Florida, Florida, Florida.
With apologies to Tim Russert, that’s what veteran political analyst Stu Rothenberg says will determine the presidential election.
Sure, he says Ohio is the mother of all swing states. And he sees Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado as crucial battlegrounds too.
But, Rothenberg tells me in a video interview, “If Mitt Romney does not win Florida, you know the election’s over, he’s not going to win some of these other states.” You heard it here first.
On the other hand, “if it’s called for Romney then we move to the next group of states.”
What could tilt the outcome? “If this election is as close as some people think it is, then Virgil Goode on the ballot in Virginia could decide who carries that state and who’s elected president,” Rothenberg says.
What about the new unemployment figures? “Both sides are going to spin the jobs numbers their way,” says Rothenberg.
Hurricane Sandy? “It can’t hurt the president, that’s for sure, the sense of leadership, that he’s involved, that he’s engaged, he’s empathetic.”
What about the GOP’s chances of taking over the Senate? “Theoretically, they have a shot,” Rothenberg says, sounding like it is a very long shot. “They need to pull the inside straight.”
How confident is he in his forecasts? “We have so many contradictory pieces of polling data,” he laments.
This is crunch time for folks in the prognostication business. Is the publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report feeling the heat?
“Too much pressure on me, frankly,” Rothenberg admits. “I don’t think of myself as a guy who makes predictions…I’m a handicapper.”