Mitt Romney will win key swing states like Colorado and become the next president of the United States.
So says a new study released this morning by the University of Colorado -- and the researchers behind the forecast say they have a solid methodology that ensures their predictions will probably be right.
For supporters of President Barack Obama, the study is at the very least a wake-up call that this is going to be a very tight race, especially in battleground states like Colorado.
"I'm pretty confident that Romney will win the election," says Ken Bickers, a professor of political science at CU-Boulder.
Why's he feel that way?
The prediction is based on a historical analysis of state-by-state factors leading to the Electoral College selection of every president since 1980. The CU team says the model it's using is unique, because it focuses on the Electoral College and is the only one of its kind to include more than one state-level measure of economic conditions.
To check the accuracy of this approach, the team applied it to every presidential election since 1980, and they found that it would have correctly predicted the outcome in each race -- even during campaigns in which independent candidates ran strongly. This includes the 2000 contest, when Al Gore received more of the popular vote but George W. Bush came out ahead in electoral votes.
Their analysis says that Obama will earn 218 votes in the Electoral College, falling short of the 270 he needs to win. Likewise, Romney is predicted to take 52.9 percent of the popular vote, while the president will garner 47.1 percent (based on analysis of only the two major political parties).
The model is focused on current economic conditions, and the professors behind the study, who used economic data taken five months in advance of the November 6 election, plan to update the forecast with more current economic data in September. Another important caveat: States that are very close to a 50-50 split could fall in an unexpected direction.
Unsurprisingly, Colorado is one of the states too close to call with great certainty, says Bickers, who co-authored the study with Michael Berry, a UC Denver professor.
"It confirms why we are getting inundated with so many television and radio ads and why the campaigns are spending so much time paying attention to Colorado," Bickers says.
In Colorado, which went blue in 2008, the model predicts that Romney will receive 51.9 percent of the vote to Obama's 48.1 percent.
"It wouldn't take much to move Colorado across the line in favor of Obama," Bickers concedes. He adds, "It's no surprise that the president is gonna be back again in the next few days."
Continue reading for more information on the forecast and what it means for Colorado. In fact, Colorado falls within the margin of error, he explains. "We wouldn't at all be surprised if Colorado was a state where we were wrong in the end.... It's right on the razor's edge."
This state-level economic indicator forecast predicts that Obama will lose almost all current swing states, including North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, as well as Colorado. Michigan, New Mexico, and Nevada are sometimes viewed as swing states, and the forecast predicts they will go to Obama.
Ultimately, the outcome boils down to how voters perceive Obama's role in the struggling economy. "Since the economy was tanking before he took office, is there still residual attributional blame to the Bush administration?" Bickers asks.
The forecast model on average predicts incorrectly in slightly more than one state per election cycle -- but there's no one state that's big enough where a wrong prediction would change the outcome of the race, he adds.
Recent polls have generally shown Obama with a slight lead nationally and in Colorado, but Bickers says polls prior to the national conventions aren't always very predictive of election results. Approval ratings of the incumbent at this stage in the race are often more revealing, he says.
Unsurprisingly, Romney's campaign and the Republican National Committee are already celebrating the poll. Ellie Wallace, the RNC's Colorado spokeswoman, sent along this statement:
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People all over the country have had enough of President Obama's failed economy, lower take-home pay and broken promises. This morning's study out of Colorado reflects how important the economy is to voters when they go to the ballot box. President Obama has failed to make the economy and jobs his number one priority, instead turning to big spending and Obamacare, resulting in 42 straight months of unemployment over 8 percent. This November, Coloradans will join the rest of the nation in voting for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan - a ticket with the right ideas and experience to turn our economy around and lead our nation into a better tomorrow.
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