Nate Silver’s computer model shows Obama a slight favorite to win re-election
It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with Nate Silver (above), the best political numbers cruncher in the business. The unveiling of his presidential forecast model gives us good reason to pay him a VISIT:
The first look at the 2012 FiveThirtyEight presidential forecast has Barack Obama as a very slight favorite to win re-election. But his advantage equates to only a two-point lead in the national popular vote, and the edge could easily swing to Mitt Romney on the basis of further bad economic news.
Mr. Obama remains slightly ahead of Mr. Romney in most national polls, and he has had a somewhat clearer advantage in polling conducted at the state level. Mr. Obama would be about 80 percent likely to win an election held today, according to the model.
However, the outlook for the Nov. 6 election is much less certain, with Mr. Obama having winning odds of just over 60 percent. The forecast currently calls for Mr. Obama to win roughly 290 electoral votes, but outcomes ranging everywhere from about 160 to 390 electoral votes are plausible, given the long lead time until the election and the amount of news that could occur between now and then. Both polls and economic indicators are a pretty rough guide five months before an election.
One of the confusing aspects of this presidential race so far is that national polls have often shown a race that is nearly tied — or Mr. Romney sometimes leading — while Mr. Obama has more often had the lead in polls of crucial battleground states. Sites that project the presidential outcome based on the state polls have thus seemed to show a tangible advantage for Mr. Obama, while those that look at the trend in national polls seem to imply that the race is too close to call.
Any evaluation of the presidential race needs to reconcile this discrepancy.