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FactSet StreetAccount's election night primer

Nov 6, 2012

Update 12:20 a.m. EST

The final electoral map and Congressional balance won't be determined for some time, but the broad outline of the election is now clear, and this will mark our final update of the night.

Obama won reelection. Though the popular vote margin is likely to be quite small, the electoral college margin was more substantial. Florida and Virginia have yet to be decided, but Obama is already at 290 electoral votes, to 206 for Romney. If Obama's current leads hold in Florida and Virginia, the final count will be 332-206.

Republicans will also be disappointed with their Senate performance where, at best, the balance will remain 53-47, and that's only if they win the three remaining races not yet called (Montana, North Dakota, Nevada), which is unlikely. Instead, they'll likely lose seats despite having to defend only 10 of the 33 seats being contested.

  • Current balance including lean/likely states + toss-ups called: 53 (D), 44 (R)
  • Two independents are counted as Democrats as they are expected to caucus with Democrats

House of Representatives
Republicans will retain their majority in the House, though it is too early to determine the final margin.

S&P futures (5.9) vs fair value

Update 11:14 p.m. EST

NBC's projection that Obama wins Ohio puts him past 270 electoral votes and assures reelection.

Electoral College; 270 votes needed to win:

  • Likely/Leaning states: Obama 237, Romney 191
  • Swing states called by networks: Obama 4, Romney 1
  • Swing states called: Obama (IA, NH, OH, WI), Romney (NC)
  • Swing states not yet called: CO, FL, NV, VA

Updated total leaning/likely + toss-ups called: Obama 275, Romney 206

Update 10:59 p.m. EST

Romney succeeds in claiming one swing state, with AP calling North Carolina in his favor. However, even if he holds on in Virginia (currently 50%-49% Romney with 76% reporting), he could still lose 319-219 given unfavorable trends in remaining swing states.

The popular vote is still going to Romney by about 1.6 million, but it's worth noting that Obama beat McCain by approximately 3.2 million votes in 2008, so the popular vote tally will shift as West coast polls close.

Electoral College; 270 votes needed to win:

  • Likely/Leaning states: Obama 237, Romney 191
  • Swing states called by networks: Obama 2, Romney 1
  • Swing states called: Obama (NH, WI), Romney (NC)
  • Swing states not yet called: CO, FL, IA, NV, OH, VA
  • Updated total leaning/likely + toss-ups called: Obama 251, Romney 206

S&P futures (10.4) vs fair value

Update 10:17 p.m. EST

The electoral college could plausibly end at 319-219 for Obama even if Romney is assumed to win two of the closest states judging by exit polls (North Carolina, Virginia).

These are the assumptions:

All 41 likely/leaning states come in as expected for each candidate

Nine swing states:

  • New Hampshire, Wisconsin: already called for Obama
  • Colorado: Obama ahead in actual results
  • Florida: Obama ahead 50%-49% in actual results and exit poll
  • Iowa: Obama ahead 52%-46% in CNN exit poll
  • Nevada: Obama ahead 51%-45% in CNN exit poll
  • North Carolina: Romney ahead in actual results, even in exit poll
  • Ohio: Obama ahead in actual results, and 51%-48% in exit poll
  • Virginia: Romney ahead in actual results, even in exit poll

Futures have been moving lower throughout the night: S&P futures (12.0) vs fair value

Update 9:45 p.m. EST

Two swing states have now been called for President Obama: New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

Electoral College; 270 votes needed to win:

Likely/Leaning states: Obama 237, Romney 191

  • Swing states called by networks: Obama 0, Romney 0
  • Swing states called: Obama (New Hampshire, Wisconsin), Romney (-)
  • Swing states not yet called: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia

Updated total leaning/likely + toss-ups called: Obama 251, Romney 191

Romney's must-wins are Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina. CNN exit polls show him even in Virginia and North Carolina, and down one point in Florida (the vote is even with 78% counted in Florida).

Even if Romney manages to prevail in all three must-wins in Florida/Virginia/North Carolina, Obama victories in Ohio and Wisconsin would give him 265 electoral votes assuming all likely/leaning states go his way. Obama is up 3 points in Ohio exit polls and 6 in Wisconsin.

Obama would need to win only one of the following states to be reelected: Nevada, Iowa, or Colorado. Colorado is a toss-up, but both Nevada and Iowa are generally expected to end up in Obama's column.


Update 9:07 p.m. EST

Michigan had not been considered a true swing state, but there had been some talk that Romney might make it close. That was apparently not the case, as CNN called the state based on exit polls alone. Exit polls continue to lean against Romney, as these latest CNN exit poll results indicate, though no swing states have been called as yet:

  • Colorado: 48%-48%
  • Wisconsin: 52%-46% for Obama
  • Minnesota: 50%-47% for Obama (Minnesota was generally considered to be leaning Obama, not a toss-up)

S&P futures (4.7) vs fair value.

Update 8:27 p.m. EST

CNN says a second wave of exit polls moved in favor of Obama in Florida and Pennsylvania. On CNN, David Gergen said that the first round of Florida exit polls showed Romney up 1%, but the second round moved to 50%-49% for Obama. Similarly, Pennsylvania exit polls moved from +3% Obama to +5% Obama. Gergen noted, however, that actual vote tallies weren't yet confirming those numbers.

No swing states have been called for either candidate as yet.

S&P futures (5.4) vs fair value.

Update 8:06 p.m. EST

Polls close in Pennsylvania and remaining jurisdictions in Florida, New Hampshire. The story remains the same; exit polls are not favorable for Romney, but as yet no network has called one of the nine swing states for either candidate. Here are the exit polls that are troubling for Romney; Florida/Virginia/North Carolina are generally seen as must-wins for Romney, with Ohio nearly as critical:

  • Florida: 50%-49% for Obama
  • Virginia: 49%-49%
  • North Carolina: 49%-49%
  • Ohio: 51-48% for Obama
  • New Hampshire: 50%-48% for Obama

Pennsylvania, which most analysts viewed as leaning-Obama rather than a toss-up, has just closed and has not been called, but CNN reports 52%-47% for Obama.

It is generally accepted that Romney must win Florida/Virginia/North Carolina to have a chance, and even then it is an uphill battle. Polls have closed in Virginia and North Carolina, where CNN has reported that exit polls in both states are 49%-49%. Polls in western Florida have not yet closed, so only partial tallies (and no exit polls) are yet available. Even if Romney wins Florida/Virginia/North Carolina, he still needs Ohio. Or if he loses Ohio, he needs Wisconsin and Colorado, and either Iowa or New Hampshire. CNN reports that exit polls in Ohio are 51%-48% for Obama, which would make Romney's path to victory far more challenging even if he manages to win Florida/Virginia/North Carolina.

S&P futures (5.2) vs fair value.

Original post

There are nine widely accepted swing states that will be critical to the electoral college vote: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. And while the reasons for Romney's late push into two "lean Obama" states was hotly debated (desperation vs confidence), it did add Michigan and Pennsylvania to the list of closely watched states tonight. What follows are the poll closing times for these 10 states and some brief notes.

Swing State Poll Closing Times

7 pm ET: Florida (except panhandle), New Hampshire (most of the state), Virginia

If either of these states goes to Obama early, the perception will be that Obama has won given that these were two of Romney's strongest swing states in the polls. Romney wins here, on the other hand, would only keep him in the game, but certainly not assure victory.

7:30 pm ET: North Carolina, Ohio

North Carolina is another state that is viewed as strong for Romney among the swing states, and if he loses North Carolina, his path to election will become very difficult.

Ohio has of course become the most widely discussed swing state. An Obama victory in Ohio will not assure his reelection, but it will make it necessary for Romney to win several other swing states in which he was generally behind in the polling, even if he has won Florida/North Carolina/Virginia. In this scenario, Romney would need to win both Colorado and Wisconsin, and either Iowa or New Hampshire. If Romney wins Florida/North Carolina/Virginia/Ohio, he would only need one of those four other states to push him to 270 electoral votes and victory.

8 pm ET: Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Florida (panhandle), New Hampshire (remaining towns)

A Romney win in either Michigan or Pennsylvania is not expected and would be seen as a very strong indication for him, assuming that he had already won the other states where he was believed to be well positioned (Florida, North Carolina, Virginia). New Hampshire will only be critical if, as noted above, Romney wins Florida/North Carolina/Virginia but loses Ohio.

9 pm ET: Colorado, Wisconsin

As with New Hampshire, the outcome in Colorado and Wisconsin will only be important if Romney has won Florida/North Carolina/Virginia but failed to win Ohio. As noted previously, Romney would need Colorado and Wisconsin in that case, as well as either Iowa or New Hampshire.

10 pm ET: Iowa, Nevada

Nevada is generally viewed in Obama's column currently, and Iowa would only remain critical in the scenario noted above.

Additional Notes

If Ohio is extremely close, much has been made of the possibility that the counting of provisional ballots in the state could continue for days or even weeks, and the election outcome could hang in the balance.

If the electoral college ends in a tie (which is seen as a very low probability outcome), the House of Representatives would elect the next president, with each state getting one vote. It is highly likely that Romney would be elected in this scenario.


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