I’ve been predicting all along that President Barack Obama will squeek through to a victory over Mittens Romney, nudging him by two or three points at best and more or less surviving by the grace of God. If he does any better it’ll be because something will drop into his lap that will make him look better to Joe Schmoe, who always votes like a grunting superstitious dumbass.

“The first look at the 2012 FiveThirtyEight presidential forecast has Obama as a very slight favorite to win re-election,” writes N.Y. Times election handicapper Nate Silver. “But his advantage equates to only a two-point lead in the national popular vote, and the edge could easily swing to Romney on the basis of further bad economic news.

“Mr. Obama remains slightly ahead of Mr. Romney in most national polls, and he has had a somewhat clearer advantage in polling conducted at the state level. Mr. Obama would be about 80 percent likely to win an election held today, according to the model.

“However, the outlook for the Nov. 6 election is much less certain, with Mr. Obama having winning odds of just over 60 percent. The forecast currently calls for Mr. Obama to win roughly 290 electoral votes, but outcomes ranging everywhere from about 160 to 390 electoral votes are plausible, given the long lead time until the election and the amount of news that could occur between now and then. Both polls and economic indicators are a pretty rough guide five months before an election.

“While the economic indicators suggest that the economy is growing sluggishly — at a below-average pace of about 2 percent growth per year — it is not yet in recession and incumbent presidents often receive the benefit of the doubt from voters. A favorable precedent for Mr. Obama is George W. Bush, who narrowly won re-election in 2004 under similar circumstances.

“One of the confusing aspects of this presidential race so far is that national polls have often shown a race that is nearly tied — or Mr. Romney sometimes leading — while Mr. Obama has more often had the lead in polls of crucial battleground states. Sites that project the presidential outcome based on the state polls have thus seemed to show a tangible advantage for Mr. Obama, while those that look at the trend in national polls seem to imply that the race is too close to call.

“Any evaluation of the presidential race needs to reconcile this discrepancy. That America is highly divided along partisan lines does not negate the basic mathematical identity that the whole must equal the sum of the parts.”