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Polls show a dead heat. So why so many predictions of an Obama win? (+video)

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The University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato, a longtime professor of political science who produces a “Crystal Ball” newsletter of his own, is predicting that Obama will win reelection with 290 electoral votes. Veteran political prognosticator Charlie Cook has been more cautious about making outright predictions – but in his most recent column for National Journal, titled “Advantage, Obama,” he went through the electoral math in the battleground states and concluded: “Romney would need to win 64 of the 79 remaining electoral votes to win. Is that possible? Sure. But is it likely? It looks pretty tough.”

And of course, The New York Times’s political statistician Nate Silver – who has become something of a lightning rod among conservatives this cycle for his consistent predictions of an Obama victory – is now giving Obama an 86.3 percent chance of winning.

Perhaps most telling, this expectation of an Obama win is not limited to pundits. A newly released UPI poll, which found Obama and Romney locked in a dead heat at 49-48, also found voters predicting an Obama victory by double digits. In the 11 battleground states most likely to determine the election, voters picked Obama as the likely winner by 50 to 39.

So what’s driving this widespread perception?

One obvious answer is that the polls have shifted ever so slightly in Obama’s favor in the final days. It’s hardly overwhelming, but since political coverage and electoral predictions revolve to a large extent around the latest polls, the “echo chamber” effect may make any kind of shift, no matter how small, seem even more significant. Recent events have also seemed to work to Obama’s advantage – including last Friday’s better-than-expected jobs report, and his response to hurricane Sandy.

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