Published November 06, 2012
Election Day could be a squeaker. Or it could be a landslide. For either candidate.
The razor-thin margin between President Obama and Mitt Romney has made the race virtually impossible to call. Political prognosticators have been all over the map in their predictions.
And because of the way the Electoral College is structured, a close call in the popular vote doesn't necessarily mean the electoral vote itself will be so tight.
Each campaign has gamed out a series of scenarios on possible paths to the 270 electoral votes it takes to win. Here are a few possibilities for how the election night results could pan out:
Obama wins, but not by much
In this scenario, Obama wins Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as Wisconsin and Ohio, where polls show him with a slight lead. He would then only need Nevada or Iowa to put him over the top -- winning with 271 electoral votes.
Romney wins, but not by much
Romney wins Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, going 3-for-3 in the major Southern battlegrounds. He would still likely need to win Ohio, and then could make it over the top with a win in Colorado -- ending the night with 275 electoral votes. If Romney loses Ohio, he could still make up the deficit by bagging Wisconsin and Colorado, with New Hampshire, Iowa or Nevada then putting him over the top. Romney would win with no more than 273 electoral votes.
Obama wins with a few electoral votes to spare
Obama sweeps Pennsylvania and into the Midwest, winning Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. He pushes past the 270 mark with Nevada, but also racks up wins in Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire. The end-of-the-night tally is 290.
Romney wins with a few electoral votes to spare
Romney wins Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio -- and then Colorado takes him over the top. Mitt doesn't stop there. He goes on to win two or three of the smaller battlegrounds like New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada. Romney could end the night with more than 280 electoral votes.
Obama outperforms expectations
Obama wins any one -- or more -- of the Southern states that Romney is banking on. These would include Virginia, North Carolina and/or Florida. Doing so could result in Obama nearing or crossing the 300 electoral vote mark. Winning two or more of these states could leave the president with a more than 70 electoral vote margin.
Romney outperforms expectations
Romney sweeps the three major Southern battlegrounds, and goes on to take Ohio and Colorado. A victory in Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania would be icing on the cake at this point, and would bring him to at least 285 electoral votes.
A painfully close election
Obama and Romney end the night preparing for recounts, perhaps even looking at the possibility of a tie in the Electoral College count. The election could reprise 2000, with the courts effectively determining the winner while the post-election process plays out for weeks. Provisional ballots could end up tilting the race in some tight battlegrounds.