After three consecutive wave elections, the 2012 election is the first where we don't expect to see major shakeups up and down the ticket.
In fact, according to ABC News Political Director Amy Walter, for the first time since 2006, neither party heads into Tuesday with a decided wind at its back (Democrats enjoyed a huge push in 2006 and 2008, while Republicans had the wind at their backs in 2010).
Instead, we are looking at our first "normal" election since 2004. Even so, Democrats and Republicans disagree about what "normal" means.
For Democrats, it means an electorate that is less white, more diverse and as such more demographically suited to an Obama victory. In other words, an electorate that looks similar to 2008. Republicans argue that the electorate in 2008 was more of an aberration than a trend. They think that media polls have also misinterpreted the make-up of the "new normal" electorate.
Either way, this is a presidential race that is going to go down to the wire. Just eight states - Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia, Wisconsin, Florida and Colorado - will decide who wins the White House.
While national polls - including our own ABC News-Washington Post surveys - continue to show a too-close-to-call contest, President Obama holds a narrow advantage in the Electoral College. Simply put: the pathway to 270 is steeper for Romney than it is for Obama. This does not mean that Romney can't get up the path, just that it is a tougher one for him.
AS THE MIDWEST GOES, SO GOES THE ELECTION: There is a reason that the campaigns are spending lots of time in Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio this weekend. It is where the race is won or lost. Public polls show Obama holding a slim lead in all three states. If he carries them, he can lose every other battleground state (Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, Florida and New Hampshire) and still win the Electoral College. If Romney wins all three, he'd still be one electoral vote short of winning. And that could make all the difference.
OHIO, OHIO, OHIO: No matter how many ways you game out the Electoral College map, Ohio is really the lynchpin to electoral success. Romney can win without Ohio, but only if he carries Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida. Obama can win without Ohio only if carries Virginia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Nevada. Every airworthy poll taken in Ohio since mid-October has shown Obama in the lead anywhere from two to five points.
The Note's virtual political roundtable in tweets:
@jonkarl : How odd. For the first time in memory the GOP failed to deliver the weekly radio to stations. Romney taped it, but never distributed it
@rickklein : Obama's fake-news "100th day of Romney" ad brimming w/ scare tactics. Justice Bork? really? He's 85 http://www.barackobama.com/truth-team/entry/the-100th-day-of-the-romney-administration …
@amyewalter : ABC/WaPo tracking finds: "a mere 3-point gap btwn the parties - almost precisely halfway between the 2004 and 2008 exit polls"
@matthewjdowd : Smart and compassionate move canceling marathon. Sometimes good decisions take a bit. Bravo.
@jaketapper : 100th day of Tapper presidency: 100% employment, Arrested Development back on air, Designated Hitter rule declared unconstitutional.
Some percentages compiled by the United States Election Project at George Mason University:
COLORADO: Over 1.4 million ballots have been cast, 60 percent of the total vote cast in 2008, and Republicans have a 37 percent to 35 percent turnout edge over Democrats.
IOWA: Over 580,000 ballots have been cast, almost 40 percent of the total vote cast in 2008, with Democrats enjoying a sizeable turnout edge, 43 percent to 32 percent of early/absentee ballots cast by Republicans.
FLORIDA: Over 3.4 million ballots have been cast, 41 percent of the total vote cast in 2008, with reports of long lines at early in-person voting locations and requests that Florida Gov. Rick Scott extend early-voting, which was shifted this year to fewer (but longer) days by a controversial state law. Democrats have a 42 percent edge over Republicans' 40 percent share ov early/absentee ballots cast.
NEVADA: Over 600,000 votes have been cast in Nevada, 65 percent of the total vote cast in 2008. Early/absentee voting is prevalent in Nevada, as 67 percent of the vote in 2008 was cast before Election Day. Democrats enjoy a 44 percent to 37 percent turnout edge over Republicans.
NORTH CAROLINA: Over 2.2 million votes have been cast, 52 percent of the total vote cast in 2008. Democrats enjoy a 48 percent to 32 percent turnout edge over Republicans.
OHIO: Over 1.2 million ballots have been cast, 22 percent of the total vote cast in 2008. Ohio does not register voters by party affiliation.
VIRGINIA: Over 350,000 ballots have been cast, 10 percent of the total vote cast in 2008. Virginia does not register voters by party affiliation.
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
ROMNEY, RYAN HOLD LARGEST RALLY TO DATE. ABC's Emily Friedman and Shushannah Walshe report from West Chester, Ohio: The Romney campaign marked the start of the final weekend of the campaign with its biggest rally to date featuring a joint appearance by the GOP ticket and a confab of some of its most influential surrogates. Before Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan took the stage in front of more than 20,000 supporters, they paraded out the Republican Party's last presidential nominee John McCain, GOP stars like Marco Rubio and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well as former GOP rivals Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. … Aside from the GOP ticket and their wives, there were 42 surrogates, including the five Romney sons, on hand for Romney's closing pitch. Romney, who spent the day campaigning in Wisconsin and Ohio, continued to characterize President Obama as a leader seeking to divide America with an ill-thought out agenda. "Now throughout this campaign, President Obama has tried to convince you that these last four years have been a success," said Romney. "He's been floating a plan for the next four years. He wants to take all the things he did in his first term-the stimulus, the borrowing, Obamacare, all the rest-and try them all over again." http://abcn.ws/RxN3u5
ROMNEY'S CLOSING ARGUMENT: BIPARTISANSHIP. With Mitt Romney leading by one percentage point in our ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll - 49 percent to Obama's 48 percent - ABC's David Muir reports on the candidate's strategy for the final stretch: Romney's closing argument, meant to appeal to those moderate voters, that sliver of voters in the middle who might still be persuadable-promising to work with the other party, with this attack aimed at the president: "He promised that he'd have a post-partisan presidency, but it's been the most partisan I've seen, with divisiveness and bitterness and division and demonization hallmarks of his presidency," Romney told supporters on Friday. … Tonight the campaign telling me their ground game in the swing states is far ahead of where John McCain's was four years ago. WATCH David Muir's "World News" report: http://abcn.ws/PMeUs4
DUELING SUNSHINE STATE POLLS:
-ROMNEY LEADS BIG IN FLORIDA. A Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Mason-Dixon poll shows Mitt Romney leading President Obama 51 percent to 45 percent in Florida. http://bit.ly/RzU3oC
-ACTUALLY, OBAMA LEADS IN FLORIDA. An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows President Obama leading 49 percent to 47 percent in Florida, highlighting the general confusion over who leads where as state polls contradict each other in the race's final days. http://on-msn.com/RChuM8
POLLS: OBAMA LEADS OHIO. An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows President Obama leading 51 percent to Mitt Romney's 45 percent in Ohio, while a CNN/Opinion Research poll shows Obama leading 50 percent to 47 percent. http://on-msn.com/RChrzO , http://bit.ly/QbIgjk
… EVEN WITH LOWER DEM TURNOUT. Republicans have repeatedly accused major pollsters of overestimating Democratic turnout in 2012, claiming that partisan turnout will more closely resemble 2004 than 2008, but NBC's @chucktodd tweets: "On our OH poll, w/ Obama up 51-45, we ran results with a tighter party ID split (avg of 04 and 08 elections) and it came out 50-47 Obama" http://bit.ly/WiVnlx
ROMNEY SUPPORTERS CHANT 'FOUR MORE DAYS.' Supporters at a Mitt Romney rally on Thursday chanted their own variation of "Four More Years," With four more days left in the presidential campaign, ABC's David Muir reports. http://abcn.ws/PMeUs4
ABC/YAHOO! VIDEO: THE ELECTION THAT MIGHT NOT END. In the latest installment of "Top Line," ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein note that quirky election laws in a handful of mean that absentee and provisional ballots won't get counted until after Election Day. Most worrisome? Ohio, where provisional ballots aren't counted until Nov. 17-meaning America might not know for two extra weeks who the next president will be. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/Sw4B87
ABC/YAHOO! VIDEO: HOW WILL SANDY AFFECT THE ELECTION? In the latest installment of "Bottom Line," ABC's George Stephanopoulos points out that eight out of 10 poll respondents say President Obama has handled the hurricane well, and that Sandy seemed to freeze the campaign-but that the storm won't affect voting in battleground states. http://yhoo.it/Q92BWz
OBAMA: VOTE AGAINST GRIDLOCK, NOT FOR PARTY. ABC's Jake Tapper reports: "I've said I will work with anybody of any party to move this country forward," President Obama told a crowd of 2,800 this morning in Hilliard, Ohio. "If you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you'll vote for leaders who feel the same way whether they're Democrat, Republican or independent." The notion of a Democratic president telling crowds in a crucial swing state that they should feel free to vote for a Republican congressional candidate-as long as he or she wants to break the gridlock-is an interesting one, but it highlights one of the key messages of the president's closing argument to undecided voters, who purport to loathe how dysfunctional Washington, D.C. has become. http://abcn.ws/Wg4Wlb
OBAMA: JOBS REPORT SHOWS 'REAL PROGRESS.' ABC's Mary Bruce reports from Hilliard, Ohio: President Obama touted Friday morning's October jobs report as "real progress," but stressed he's got "more work to do" as he made an impassioned plea for the support of voters in this pivotal battleground state. "This morning we learned that companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months," the president said to cheers from a small but enthusiastic crowd of 2,800 Ohioans at a barn on the Franklin County Fairgrounds. http://abcn.ws/TqminB
ROMNEY: IT'S HIGHER THAN WHEN OBAMA TOOK OFFICE. Romney told reporters in West Allis, Wis., Emily Friedman reported on Friday: "'He said he was going to cut the federal deficit in half, and then he doubled it. He said he was going to lower the unemployment rate down to 5.2 percent right now. Today we learned it's actually 7.9 percent and that's 9 million jobs short of what he promised. Unemployment is higher today than when Barack Obama took office. Think of that. Unemployment today is higher than the day Barack Obama took office.'"
RYAN 'CAN SMELL SUCCESS,' OR IS IT COW MANURE? ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports from Montrose, Colo.: Four days before the election, Paul Ryan told a crowd assembled on an airport tarmac that he could "smell success." And the crowd roared. The smell, in fact, was that of cow manure, or something that smelled an awful lot like it. The tarmac is nestled in the mountains here, and as it became more and more overpowering, and as Ryan was more and more intently describing his running mate's business credentials, the VP contender paused, took a deep whiff and said, "I can smell success right now. "That's the smell of success isn't it? That's the smell of progress. I love that smell, it makes me feel at home," Ryan said. http://abcn.ws/YxXQ9h
BIDEN MAKES FINAL WISCONSIN PUSH. ABC's Arlette Saenz reports from Superior, Wis.: "I was down in southern part of state, 13 miles from congressman Ryan's hometown," Biden said at Superior Middle School as the audience booed. "No, no. He's not a bad guy." In the final week of the campaign, Biden and Ryan have gone head to head over the auto industry. Less than half an hour away from Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wis., Biden argued that Ryan has underestimated the positive impact the Obama administration has had upon the automobile industry. "I know the guy next door doesn't recognize it, but we actually did rescue the automobile industry and saved a million jobs, a million jobs saved and 200,000 new jobs continuing to expand," he said in Beloit, Wis., Friday morning at the Aldrich Middle School auditorium. http://abcn.ws/SzQDCa
WHAT A ROMNEY CABINET WOULD LOOK LIKE. From Vice President Paul Ryan all the way down to press secretary (Kevin Madden?), ABC's Michael Falcone gives a list of possible candidates for secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, attorney general, and White House chief of staff if Mitt Romney becomes president. http://abcn.ws/Vm54yb
EARLY VOTERS LINE UP. ABC's Matthew Dowd reports on this year's uptick in early voting on "World News": 25 million people have already cast votes early. By the time Election Day comes, more than a third, maybe even 40 percent are going to have voted early, so we're going to set a record for number of people voted, and we're going to set a record for people that vote before Election Day. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/YgyPzZ
FOUR-HOUR WAIT FOR EARLY VOTING IN SOUTH FLORIDA. From ABC's Kyle Blaine: Voters in some parts of Florida are waiting as long as four hours to cast their ballots before early voting ends Saturday night. The Miami-Dade County Election Department was reporting early voting wait times in excess of one hour at all 20 of its polling locations. At two locations - the Election Department main office and the North Dade Regional Library - officials were reporting wait times of four hours. http://abcn.ws/RBfljS
AXELROD: OBAMA'S CLOSING ARGUMENT 'COMING FROM HIS LOINS.' "I've known him for 20 years … I've never seen him more exhilarated than he is right now," senior Obama advisor David Axelrod told reporters in Ohio, ABC's Mary Bruce reports. "He believes in what he's doing. He believes in what he's fighting for. … You can see in the speech he's delivering… that this is coming from his loins," Axelrod said, adding, "I just wanted to say 'loins.' I wanted to see if I could get 'loins' in the story." http://abcn.ws/RwQXmX
CAN OBAMA WIN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN VOTE WHILE SUPPORTING GAY MARRIAGE? ABC's Pierre Thomas reports: A new BET documentary, "Second Coming: Will Black America Decide 2012," tries to take the pulse of the community in the final days of the campaign. Film director Marc Levin sent teams around the country to talk to African-Americans from every walk of life, from celebrities to everyday people. The producers found the euphoria of 2008 has given way to some harsh realities. Aside from the economy, one issue has risen to the top of the most contentious issues among many blacks, and influential black clergy: gay marriage. Many in African-American church congregations are opposed to President Obama because he supports gay marriage. "We are living in days of darkness," Pastor Michael Stevens of Charlotte, N.C. said in the documentary. "To declare what the word of God says about male and female and man and woman and husband and wife, now I am the homophobic bigot." http://abcn.ws/TrIldm
@ChrisLaibleFN : In nod to the state's significance to him, Romney notes NH got him the GOP nomination and says it will get him the White House.
@jheil : This Bill McInturff deck via @markhalperin is totally worth perusing. http://thepage.time.com/2012/11/02/10-questions-that-will-help-decide-the-election-bill-mcinturff/ …
@morningmoneyben : I understand some runners are disappointed but please get some perspective on the great sweep of life. It's one race.
-President Obama hits four states on the final Saturday of the campaign: Ohio (Mentor), Wisconsin (Milwaukee), Iowa (Dubuque) and Virginia (Bristow).
-Mitt Romney starts his day with an event in Newington, N.H., followed by stops in Dubuque, Iowa and he campaigns in Colorado Springs and Englewood, Colorado tonight.
-Vice President Joe Biden holds events in Arvada and Pueblo, Colorado.
-Paul Ryan campaigns in Marietta, Ohio, Middletown, Pa., Richmond, Va., and Panama City, Fla.
-First Lady Michelle Obama holds events in Oxford and Gambier, Ohio.
-Former President Bill Clinton focuses on Virginia, campaigning in Chesapeake, Roanoke and Bristow.
-Jill Biden is in Pennsylvania, holding events in West Chester, Norristown, Philadelphia before heading to Ohio for an evening get-out-the-vote event in Parma.
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV