• Presidential Bellwethers: Close Election; Electoral Path for Romney


Mitt Romney has a path to 270 electoral votes, but no room for error, according to Suffolk University’s analysis of bellwether areas in the key swing states of Ohio and New Hampshire.

Romney held leads in Lake County, Ohio and in the towns of Epping and Milford, New Hampshire. The states of Ohio and New Hampshire are key to Romney’s path to victory, and a must hold for President Barack Obama to stave him off.

A bellwether is an area of a state that closely mirrors a statewide electoral outcome using similar election types from previous elections and other data. Suffolk University’s bellwether model has been used since 2002 and is 95 percent accurate in predicting outcomes but is not designed to predict margin of victory. All bellwether analyses carry a margin of error similar to a statewide poll.


In Lake County, Romney led Obama 47 percent to 43 percent with Independent Richard Duncan receiving 4 percent and Stewart Alexander (Socialist Party) receiving 1 percent, while 2 percent were undecided and 4 percent refused a response. Romney led 49 percent to 44 percent among those planning to cast ballots and led 43 percent to 41 percent among those who had already voted. Duncan, an Ohioan listed on the presidential ballot, received most of his support from voters who have already cast ballots for him in Lake County, causing neither major candidate to reach a decisive 50 percent there.

“What better place to decide this presidential election than on the banks of Lake Erie,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “A word of caution about Lake County. It is widely recognized as an Ohio bellwether, correctly predicting the last four presidential elections. But there have been some elections where it has trended more Republican. That was the case in 1996 and 2008, where Lake County voted for the Democratic nominees who won, but still leaned more Republican than the statewide vote.”

Below is a comparison of which presidential candidate won in Ohio and percentage of votes received statewide and the comparative vote of Lake County:

1996 - Clinton
:    47 percent
Lake County: 44 percent 

2000 - Bush
:     50 percent
Lake County: 50 percent

2004 – Bush
:     51 percent
Lake County: 51 percent

2008 – Obama
:     52 percent
Lake County: 50 percent

New Hampshire

Two New Hampshire towns, Epping and Milford, have mirrored the statewide New Hampshire vote in four out of four presidential elections going back to 1996. In Milford, Romney led Obama 51 percent to 46 percent and in Epping, a closer bellwether, Romney led Obama 49 percent to 47 percent.

Below is a comparison of which presidential candidate won in New Hampshire statewide and the comparative votes of Epping and Milford:

1996 – Clinton
Statewide: 50 percent
Epping:      50 percent
Milford:     48 percent

2000 – Bush
Statewide: 49 percent
Epping:       48 percent
Milford:      50 percent

2004 – Bush
50 percent
Epping:       50 percent
Milford:      51 percent

2008 – Obama
: 54 percent
Epping:       53 percent
Milford:      52 percent

In both Suffolk University statewide polls taken over a week ago, both Ohio and New Hampshire were found to be deadlocked at 47 percent to 47 percent for both the Democratic and Republican nominees.

U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts

In the Massachusetts race for U.S. Senate, Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren led Republican Scott Brown in two bellwether areas, the city of Waltham (50 percent to 47 percent) and the city of Gloucester (53 percent to 45 percent). In the last three presidential elections, these two areas had all three U.S. Senate outcomes correct and were close to the statewide vote as well.

Below is a comparison of which U.S. Senate candidate won in Massachusetts statewide and the comparative votes for Waltham and Gloucester:

1996 – Kerry
: 51 percent
Waltham:    53 percent
Gloucester: 51 percent

2000 – Kennedy
: 69 percent
Waltham:    69 percent
Gloucester: 71 percent

2004 – No Senate race

2008 – Kerry
: 64 percent
Waltham:    66 percent
Gloucester: 64 percent

Since 1996, no Republican candidate has won a U.S. Senate seat during a presidential election year in Massachusetts, although Republican Governor Bill Weld came close in 1996, losing to incumbent Democrat John Kerry 51 percent to 44 percent.


The IDs of 300 likely voters for each bellwether were conducted November 1-4 using live telephone interviews of landline and cell phone users. The margin of sampling error is +/- 5.65 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Bellwether marginals are available on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.

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Greg Gatlin

Mariellen Norris

 Suffolk University Political Research Center