Right now, Larry Sabato has done some excellent analysis (http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/plan-of-attack-obama-romney-and-the-electoral-college/) of the electoral college and believes that, as polls have it, the race today will come down to 7 states: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire. He’s gone ahead and chalked up North Carolina, Missouri, and Indiana to Romney while awarding Pennsylvania to Obama, giving 247-206 Romney with 87 toss-up points.
This puts Obama in trouble. These states are places where he won by significant margins in 2008, and the fact that they’re in serious contention shows exactly how weak his numbers are in states he should have no trouble with. This fact, I believe, leaves Romney with a few paths to the White House, and all of them deal with him focusing on battleground states, along with trying to steal a couple of Obama’s.
First: there’s the simple numbers. Losing none of his expected hold states, if Obama wins 2 of the big-number states (Ohio, Florida, or Virginia), he’s back in the White House. Romney MUST win Florida plus one of the other 2 to stay alive – OR he must steal a big-number state from Obama. And numerically, Florida is the most important jewel in the mix. Without stealing another state from Obama, Romney losing FL will guarantee Obama 4 more years.
The good news for Romney is that Florida seems to be very winnable for him. The recession continues to wreck havoc with the economy in that state. That’s part of why Obama has weighed in on the Trayvon Martin case: if he can rile up his base (and scare off whites) in Florida with charges of racism, then he could take the sunshine state. To top it off, polls are showing that should Romney nominate Rubio or West to be his Veep, his numbers may actually go down in Florida. The only Floridian that gave Romney any kind of boost in the polls is the Floridian with the name that a lot of the country still reacts negatively to: Jeb Bush. On the upside for Romney, unless there’s some overriding issue (Nixon/Ford in 76 and Bush 2’s 08 failures, Clinton’s 96 charm), Florida tends to trend Republican.
Virginia and Ohio have numbers all over the place, but Obama’s recent push for gay marriage seems to be having some negative effect in both states, moreso in Ohio. The metro areas in Virginia do tend to trend more heavily towards Obama – however, Virginia’s typically a GOP lock, even with squishy candidates like Bob Dole.
Ohio’s a different story. The last time Ohio didn’t vote for the Presidential winner was 1960, when they chose Nixon over Kennedy. They tend to be the national bellwether for Presidential elections. At this point, it’s pretty close. While the primaries were on, Obama held a solid lead, but post-primaries and post-gay marriage, Obama’s numbers have weakened considerably in The O. If the urban folks stay home and the farmers come out to vote, it could easily flip in November.
That leaves the lower point states. Iowa used to trend Republican, but has gone Democrat in every election since 1988, with the exception of 2004. Most polls have shown Obama ahead, and unless Romney makes a big push for the farmland, I don’t see him nabbing Iowa.
Colorado tends to trend Republican, but went Democrat in 2008 and 1992. To me, this indicates a state where they’ll go Republican unless they want to make a statement of dissatisfaction about a sitting Republican President. The only regular polls have been done by PPP, a Democrat outfit, but the most recent poll done by Purple Strategies shows a dead heat. Colorado Republicans like Romney a lot, but the rest of the state may feel queasy about Mormons (2.8% of Colorado’s population).
Nevada is anything if unpredictable. One could say that the higher Mormon population in Nevada could help things along for Romney (5.6%). But let’s be honest: Mormons tend to vote often and vote Republican, so there’s no real reason to expect them to not go ahead and guarantee those votes. Most polls show Obama having a high-single-digit lead in Nevada, enough for me to go ahead and say it’ll fall blue in ’12. Then again, they did surprise me in 2010, so I could be wrong, especially when one considers that with the exception of 92, 96, and 08, they have been a consistent GOP state. At this point, though, I’m still leaning it D.
Finally, New Hampshire. Honestly, the polls are all over the place and the state’s record for Presidential votes is extremely inconsistent over the past 10 cycles (although mostly Democrat, they went Bush in 2000 and with the exceptions of Obama, Clinton, Kennedy, FDR (3 out of 4 times), and Wilson, they have voted consistently Republican.
So with that all said, if I were to map it out today, I’d say that the race is going to come down to Colorado, Ohio, and New Hampshire. In my scenario, Obama has to win either Ohio or some combination of 2 states. Romney, however, must win Ohio and one of the other 2 states.
Or… he could steal a state.
It’s possible. Romney is from Massachusetts, and… OK, he won’t win Massachusetts. However, he has polled stronger than expected in his birth state of Michigan. Flipping the normally Democratic Michigan (16 EC points) would be difficult, but not impossible (some polls show the gap at 4-5%). Romney would definitely have to work to get the rural vote out for him and would have to come up with some kind of placating for the auto industry union folks, but it’s not impossible.
Pennsylvania (20 EC points) is possible, too. While strong union ties show Obama with a high single-digit lead in the state, Pennsylvania has trended heavily Democrat in recent years. However, a good push by Romney could flip Penn.
Flipping Wisconsin (10 EC points) could happen, too. The gay-marriage thing has devastated Obama’s lead in the polls from 17 points to 4 points, and a strong performance by Scott Walker in the recall election (especially after the recent announcements about the well-managed budget in that state) could help Romney’s prospects. Furthermore, the anti-Walker faction seems to be ignorant of exactly how badly their aggression is viewed by the average voter. If they keep pounding away, it may turn independent voters off (or cause moderate Democrats to stay home).
Oregon (7 EC points) is similar. High numbers for Obama bombed out after the gay marriage announcement. His lead is down to 4 points in the most recent poll.
And, lest we forget, Romney could also steal one of the states I’ve given to Obama (Nevada, Iowa). Flipping both of those means that Ohio is unnecessary for Romney to win the White House (he could do it with New Hampshire 273-265).
So there we have it. That’s my early analysis. Obviously, the entire campaign won’t be about Ohio, Colorado, and New Hampshire, but I believe those 3 states will be the deciding factor for 2012.
Wanna prove me wrong? Go vote.
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