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Trail Mix — November 1, 2012 

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Roll the Videotape

The 1,000-mile-wide Superstorm Sandy was about the only thing that was going to push the presidential election off the front pages, but Sandy had another impact, too. It reminded everyone of the role of FEMA — villain of Hurricane Katrina, but savior to many in the South (especially Florida). Videotape of Mitt Romney advocating for eliminating or privatizing FEMA was quickly rebutted by his campaign, saying Romney now actually wants to keep FEMA as is. Another flip-flop for his binder? As of Tuesday, Romney was refusing to answer questions about FEMA.

Same As It Ever Was?

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog on NYTimes.com has become an addiction for nervous poll watchers. But earlier this week, he dropped this bombshell:

“When we introduced this year’s FiveThirtyEight forecast model on June 7, the closest states were Colorado, Ohio and Virginia, each of which slightly favored Mr. Obama. In Florida and North Carolina, meanwhile, we had Mitt Romney listed as a modest favorite.

“Pretty much the same could be said about the race today. In fact, our projected leader in all 50 states is the same as it was at our launch of the forecast in June.”

Yes, you read that correctly. After hundreds of millions in advertising dollars spent, nothing has changed.

If It’s Close

It’s conceivable that we could wind up with a 272 to 266 final Electoral College tally — that’s with President Obama losing the swing states of Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, but winning Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin and Iowa. And yes, in this scenario, tiny New Hampshire, with its four electoral votes, would decide the election.

No matter who wins, if it’s razor-close — perhaps even with a different popular vote winner than Electoral College winner — there will be a nationwide freak-out. If Dems are on the losing end, it would be the second time in four elections they’ll feel screwed. If the GOP loses a squeaker, perhaps they’ll start questioning our ancient system of picking the president.

If It’s Not

It’s also plausible that President Obama could win fairly big — if he wins Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire, but loses North Carolina and Florida, he gets 303 votes.

This would trigger some soul-searching among Republicans. They’d be wise to focus on the effects of the Electoral College, which allows both parties to ignore vast swaths of America. The next GOP nominee would need to expand their map and learn to talk to more voters in states like New York and California.

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