OK, it's official, the general election season has begun: Nate Silver has started forecasting it. The stats guru today unveiled his first, tenuous prediction for the 2012 race: That President Obama is ever so slightly favored to win a second term. The model currently gives Obama a 60% chance of victory, but "the edge could easily swing to Mitt Romney on the basis of further bad economic news," Silver writes in his New York Times blog.
Silver thinks the race will likely hang on a "mere handful of states," chief among them Ohio and Virginia. The next tier of battlegrounds is Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, and Pennsylvania; perennial battleground Florida "may be a less valuable prize than usual," because it's fairly likely to go Romney. Wisconsin, likewise, is "over-hyped as a swing state," despite Scott Walker's recall win. But "all of this could be outweighed by a shift in economic circumstances," which have been added to the model for the first time this year. For a more in-depth breakdown of that, read his full post.