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Election Day: Does Obama have the edge? (+video)

The final polls show President Obama with a slight lead. But Republicans show greater enthusiasm for turning out. So the race this Election Day is far from over.

By Staff writer / November 6, 2012

President Obama gestured as he spoke at his final campaign stop on the evening before the 2012 election, Monday, Nov. 5, in downtown Des Moines, Iowa.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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Washington

It’s Election Day, and the final polls are in. If the outcome were to be decided by the popular vote, it would be too close to call. The Real Clear Politics average of the latest national polls shows President Obama ahead by just 0.7 percentage points. That’s way within the margin of error.

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In 2008, President Obama took Nevada for the Democrats, beating John McCain by 12 percentage points, and now he is betting on two wins in a row. Anna Werner reports.

But the winner will be determined by the Electoral College, not the popular vote. And by that score Mr. Obama seems to have a slight edge over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

If each tossup state is assigned to the candidate toward whom it is leaning, according to the averages of each state’s recent polls, then Obama could win the Electoral College handily. The Real Clear Politics map with no tossup states gives Obama 303 electoral votes versus 235 for Mr. Romney. To win, a candidate needs 270 votes.

But that Real Clear “no tossup map” gives a lot of credence to those state polls, and when averaged, they’re all close. (That’s why they’re battleground states!) If the turnout assumptions in those polls end up underestimating the motivation level of Romney voters then they could be wrong.

Conservative political analyst Michael Barone says the fundamentals work in Romney’s favor. Most voters oppose Obama’s major policies and are unhappy with the sluggish economic recovery, he writes in the Washington Examiner. National and “target state” polls show independents breaking for Romney, he adds.

“That might not matter if Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 39 percent to 32 percent, as they did in the 2008 exit poll,” writes Mr. Barone, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “But just about every indicator suggests that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting – and about their candidate – than they were in 2008, and Democrats are less so.”

So unlike a lot of the other handicappers, he puts Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and most important, Ohio, in the Romney column. Barone’s bottom line: Romney 315, Obama 223.

Romney could lose some of those states and still win the election, but he can’t lose Ohio. The hype is true: Ohio really is the firewall for Obama. And some Republicans are less confident about Ohio than Barone. Ford O’Connell, head of the conservative Civic Forum PAC, says that while the enthusiasm is there for Romney in southern Ohio – coal country, where Environmental Protection Agency regulations are unpopular – Romney continues to struggle across the northern part of the state.

“For some reason – whether it’s the auto bailout or whatever – he [Romney] cannot seem to get what he needs to get with white working-class voters between Toledo and Akron,” says Mr. O’Connell.

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