I believe President Obama, based on all the evidence and my own gut instinct, which I will explain below, will win a narrow victory on Tuesday to serve a second term.
My best guess is the popular vote margin will be 50.5 percent to 49. The electoral vote margin will likely be 281 for Obama and 257 for Romney. I am picking battleground states for Obama to include Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Hampshire. For Romney I am predicting he will win battleground states Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado.
There are three clear reasons -- positive for President Obama and, conversely, negative for Romney -- that explain and justify the president's re-election.
First, President Obama won the battle of messages and Romney lost.
Obama's core message -- "I did the best I could on the economy; we were in a deep hole and I've made some progress getting out of it" -- was, in my opinion, a more credible and persuasive message than Romney's message. The former governor's central message seemed to me to be: "President Obama failed on the economy and I can succeed by way of tax cuts and less government regulation."
But it is a simple fact that in the last year the American people have seen an improvement in the economy and that there is a perception that things are getting better. Romney's answer, which only began to be explained in the last month or so, is simply unpersuasive to me, and, I predict, to most voters. Even if his program of tax cuts and deregulation actually created new jobs, he's never been able to answer the question, as far as I am concerned: How you do reduce the debt while you're cutting taxes and increasing defense spending? The numbers just don't add up, and Romney has never been able to make them add up.
Second, polls show that Obama remains the more likable of the two candidates. I must add he lost a lot of that advantage, in my view, due to an excess of negative, personal attack ads, some of them that independent fact-checkers found to be misleading or false. He made matters even worse in diminishing his central asset of likability during the first debate, when he looked down disrespectfully when Romney was talking to him, at times seeming to smirk.
On the other hand, Mitt Romney enhanced his unlikability throughout the Republican primaries. There was the incredible moment when even conservative Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked him to "have a heart" when Romney criticized Perry for allowing illegal immigrants to pay lower in-state tuition costs in Texas to go to a state university.
It's too bad for Romney that he waited until the first debate in October to show genuine strength of character, a commanding presence and likability. Why didn't he do that between the end of the last debate and the convention? Why didn't he do that in his acceptance speech? And whatever he gained in that first debate, he lost by the slimy, dishonest Jeep ads that he is now running in Ohio and the scurrilous and shameful ad he's running in Florida associating Obama with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, Barack Obama remains the change candidate who excites and inspires (inevitably, less so than in 2008) the younger generation of Americans. He leads in the polls substantially among that younger generation -- by margins of 20 to 30 percent. They are America's future. For that reason, all other things being equal -- and they are not, for the above two reasons -- his appeal to the young, who represent the future of our country, is an important reason to vote for him next Tuesday.
The following are my state-by-state picks for results next Tuesday:
Obama -- 50 percent
Romney -- 49 percent
Obama -- Electoral votes = 281
Romney -- Electoral votes = 257
OBAMA STATES -- ELECTORAL VOTES
ST Solid States = 142
New Jersey (14)
New Mexico (5)
Maine CD2 (1)
ST: TOTAL 201
New Hampshire (4)
Ohio (!!!) (18)
Wisconsin (10) (!!!)
Total electoral votes/Obama: 281
ROMNEY STATES -- ELECTORAL VOTES
ST: Solid 127 (including Nebraska 3 electoral votes)
Nebraska (CD2) (1)
South Carolina (9)
South Dakota (3)
North Carolina (15)
Total Electoral votes/Romney: 257
This post originally appeared on The Hill.
# # # #
Davis, the principal in the Washington law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, which specializes in legal crisis management, served as President Clinton's special counsel (1996-98) and as a member of President George W. Bush's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (2006-07). He currently serves as special counsel to Dilworth Paxson and is a partner with former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in Purple Nation Solutions, a public affairs-strategic communications company. He is the author of the forthcoming book Crisis Tales - Five Rules for Handling Scandal in Business, Politics and Life, to be published by Simon & Schuster. He can be followed on Twitter @LannyDavis.