President Obama because he was presidential and Mitt Romney was forced off the stage for three days. And the president dodged a bullet on jobs on Friday. Those two things in combination I think pushed Obama up and over the top in several of these very close states,” he said.
Rothenberg said it was easy to predict such a tight election a year or two ago. “Because the country is evenly decided between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, folks on the coast, and folks in the middle. Some of the people in the middle think like folks on the coast if you live in Asheville, North Carolina, or if you live in Austin, Texas,” he said. “But this is the country.”
Both predict little change in the makeup of Congress.
“If I had to guess, I would say Democrats would end up with 52 or 53 seats. They have 53 now. In the House. you’re going to get about the same number of Republicans you’ve got now,” Sabato said. “It relates to the 50-50 country. We could end up with a 50-50 nation and a status quo election with the incumbents essentially re- elected in all three parts of the Federal government.”
“We’re going to see minimal changes in the House, anything from a tiny Republican gain to a modest Democratic gain. The Senate, we’re anywhere from no change to Republican gain of two or three seats,” Rothenberg said. “The Senate is disappointing to the Republicans. They’re not going to win a seat in Missouri they should have won. They may well likely lose a seat in Indiana they should have held on.”
Today’s Real Clear Politics polling average, figuring in four new polls out today, has Obama up by 0.4.
“We rely not just on polls but also the election models and punditry that come out of the field of political science,” Sabato said of the political scientists’ guessing game. “…,There’s more stability to this system than we’re acknowledging.”
In 2010 midterm elections, Rothenberg predicted a 55-65 seat pickup in the House for Republicans and between 6-8 seats in the Senate. The GOP picked up 63 in the House and 6 in the Senate.