MIAMI -- Though votes are still being tallied, President Barack Obama is all but assured a victory in Florida because the lion's share of the outstanding ballots come from Democratic-heavy counties.
Obama leads Republican Mitt Romney by 55,832 votes -- or 49.9 percent to 49.24 -- but there just aren't enough votes from Republican areas to allow the challenger to catch up.
Romney's Florida campaign has acknowledged its candidate lost in Florida as well. Romney already conceded the national race after he lost the other battleground states.
"The numbers in Florida show this was winnable," Brett Doster, Florida adviser for Romney, said in a statement to The Miami Herald. "We thought based on our polling and range of organization that we had done what we needed to win. Obviously, we didn't, and for that I and every other operative in Florida has a sick feeling that we left something on the table. I can assure you this won't happen again."
With Florida's 29 Electoral College votes, Obama will have 332 votes to Romney's 206.
"We feel we will be the official winner in Florida later (Thursday)," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said. Preliminary results are due from the counties to the state by noon EST Saturday. The final results are to be certified Nov. 20.
The numbers in Florida look unlikely to change in Romney's favor.
Miami-Dade finished tallying a backlog of 54,000 absentee ballots Thursday and it marginally increased Obama's lead.
• Broward County. It has about 15,000 absentee ballots outstanding. Obama won Broward 67 percent to 32 percent. If those numbers hold, it would give Obama 2,887 more votes.
• Palm Beach County. It could have as many as 30,000 votes yet to add to its tally. Obama won that county 58 percent to 41 percent. If those numbers hold, Obama would pick up another 5,141 votes.
• Duval County. The only non-South Florida County, Duval has about 3,600 absentee ballots to be counted. Romney won it narrowly, 51 percent to 48 percent. At that rate, Romney would only pick up 133 more votes.
Even if the estimates from South Florida were reversed and Obama's extra projected votes were handed to Romney, the Republican would still lose by about 32,000 votes.
The wild card: Provisional ballots. These are cast by voters whose status is in doubt. Often they're rejected, in part because people vote in the wrong precinct. Most studies show, however, that provisional ballots are more likely to be cast by Democrats than Republicans.
By MARC CAPUTO
The Miami Herald