Where They Stand: the Final Polls of the 2012 Election

Here's a look at what the last polls say about the biggest races.

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For pollsters and pundits, the next 48 hours will be one drawn-out moment of truth. Each of the thousands of polls conducted over the past year means nothing. Only their final determinations, today, will matter as far as their all-important reputations are concerned.

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Starting at the top of the ballot, here's a breakdown of what the pollsters and forecasters are predicting today, the final day of the 2012 election season.

President

The polls of the presidential race have fluctuated widely over the past year, with President Obama maintaining a solid lead over Mitt Romney for much of it. Once America began to tune in, during the fall's nominating conventions and presidential debates, the race tightened.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Going by national polls alone, the presidential race today is very near a dead heat. The Real Clear Politics national average, which combines the results of dozens of national surveys, puts Obama at 47.8 percent and Romney at 47.4 percent.

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Two polls, one from Politico and George Washington University and one from Public Policy Polling, showed Romney improving slightly but remaining slightly behind or tied, a result that held across most national surveys for Sunday.

In the battleground states, the president's polling lead is slightly larger. Ohio's much-coveted 18 electoral votes would go to him if the polling holds true. Polling averages put his support there at 48 or 49 percent, compared to Romney's 45 or 46 percent.

In most of the eight remaining battleground states, Obama has similarly slight edges over Romney. Only in Florida and North Carolina does Romney lead the polling averages.

Polling advantage: Barack Obama (D)

Senate

In the fight for the majority in the Senate, there are several tight races, with current polling indicating the Democrats will retain the majority.

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Montana: The closest Senate contest pits incumbent Democrat Sen. Jon Tester against Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, the state's only House member.

The tightness of the race is embodied by the most recent polling there. One Democratic-leaning polling outfit (PPP) found Tester ahead by two percentage points last week, and two Republican-leaning outfits (Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen Reports) were split: Mason-Dixon put Rehberg up by 4 points, Rasmussen put Tester ahead by 1 point. The various poll aggregators are similarly split: RCP, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, and Nate Silver rate Rehberg as a modest favorite, while Talking Points Memo's Poll Tracker and The Huffington Post give the edge to Tester.

Polling advantage: Split

Massachusetts: The most-watched and most expensive Senate race in the country has been tight since the beginning. For most of the year, incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown held modest leads over Democrat Elizabeth Warren. In October, Brown's polling leads vanished. All but one of the major polling aggregators now give Warren a slight edge, though Brown continues to win the occassional survey, such as the UMass Lowell/Boston Herald one last week which pegged him at 49 percent and Warren at 48 percent.

Polling advantage: Warren (D)

Virginia: As in Massachusetts, the fight for the commonwealth's open Senate seat was close throughout the year, with the Democrat surging late. Former Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate, is up against former Republican Sen. George Allen, also a former governor. Allen lost this seat six years ago to incumbent Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, who opted against running for re-election. Polls indicate Kaine's lead is slightly more tenuous than Warren's is in Massachusetts, and the state remains a toss-up in most forecasters' maps. Still, all but two of the most recent polls in the state give Kaine the advantage and he holds modest leads in the polling aggregators' numbers, including RCP, which gives him a two percentage-point lead.

Polling advantage: Kaine (D)

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Governors

There are 11 heads of state spots in play this election, and few are as close as the national races. This election could be historic for Republicans, as the party has a chance to have 34 sitting governors by the time Nov. 7 rolls around, tied for the most ever. There are currently 29 Republican governors, meaning the party needs to win five of the eight governors races currently held by Democrats. Polling in these races indicates Republicans won't reach that high-water mark this year, but Democrats leads are slight in several races, leaving the possibility open.

Washington: In the nation's closest governor's race, Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee are vying for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. McKenna, the state's attorney general, led early -- through mid-July, he had led in all but one poll. At that point the race flipped -- former Rep. Inslee has led in all but two surveys since. As a result, Inslee leads in RCP's polling average by a percentage point, and most forecasters predict him to keep the governor's mansion in Democratic hands.

Polling advantage: Inslee (D)

North Carolina: Polling hints that the Tar Heel state could be the only state where either party picks up a governorship. There, Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue rode President Obama's coattails in 2008 and edged out Republican Pat McCrory.

Her poll numbers decayed steadily throughout her term, however, and she dropped her re-election campaign earlier this year as a result. Perdue was replaced on the ballot by her Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who has fared no better against McCrory. The former mayor of Charlotte, the state's largest city, McCrory leads by a whopping 14.3 percentage points in the RCP polling average.

Polling advantage: McCrory (R)

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Montana: The Big Sky state's governor's race is not quite as tight as its Senate race, but it's close. Term limits have left the governorship up for grabs; Attorney General Steve Bullock, a Democrat, and former Rep. Rick Hill, a Republican, are battling for it. Hill has led most polls, though the most recent one (from PPP) showed the race was tied.

The RCP polling average favors Hill though, by 1.7 points, and forecaster Larry Sabato rates the race as leaning towards him as well.

Polling advantage: Hill (R)

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  • Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at scline@usnews.com.