Election Outlook, State by State

The Editors | September 5, 12:32 pm

The presidential contest comes down to 11 contested states which together contain 146 of the 538 electoral votes at stake on election day. All of the states shown in yellow on the map above went for Barack Obama in 2008, and Mitt Romney will need to flip several of them to reach the magic number of 270. In states that clearly favor one candidate over the other, Obama can already count on 201 electoral votes, and Romney can count on 191.

The strength of the candidates at the top of the ticket will certainly have an impact on statewide and local elections, but voters ultimately make their choices for House and Senate based on local concerns, not to achieve a national trend. Click on an individual state to see its full election outlook, including Senate and House races.

Of the 435 House seats in the country, only 85 are being seriously contested this year, including 27 clear tossups. Republican candidates are safe in 194 districts and are favored in 35 more, giving the GOP a clear path to the 218 threshold needed to retain their House majority.

The future of the Senate is much more up in the air; Republicans would need to capture a net of at least four Democratic seats to ensure control of that chamber. The GOP is looking to unseat Democratic incumbents in Ohio, Montana and Missouri and to flip control of open seats like Nebraska, North Dakota and Virginia. Democrats are looking to take back the Massachusetts Senate seat won by Republican Scott Brown in a special election two years ago and to secure a number of open seats from New Mexico to Wisconsin.

Projections about which congressional seats are safe, which are likely to go to one party or the other, which are leaning in one direction, and which are tossups are based on the judgments of the Roll Call political staff. The editors of CQ Weekly and Roll Call have also projected which states favor Obama, which favor Romney and which are more closely contested; those categories are reflected in the map above.

For more on the elections, see Roll Call's interactive race rating maps for both the House and Senate.