Louis Jacobson is a GOVERNING contributor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As Election Day approaches, we're putting everything on the table. Are our efforts to handicap state races worth the pixels on your screen? We're about to find out.
Below is a summary of our final pre-election ratings for four sets of races: the Electoral College, gubernatorial contests, control of the state legislatures and state attorney general elections. Readers can use this rundown as a guide to watching Election Night returns. Then, after the election, we'll grade ourselves on how well we fared.
As we've noted over the past few months, we're not seeing many late-breaking changes in the electoral landscape. This is not a wave election like the previous three cycles-2006, 2008 and 2010-in which one party or the other surged as the campaign went on, putting more and more chambers and races into play.
In fact, the only changes we've made since our most recent set of rankings is to shift the Montana Senate from safe Republican to likely Republican, and to shift the West Virginia attorney general's race from lean Democratic to tossup. Given that we have been tracking more than 150 races or chambers, that's a pretty striking level of stability in the electoral picture.
We weighed a few other changes but ultimately decided not to make them. In the presidential race, Michigan and Pennsylvania are staying lean Democratic rather than shifting to tossup, while Nevada is staying a tossup rather than shifting to lean Democratic, and New Mexico is staying lean Democratic rather than shifting to likely Democratic. In the legislative races, we've decided to keep both chambers of the Arizona Legislature at likely Republican rather than shifting them to lean Republican.
As always, these ratings are based on consultations with more than three dozen political observers and participants, made as recently as a week before Election Day, plus polling data. In each category, we rate races as safe Republican, likely Republican, lean Republican, tossup, lean Democratic, likely Democratic and safe Democratic.
For the Electoral College and the gubernatorial races, we not only offer a rating but also a rank order, except for the seats considered safe for either party.
For the rank-ordered contests, the list can be viewed as a continuum between the states or races most likely to go Republican (at the top) and the states most likely to go Democratic (at the bottom). Unlike the other states in the presidential election, Maine and Nebraska do not operate on a winner-take-all system, so their electoral votes can be divided between Obama and Romney; these two states are rated separately where appropriate.
If our prognostication is sound for both Electoral College and gubernatorial races, we should be able to draw a line somewhere in the tossup category on Election Night and find all the seats above that line won by a Republican and all the seats below that line won by a Democrat.
With that, on to the ratings.
Safe Republican (158 electoral votes)
Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska (4 of 5 electoral votes), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5) and Wyoming (3)
Likely Republican (22)
Indiana (11), Missouri (10), Nebraska (1 of 5 electoral votes)
Lean Republican (11)
North Carolina (15), Florida (29), Colorado (9), Virginia (13), Iowa (6), New Hampshire (4), Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Nevada (6)
Lean Democratic (52)
Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), Maine (1 of 4 electoral votes), Minnesota (10), New Mexico (5)
Likely Democratic (31)
Oregon (7), Maine (3 of 4 electoral votes), Connecticut (7), New Jersey (14)
Safe Democratic (154)
California (55), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New York (29), Rhode Island (4) Vermont (3), and Washington state (12).
2. North Dakota
4. North Carolina
6. Washington state
7. New Hampshire
8. West Virginia
STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
The West Virginia attorney general's races shifts from lean Democratic to tossup. For more details on each race, click here.
The Montana Senate shifts from safe Republican to likely Republican. For more details on each race, click here. Or, select "State Senate" or "State House" from the pulldown for the latest ratings and race details.
Having a majority of seats in play in a year when many states have newly-drawn districts could greatly change the composition of statehouses. Will Republican state legislators be able to hold and extend their reach? Could Democrats regain some of the losses handed to them in 2010? Governing's team of writers and contributors will monitor developments all the way up to Election Day and beyond.
Click a state in the above map to display current breakdowns for each state legislature.
Information is current as of November 1.
GOVERNING Politics is the place for news and analysis on campaigns and elections. If there's a ballot measure in California, a legislative election in Alabama, a mayoral election in Anchorage or a governor's race in Rhode Island, GOVERNING Politics probably is writing about it. We love everything about state and local politics, from polls and campaign ads to policy debates and demographic trends.