Master prognosticator Nate Silver has released his first projections for the presidential election and his forecast gives a significant edge to President Obama ... for now. According to his models, which are a synthesis of most of the available state-by-state polling data, if the election were held today, Obama would walk away with 300 electoral votes to Romney's 238. Looking outward to November the gap narrows slightly, but Obama still wins easily, with 291 electoral votes to Mitt Romney's 246.
Silver's blog, FiveThirtyEight, is one of the most closely watch election predictors because it is part of The New York Times family—and it is part of that family because in 2008 it correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states. So expect these number to continue to be watched closely over the coming months.
It also provides an interesting comparison to the electoral numbers offered up by both the Romney and Obama campaigns this week. Both parties tried to soothe supporters by painting a picture of how their candidate can secure the 270 electoral votes needed take the White House. But it's doubtful either candidate's fans walked away satisfied.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina says Obama has 234 in the bag. Romney thinks he's got 270 (or maybe 260, if you're actually counting.) Both camps seem to agree on what the key battleground states are, but no one seems to agree on who is actually winning them.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the electoral math seems to show a more comfortable cushion for the president than national polls that show the race to be a near dead heat. It could be just a luck of the draw that Obama's support lies in all the right states, but Silver suggests that it could also be due to "house effects," by which he means that every polling firm tends to have some slight bias toward one party or the other. The national polls may be overestimating Romney, while the state polls do the same for Obama.
The key states to watch out for at this juncture appear to be Virginia and Ohio, which could flip either way and in turn, flip the election to one side or the other. They are basically split 50-50 at this point (mirroring the national polls) and turning them both red is essential for a Romney victory. However, as it must be said with any story about polls from here until October ... a lot can happen! So take these numbers as a starting point and stay tuned.