Election 2012: The Voters, the Map and the Math

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, takes the stage with wife Ann before speaking at a campaign event at the Verizon Wireless Arena, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Manchester, N.H.PlayAP Photo/David Goldman
WATCH Poll Shows Obama Has Lead

THE CANDIDATES: With a tear running down his face on a frigid election eve in Des Moines, President Obama offered a crowd of 20,000 Iowans this simple advice last night: "Bet on hope."

Obama returned to the state that launched him on a path to the White House four years ago for his final campaign rally as a presidential candidate, telling supporters, "To all of you who have lived and breathed the hard work of change, I want to thank you. You took this campaign and you made it your own."

He ended on Monday night by recounting the story of the South Carolina woman who came up with the slogan that became synonymous with his campaign: "Fired up, ready to go."

"That shows you what one voice can do," Obama said. "One voice can change a room. And if it can change a room, it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation. And if it can change a nation, it can change a world."

Tune in to ABCNews.com on Tuesday, Nov. 6 for livestreaming coverage of Election 2012. Our Election Night event begins at 7 p.m.

About a 1,000 miles away, in Manchester, N.H., Republican challenger Mitt Romney ended his campaign in an equally symbolic place -- the very state where he announced his presidential bid in June 2011.

"This is a special moment for Ann and for me because this is where our campaign began," Romney told more than 12,000 cheering supporters.

Which way will the electoral college votes go? Play with our electoral Game Changers map HERE.

"We're one day away from fresh start, one day away from the first day of a new beginning," he said, "My conviction is that better days are ahead and that's not based on promises and hollow rhetoric but on solid plans and proven results, and on an unshakeable believe in the greatness of the American spirit."

THE MAP: On Election Day, President Obama still has the clearer path to 270 Electoral Votes. But Romney has several scenarios available to him as well.

The most likely scenario for President Obama to re-capture the White House runs through Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. With wins there, he wins a second term. If Iowa falls to Romney, the president can still cross the 270 threshold with victories in Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada.

Meanwhile, the most direct Romney path includes wins in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Iowa. If Obama takes Iowa then Romney needs Florida, Virginia and Ohio plus Colorado too.

The Best state to watch for early is Virginia. If President Obama wins there, it means Romney needs to win Ohio or else it is over.

If, on the other hand, Romney wins Virginia, but loses Ohio, he needs to win the combination of New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, and Wisconsin or the combination of New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.

Find election night results for presidential, Senate and House races, plus poll hours HERE.

PENNSYLVANIA IS THE NEW OHIO: All the body language from the Romney campaign suggests that they see Ohio as a long-shot. Instead, it is now Pennsylvania that paves their path to 270. The Keystone state has eluded plenty of industrious and hopeful Republicans before Romney. While the western and central parts of the state tilt red, the city of Philadelphia and its sprawling and populous suburbs are the key to winning the state. And, those Philly suburbs, once a GOP bastion, have been voting Democratic for the last dozen years.

If you want to know if Romney can pull off a Pennsylvania surprise, watch the following counties tonight: Bucks, Delaware, Chester and Montgomery. Obama carried all of them by at least 54 percent. Romney can't win the state and lose those suburbs by that kind of margin. Also, check out the Philadelphia margin. Last time, Obama racked up 83 percent and logged over 574,000 votes from the City of Brotherly Love. Again, if Romney is to prevail, he can't come out of the city down 400,000 votes.

THE SENATE: The key races to watch are in Maine, Massachusetts, Indiana and Virginia, and there's a good chance Republicans will lose all four -- and with them -- any chance at the majority.

Two years ago, conventional wisdom held that Democrats would almost certainly lose their majority. After all, they had 23 seats up compared to just 10 for the GOP. And, many of those Democratic-held seats were in deep red states like Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana as well as battleground states like Wisconsin, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. So, why on Election Day are Democrats poised to remain in the majority? The biggest reason: Poor recruiting in states like Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania and flawed candidates in states like Missouri (Todd Akin) and Indiana (Richard Mourdock). And, just plain bad luck (Olympia Snowe's unexpected retirement).

Check out ABC's Senate map HERE.

THE HOUSE: Democrats won't recapture the majority. But, while races in the East and Midwest may determine the majority, Democrats are poised to pick up at least four to five seats out west in California, Nevada and Arizona. Republicans currently hold a 25 seat majority. Redistricting helped to shore up a lot of vulnerable Republicans. And the tight presidential contest means that Democrats don't have the long Obama coattails like they did in 2008.

THE GOVERNORS: It is a relatively quiet year at the gubernatorial level. Just 11 states hold governor's races. Of those, just four -- New Hampshire, Montana, North Carolina and Washington State -- are competitive. The betting is that Republicans pick up at least one (North Carolina) and probably one more of those four. It would mean that the current map would hold at least 30 governorships for Republicans to 19 for Democrats. (Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee is an independent.)

'THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE' -- LONG NIGHT AHEAD? The first Election Day votes of 2012 came in just after midnight last night -- ten of them, anyway. And, as ABC's Z. Byron Wolf and Elizabeth Hartfield report, it's an Obama, Romney tie. The small hamlet of Dixville Notch in New Hampshire distinguishes itself every primary and general election by voting right at midnight. This year ten voters showed up and they split evenly -- five votes apiece -- for President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. "This has never happened before in Dixville," a town official said. Obama won the Dixville Notch vote in 2008. But in elections before that, the town had stuck to more conservative candidates, twice selecting a Republican instead of Bill Clinton. Dixville Notch and its 10 voters may be symbolic, but they're not a bellwether for the state. Obama won in Dixville Notch in 2008, but that was the first time a majority of the town went for a Democrat in 40 years.

THE FINAL NUMBERS: President Obama opened a slim edge in the last ABC News-Washington Post tracking poll before Election Day ABC News pollster Gary Langer writes: Barack Obama has inched to a slim advantage in the closing days of the 2012 presidential race, breaking out of a long-running deadlock with Mitt Romney to a 50-47 percent contest in the final-weekend tracking poll by ABC News and The Washington Post. While still lacking a majority in vote preference, Obama has reached 51 percent job approval, matching his best this year; extended his advantage in better understanding Americans' economic problems; and moved to within a single point of Romney in trust to handle the economy, reversing a 9-point Romney lead on the central issue of the campaign.

ON OBAMA'S AGENDA: The president wakes up in his Chicago Hyde Park home and will spend much of the day making a last get-out-the vote push in a series of local radio and TV interviews, ABC's Mary Bruce reports. Keeping with his Election Day tradition, Obama will play basketball with his buddies this afternoon. The Obama staff is feeling optimistic about today's results and nostalgic as the president's self-described "final campaign" comes to a close. On the campaign trail yesterday, his top aides were spotted wearing matching gear from the 2008 campaign, and several of the president's advisers have superstitiously grown beards for good luck.

    ON ROMNEY'S AGENDA: No rest for the Republican presidential candidate. He started his day by casting his ballot at the Beech Street Center in Belmont, Mass. and is now on his way to Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pa. for get-out-the-vote events. Tonight he returns to Massachusetts to attend an Election night watch party at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

    ELECTION DAY 2012 has arrived. Here are the ABC News battleground state rankings.