The color coded electoral map here shows the safe Republican states for candidate Romney in red. In blue, safe states for President Obama’s Democrats are shown. Neither candidate has yet gained enough safe electoral votes to reach the necessary 270 votes to win the presidency. In the map, Romney has garnered assured victory (barring a paradigm shifting major event) in states giving him 212 electoral votes. Obama has accrued 201 electoral votes, leaving 125 electoral votes as ‘toss ups’, in nine states. This means that they are all contests with a margin between 2 and 3% percentage points, with no candidate polling over 50%.
I will examine the last nine states one by one and postulate on where the electoral vote count will stand on election night on November 6th. It is my opinion that these nine states can be winnowed to three or four true ‘toss ups’, which I will explain in due course.
NEVADA: Nevada’s 6 electoral votes had historically been a center-right swing state, but last election went for Obama to the tune of 55% of the electorate and inexplicably in 2010 voted to retain Harry Reid as their Senator. Nevada seems to be a state that is impervious to reason considering their staggering unemployment and housing numbers lately. In any case, an influx of non-Cuban Hispanic voters even since 2008 likely places Nevada out of reach for Romney despite Nevada’s heavy Mormon population. The fact that this state is a toss up is attributable only to the fact that Obama is currently polling at or below just 50% there and its history as a swing state. He has led Romney throughout July 49% to 43% according to WeAskAmerica, and some polls even showed Obama at 50%. This state will not stay a ‘toss up’ for long. Obama wins.
207 – 212
WISCONSIN: Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes had for a long while been considered up for grabs every four years, but the Republican candidate always lost by a few hundred or thousand votes–until 2008. Obama seemingly took Wisconsin off the table in 2008 by garnering 56% of the vote in a statewide landslide. However, Scott Walker’s election, successful recall campaign, the 2010 mid-term elections and then the popular Congressman Paul Ryan’s selection as running mate for Mitt Romney have certainly made Wisconsin a mid-major upset that Mitt Romney should be focusing on intensely. Polling even before Ryan’s addition to the ticket showed that Obama and Romney were in a virtual tie at 47 or 48% apiece. At this point in the election, a tie in a swing state would undoubtedly give Mitt Romney the edge. Romney will win Wisconsin.
207 – 222
COLORADO: Colorado’s 9 electoral votes had for many decades been firmly Republican during presidential elections. In 2008, 54% of the vote went to Obama though, a sign that the heavy influx of Hispanic voters (42% increase in the voter rolls from 2000 to 2010) and the vast yuppie incursion of the last several years had taken its toll demographically. It seems that Colorado will be a swing state for some time, but the fates are not with Democrats this year. Demographics will make Colorado a tough nut to crack for years to come, but the polling numbers from August showed Romney mostly ahead, and Obama never reaching 50%. Romney will win Colorado by 2 to 3%.
207 – 231
FLORIDA: The 29 electoral votes of the Sunshine State are perennially referred to as swing votes. While I suppose this could be true, the Democrats have never received more than 51% of the State vote since 1976. Obama’s performance in Florida trailed his 52% performance nationally, and Romney has polled ahead there in August among likely voters 47%-45% according to two different, respected polls. Obama is in deep trouble in Florida, and there is very little that Obama can do to change four decades of precedence, given his lack of momentum at this juncture. There is very little reason to believe Florida should remain a ‘toss up’ for very long, if it is one at all to begin with. Romney wins by 5 to 6%.
207 – 260
PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes have annually been considered swing votes, but Democrats consistently win Pennsylvania. With the exception of 2008 where Obama won 55% of the vote, Democrats have usually won Pennsylvania by between 2 and 5 percentage points. The GOP hasn’t won Pennsylvania since 1988. The problem with Pennsylvania has been that traditionally the voter bases are well established–the Democrat-controlled urban centers in Philly and Pittsburgh, and the Republican-held rural areas of middle Pennsylvania. The suburban-bastions in the areas surrounding the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are what is in play.
The recession has hit blue-collar workers in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania particularly hard and Obama’s elitist act has not helped things. Pennsylvania is an intensely vulnerable state with fairly concentrated and inexpensive areas to advertize in. An added boon to potential political ads, is that the ads to the targeted demographic in Pennsylvania, blue collar rust-belt voters, would often times be seen by–and resonate with–the same voters in the neighboring swing state of Ohio. Yet, for some reason, the Romney campaign has not yet focused much time, energy or capital in energizing or educating the electorate in Pennsylvania. In July Obama led Romney 46% to 43% among likely voters according to Susquehanna Polling and Research. However, in August, this lack of focus in the electorally rich state has only moved the needle toward Obama. August polling has shown Romney trailing 47% to 42%. This still reflects intense vulnerability for President Obama, and as much as I think Romney can and should win Pennsylvania, he will not if he doesn’t use some of his campaign cash in the Pennsylvania suburbs.
This, of course, presumes that the Pennsylvania State Legislature does not pass their recently proposed changes to the electoral-vote-awarding procedures, designed to award a single vote based on the popular vote of each Congressional District, rather than the traditional winner-take-all system currently in place. In that event, the GOP would likely win 12 electoral votes and Democrats would win the remaining 8 votes.
There are a lot of reasons that Romney could be waiting to tackle Pennsylvania (possibly because he just doesn’t need it), but Obama will probably win Pennsylvania at this rate.
227 – 260
MICHIGAN: Michiganders are responsible for awarding 16 electoral votes. Usually a marginal-Democrat state garnering around 51% of the vote, Michigan like most other blue-states, voted for Obama in a tsunami of 57% of the votes. However, Romney is from Michigan and his father is still considered a patron-saint of the state. That has to count for something. When taking into account the devastating ruin the state has been left in after decades of Democrat rule and recent Republican victories in the state at the executive level, the thought that Michigan could finally fall back into GOP hands is not unreasonable. Obama is still vulnerable here, as he hasn’t polled over 50% and Romney has been shown in the lead in one of three polls of likely voters there in the last month, but he trails Obama by 5 to 6 points in the other two. Given Michigan’s intransigent history electorally, I feel that Michigan will be a very close contest, but Obama will win.
243 – 260
VIRGINIA: Virginia is a little harder to predict. Virginia is worth 13 electoral votes and was for many decades a Republican stronghold. Obama turned Virginia into a veritable swing state in 2008 by gaining 53% of the vote in Old Dominion. Perhaps trying to turn Virginia into his own sort of dominion, Obama set about hiring vast swaths of Federal employees, and the District of Columbia has thereby seen a huge influx of Democrat voters. Polls in August have shown Romney just ahead of Obama 48-47%, and obviously Obama is quite vulnerable, as he polls well below 50%, but the vast demographic shift in the D.C. Metro area gives me the sense that even though I think Romney will win by 2%, if there is a state in the Romney camp which the Obama campaign could poach, Virginia is it. Still, Romney should squeak by.
243 – 273
OHIO: 18 electoral votes. Hard to believe 18 electoral votes has made such a big difference in so many elections, but Ohio may be the toughest call of this election. There is a wall in the Ohio voter base around 52% for Democrats, but that same wall stands at 51% for Republicans. Undoubtedly, this state will be decided by less than 3 percentage points, and there is very little I can do to accurately forecast which party will win three months out. Obama won by 5% in 2008. All polls of likely voters in August have shown the two candidates tied in the polls, but there are several encouraging signs for Republicans. Obama’s numbers have varied between 45% and 48%. This spells trouble for Obama, but Romney’s failure to distance himself from Obama there is worrisome and possibly due to Romney’s opposition to the auto bailouts, which would presumably be popular with the many UAW workers in Ohio. However, judging from the poll numbers, if all else remains the same or if the election were held today, Romney would win by 1 to 2 to points.
243 – 291
NEW HAMPSHIRE: The Granite State’s measly 4 electoral votes are hardly worth mentioning aside from the fact that this New England state presents one of the closest races in the country and the only competitive race in New England (assuming Linda McMahon’s WWE coat tails don’t carry Romney over the finish-line in good ol’ Connecticut). Obama managed to win by 9% in 2008 so there would need to be a large defection from Obama’s 2008 camp for Romney to steal this one–yet that appears to be what is happening–apparently the former governor is more popular in his neighboring state than in Massachusetts itself. The latest polling data shows Obama with a slight edge, but averaging less than 50%. Right now, Obama leads, and if the election were held today, it is likely he would narrowly win. Chalk this one up to gut, but as the election proceeds, I feel it is likely that New Hampshire’s familiarity with the former governor will make this state flip narrowly. Romney wins.
243 – 295
Romney wins the election in a variety of ways and Obama’s paths to victory remain very limited. It is highly unlikely that Obama, even given all the advantages of incumbency, will win this election, just as I predicted on this blog in February 2009. The three truest swing states are Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. New Hampshire is the next closest race. These are the three toughest states to accurately project. I do not feel that Romney’s electoral count will recede much lower than 295, but it could in fact soar much higher. Things are looking very bright for Romney-Ryan in 2012.
David Teesdale was among the first to predict a 60 plus seat turnover in Congress during the 2010 mid-term. What are the odds his electoral map is perfect in 2010? You decide, and comment below with your thoughts.