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Nate Silver: Obama slightly ahead for re-elect, but only slightly

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Nate Silver, blogger and electoral numbers guru, reports over at the NYT that the election is close, but that the President still has the lead, though slightly.

Nate explains that while the President has the lead in key states polls, Romney is often ahead in national polls. He attempts to explain why, in addition to giving a monster analysis of how things look, state by state. Read the entire thing. Here are a few key paragraphs about what he calls "tipping point states":

The term the model uses for these key states is tipping point states, meaning that they could tip the balance between winning and losing in an election that came down to the final vote.

Foremost among these tipping point states are Ohio and Virginia. In 2008, both states had a very slight Republican lean relative to the rest of the country. However, the economy is comparatively good in each state, and Mr. Obama’s polling has held up reasonably well in them, putting them almost exactly in balance. Mr. Obama is given just slightly over 50 percent odds of winning each one, just as he is given a very slight overall lead in our national projection. But if Mr. Obama’s national standing slips, he would probably lose his lead in those states as well.

In the next tier of states are Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and Pennsylvania. The first three of these states project to be almost as close as Ohio and Virginia, but they are somewhat less important than it because they contain fewer electoral votes.

Pennsylvania is the reverse case: it is more of a reach for Mr. Romney, but has 20 electoral votes and therefore offers him a huge reward. Even if Mr. Obama were to win states like Virginia and Colorado, it would be nearly impossible for him to win the Electoral College if he lost both Ohio and Pennsylvania along with Florida.

Taken by itself, however, Florida may be a less valuable prize than usual. Right now, the polls there show almost an exact tie. But the model views Florida as leaning toward Mr. Romney, for several reasons.

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