There’s been a lot of theorizing on the comments threads about the Electoral College prospects of President Obama and Mitt Romney. At National Journal, Major Garrett writes something that I find rather reasonable: The election increasingly is coming down to four states:
What also became clear after the dust began to settle from the rumble on Long Island was the electoral map has narrowed and Obama’s team, while conceding nothing publicly, is circling the wagons around Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Plouffe said that Obama remains strong in all four states, but he would not discuss the specifics of internal polling or voter-contact analytics, saying only that Obama has “significant leads” in all four places.
It is uncharacteristic of Team Obama to concede any terrain, but Plouffe offered no such assurances about Obama’s position in North Carolina, Virginia, or Florida. Romney advisers have seen big gains in all three states and now consider wins likely, although not guaranteed, in all three. They are similarly upbeat about prospects in Colorado but not confident enough to predict victory. That Plouffe left Colorado off his list of states where Obama’s leading and can withstand a Romney surge might be telling.
If those are the four states still being contested, where does each campaign stand with the others, and which states does each candidate have to win? Here’s Garrett again:
According to RealClearPolitics, Obama currently has 201 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. But that doesn’t give Obama electoral votes from Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), or Wisconsin (10). Of these three, Romney advisers believe that only one, Wisconsin, is even theoretically winnable. Obama advisers believe they will win all three. That would put Obama at 247 electoral votes. If Obama wins Ohio (18), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), and New Hampshire (4) he would claim 281 electoral votes. That means he could afford to lose New Hampshire and Nevada and still eke out a razor-thin victory of 271 electoral votes.
Romney, according to RCP, has 191 electoral votes. If you add Florida (29), North Carolina (15), and Virginia (13), that brings his total to 248 electoral votes. Add Colorado (9) — which neither campaign is prepared to claim or concede — and Romney’s total rises to 257 electoral votes. If Romney wins Ohio (18) in addition to these states, he would have 275 electoral votes. If Romney loses Ohio, he would need to win Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire to reach 273 electoral votes. There is a scenario where Romney could lose Ohio and New Hampshire but win Iowa and Nevada and one electoral vote from the 2nd Congressional District in Maine (the state allocates electoral votes by district vote) and capture the bare minimum of 270 electoral votes.
In other words, under this emerging scenario Ohio on its own could swing the election to Romney, but not to Obama, who would also need to win Iowa or Nevada. At the same time, this scenario means Romney doesn’t have to win Ohio — but Obama does; he can’t get to 270 with his current leaning/likely/solid states plus Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire.
1. Given Ohio’s traditional importance to GOP candidates — no Republican has won the White House without it — it’s surprising that Romney has a path to victory without the Buckeye State, but Obama can’t win without it. Of course, if even one of the other four gravitates toward Obama, Ohio would once again become paramount for Romney. Thus, all the recent campaigning in Ohio by both men.
2. The other three states are among the four traditional “first in the nation” primaries and caucuses, where Romney has been campaigning for well over a year at this point. On one hand, he’s been in these states for months and months — yet he hasn’t closed the deal in them. On the other, Obama won each of them by double-digits in 2008 (if you round the results to the nearest whole number) and is in danger of losing them this time.
Here’s how each state stands today according to the RCP averages (and where the momentum lies):
IOWA: Obama leads by 2.3 points (about half the lead he held just three weeks ago).
OHIO: Obama leads by 2.2 points (down from 5.2 points three weeks ago but rising over the past week).
NEVADA: Obama leads by 3 points (roughly where his lead has been for the past two months, but up over the past week).
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Obama leads by just 0.8 points (the closest that state has been since Obama took a head-to-head lead in early February).
– By Kyle Wingfield