The deluge of robo calls, attack ads, surveys, and political arguments are over -- campaign-weary voters can settle in for returns that many on both sides of the aisle are touting as perhaps the most consequential election since Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter.
Republicans remain optimistic that they have a big surprise in store for mainstream pollsters and the Obama campaign, despite polls that consistently show President Obama nursing a very narrow in several key swing states.
Conservative direct-marketing icon Richard Viguerie tells Newsmax that he believes former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will win for one simple reason: Republicans are scared to death what four more years of an Obama administration might bring.
“Republicans are living in fear literally for their country if Obama is re-elected,” Viguerie tells Newsmax. “Democrats want to re-elect him, but they don’t live in fear of Romney. But Republicans live in fear of Obama. So I think polls are misjudging almost certainly the intensity of the Republican voter turnout.”
One helpful hint for election watchers Tuesday: Don’t put too much credence in the exit polls one way or the other. In 2004, they disastrously duped Sen. John Kerry’s campaign into thinking they had defeated George W. Bush -- once those champagne corks are popped, it’s hard to stuff them back in the bottle.
With no further ado, here are Newsmax’s 10 leading indicators that will provide a strong indication of whether Gov. Romney can start sizing the new drapes in the Oval Office:
1.) Ohio’s early-ballot count – Ohio is the big enchilada for this election, although pundit’s pontifications that there is scant chance Romney can win if he doesn’t carry the Buckeye State have been greatly overblown. Still, if Romney can win in Ohio, Team Obama will have lost the vaunted Midwest firewall they are counting on to stave off a bitter defeat. Ohio’s polls close at 7:30 ET, and Ohio election officials tell Newsmax the early and absentee ballot tallies will be counted first. Those results could be posted as early as 7:45 p.m. Last week, Obama spinmeisters were claiming to have a huge lead built up in early votes for Obama, but the reality will be unveiled when those first Ohio numbers get posted. If Romney is within a few thousand votes in early balloting, it could be a long night for the supremely confident campaign operatives who have guaranteed the president will win four more years in office.
2.) Loudon County, Virginia – Twenty years ago sleepy Loudoun County off Route 7 outside of the Nation’s Capital was safe territory for national Republicans. But the influx of federal workers streaming from neighboring Fairfax County into the exurbs has changed all that. Local reporters in the county tell Newsmax that Obama must carry Loudoun County by a healthy margin to offset the losses he’s expected to incur in the more tradition-laden regions south and west of Richmond. Polls in Virginia close at 7 p.m. ET, and Loudoun County officials expect to begin posting their results around 8 p.m. Remember, while Obama’s Electoral College math could enable him to lose Virginia and still win, winning in the Old Dominion is almost as vital to the Romney campaign as the race in Ohio.
3.) Bucks County, Pennsylvania -- This “collar county” stretching north of Philadelphia toward Trenton, N.J., could be the ultimate test of Romney’s rope-a-dope strategy in the Keystone State -- waiting until the closing weeks of the campaign to get aggressive, so the Obama campaign wouldn’t have time to react with a deluge of anti-Romney attack ads. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Salena Zito tells Newsmax: “Between 2000 and 2008, Bucks County trended Democratic. But after 2008, it began to go back to its Republican roots. Democratic voter registrations still outnumber Republicans by 10,000 votes, but they tend to be very independent-minded, conservative Democrats who are similar to Western Pennsylvania Democrats.” Translation: If Romney can translate his wildly enthusiastic crowds and surging polls numbers into votes, Democrats could wake up to a big surprise Wednesday.
4.) Prince William County, Virginia – Home to historic Manassas, Prince William is another key county in the Northern Virginia area. Everyone assumes the federal hotbeds of Fairfax and Arlington will trend strongly blue – their growing influence, after all, is why Virginia has flipped into the purple category and broke for Obama in 2008. But that blue tide has to begin to change colors in Prince William County, for Romney to win. The county broke for Obama in 2008. Observers there tell Newsmax they are seeing very long lines at the polling places there -- up to two hours. Political guru Larry Sabato tells Fox News he expects Virginia’s turnout to set a record this election in terms of total votes. Ordinarily, Republicans might be nervous about a strong turnout, but not in bellwether Prince William, where Republicans are highly motivated to turn out Obama.
5.) Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania – For even the most optimistic Republicans, the notion of winning in this urban county of 1.5 million people would require a hallucination. It’s been 32 years since the county last voted for a Republican. Still, the county is an excellent bellwether. If 400,000 or fewer voters cast ballots here, that’s good news for Romney. But if the number edges up toward 450,000, that begins to cause trouble for the Romney campaign because he will have to make those votes up in the less populous, western regions of the Keystone State.
6.) Madison, Wisconsin [Dane County] – One of the reasons the Romney campaign believes it can score an upset in Wisconsin is the success GOP Gov. Scott Walker experienced their earlier this year in his recall election. The Walker machine and the grass-roots activists who powered it are alive and well in Wisconsin -- but not in the liberal stronghold of Madison. For Romney to win in the Badger State he will need Walker-like numbers out of Madison. In the recall election, Walker got 44 percent of the vote from this super-blue berg. Romney needs to poll a similar percentage. Note however that Wisconsin’s polls don’t close until 9 p.m. ET.
7.) New Hampshire – Only four electoral votes are up for grabs in New Hampshire, but that could be enough to put Obama or Romney over the top in this election. New Hampshire is expected to report results promptly after polls close there at 8 p.m. The RealClearPolitics poll average shows Romney trailing by 2 points. But even Romney was stunned by the throng of 13,000 souls who braved freezing temperatures Monday to greet him, and entertainer Kid Rock, at the Verizon Wireless Arena at 11 p.m. Turnout in the race was running high as of Tuesday morning.
8.) Hamilton County, Ohio -- Then-candidate Obama emerged in 2008 as the first Democrat to carry Hamilton County, whose county seat is Cincinnati, in four decades. Whether the president can repeat that feat will be a major test of whether his appeal has faded as much as Republicans hope. Obama’s bid to recapture Hamilton is aided by the fact that unemployment here is about 1.4 percent lower than the U.S. average. A growing Latino population has given Democrats a boost as well. Turnout is reportedly heavy -- not necessarily a good sign for Republicans – and that could make returns a little slower to come in once the polls close in Ohio at 7:30 p.m.
9.) New Hanover County, N.C. – Romney entered Election Day nursing a three-point lead over President Obama in the RealClearPolitics poll average for North Carolina. Although Democrats chose the state for its national convention, most observers expect it to land solidly in Romney’s win column. Still, if there is a trouble spot for Romney here it may be in New Hanover County, which has been trending Democrat. It is home to Wilmington, N.C., the county seat. Early turnout was a bit sluggish, reportedly. Romney should beat Obama by a point or two in New Hanover – otherwise, his campaign operatives may start sweating the Tar Heel State’s 15 electoral votes, which they cannot afford to lose.
10.) The White Vote – Getting an early read on the election may come down to whose electorate turns out to vote. President Obama needs African-Americans and Latinos to turn out in large numbers. Longtime GOP Pollster Bill McInturff, who polls for NBC News/Wall Street Journal, has developed a simple formula for evaluating whose electorate is actually showing up at the polls. McInturff says the most important number to keep in mind is 75 percent. If the share of the white vote, as a percentage of the entire electorate, is 75 percent or less, Obama has a legitimate path to victory. But if white voters as a percentage of the electorate climbs higher, that means the wrong electorate for the president showed up at the polls, and Romney will be favored to win. McInturff calls the percentage of white voters in the electorate “the fundamental question of the cycle.” Exit polls generally should be viewed with strong skepticism, but keeping an eye on turnout among Latinos and African-Americans could be key.
Whether it is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney placing his hand on the Bible and being sworn into office in January may well depend on how they fare in these critical bellwethers.
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