Eleven days before the election, the outcome is beginning to take shape. The election will be close; that seems to be the one thing most everyone can agree on. President Obama appeared to be on a track to a convincing Electoral College victory a couple of months ago, but that's no longer the case. Mitt Romney's campaign has been revitalized, and he seems to be getting into a groove. He has even take a whisker-thin lead in national polls.
But the nationwide polls don't mean anything. The popular vote doesn't determine the election; the Electoral College does. And momentum, as one pundit put it this week, doesn't count; votes do. Romney seems to have the momentum, but, unless things swing dramatically, he doesn't have 271 electoral votes.
It appears more and more likely that the election will be decided in one state — Ohio. No matter how you do the math, it's next to impossible for Romney to win without winning Ohio. He can win Florida, which he very well might, but he'd still need Ohio to put him over the top. Obama badly needs Ohio, too, but he's significantly ahead there, according to the polls. Obama could lose Ohio and still win, if he took Florida, Virginia and a few other swing states. His electoral total is bulked up by the big electoral votes in California and New York, where he's not even being contested. Romney will carry Texas and a lot of smaller states, but he will need Ohio, even if he wins Florida.
So the election will likely be won or lost in Ohio, and right now, Obama seems to have the advantage. Both candidates have recognized the importance of Ohio and are spending their last days of campaigning there. Voting intentions can change, and polls can be flawed, but if the polls are right, Ohio will give the election to Obama, even if Romney wins the popular vote. (Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election via Florida in 2000.)
I predicted early on that Romney would take North Carolina, and recent campaign activities seem to confirm that prediction. Candidates are no longer making appearances here and are even pulling back on ads in North Carolina — actions that hint that the campaigns think the N.C. results are a foregone conclusion. N.C. Democrats are in such disarray with the Jim Black and Meg Scott Phipps scandals, Gov. Bev Perdue's unpopularity and untimely backing out of a re-election bid, and the GOP-ordered redistricting that the state's Republicans have a clear advantage. Regardless of which way Ohio swings the total electoral vote, North Carolina's electoral votes seem to be securely in Romney's column.