Michael Barone
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Fundamentals usually prevail in American elections. That's bad news for Barack Obama. True, Americans want to think well of their presidents, and many think it would be bad if Americans were perceived as rejecting the first black president.

But it's also true that most voters oppose Obama's major policies and consider unsatisfactory the very sluggish economic recovery -- Friday's job report showed an unemployment uptick.

Also, both national and target state polls show that independents -- voters who don't identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans -- break for Romney.

That might not matter if Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 39 to 32 percent, as they did in the 2008 exit poll. But just about every indicator suggests that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting -- and about their candidate -- than they were in 2008, and Democrats are less so.

That's been apparent in early or absentee voting, where Democrats trail their 2008 numbers in target states Virginia, Ohio, Iowa and Nevada.

The Obama campaign strategy, from the beginning, has recognized these handicaps, running barrages of early anti-Romney ads in states that Obama carried narrowly. But other states, not so heavily barraged, have come into contention.

Which candidate will get the electoral votes of the target states? I'll go out on a limb and predict them, in ascending order of 2008 Obama percentages -- fully aware that I'm likely to get some wrong.

Indiana (11 electoral votes). Uncontested. Romney.

North Carolina (15 electoral votes). Obama has abandoned this target. Romney.

Florida (29). The biggest target state has trended Romney since the Denver debate. I don't see any segment of the electorate favoring Obama more than in 2008, and I see some (South Florida Jews) favoring him less. Romney.

Ohio (18). The anti-Romney auto bailout ads have Obama running well enough among blue collar for him to lead most polls. But many polls anticipate a more Democratic electorate than 2008. Early voting tells another story, and so does the registration decline in Cleveland's Cuyahoga County. In 2004, intensity among rural, small town and evangelical voters, undetected by political reporters who don't mix in such circles, produced a narrow Bush victory. I see that happening again. Romney.

Virginia (13). Post-debate polling mildly favors Romney, and early voting is way down in heavily Democratic Arlington, Alexandria, Richmond and Norfolk. Northern Virginia Asians may trend Romney. Romney.

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Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM