Due to the significant number of electorate votes Obama won in 2008 he can afford to lose a few and still cruise to reelection. But it is obvious that Obama will lose Indiana’s 11 electoral votes as well as MO’s 10. Several more states including electoral rich PA (16), OH (18) and FL (29) are also on the brink. Swing states such as CO (9), NV (6) and NM (5) in the West are at play. The quintessential Northeastern swing state NH (4) looks likely to also flip if the bottom falls out for the president. Newly won VA (11) is not a lock and North Carolina (15) is looking increasingly like a lost cause for the president.
The president’s campaign continues to claim it is not going to play defense this time. Probably a smart strategy considering polls show several swing states and national polls also close. The Obama campaign two months ago came out with a memo outlining possible electoral outcomes for the president. I won’t bore you with all five strategies but they all to some degree centered around the president pursuing either a Western or traditional campaign strategy.
The traditional campaign strategy would see the president fight hard for the electoral votes of PA, OH and FL. If he won two of these three states and held every other state that has voted Democratic for president since 92 he would easily win. Currently there is a significant belief that Democratic since 1992 WI and MI are in play this cycle. Likewise, if Obama pursued a Western strategy the president could garner 20 electoral votes from NV, NM and CO. This could allow him to lose OH and several other states and still get to the magic number of 270.
The Obama campaign maintains however that is not just constrained to fighting to hold old swing states. They want to add states to Obama’s coalition. Specifically the president’s campaign is focusing on two states in particular, Missouri and Arizona. Missouri went for John McCain by a razor-thin margin in 2008 while McCain’s home state AZ gave him a more comfortable win. Democrats and the president’s campaign still see signs for hope in increasingly conservative Missouri and big hopes for AZ.
In Missouri the president’s campaign has opened up new campaign offices and is registering (or trying) to register new voters in metro St. Louis and Kansas City. And that is the key to the president’s campaign in the state. In 2008 Jackson County and St. Louis counties gave Obama big margins. Those margins almost singlehandedly gave Obama the state. But the state has changed in the last three years. In 2008 GOP turnout was below 2004 levels. It is not expected to be so in 2012. In many of the rural/suburban counties McCain won by less than stellar margins the independents now have a record to judge Obama on. And most importantly, in St Louis and Jackson counties turnout was unprecedented. Don’t expect to see the same this time around.
In Arizona the president’s campaign is basing a win on two factors. First, that McCain being a home-state son gave him an inflated winning margin of 9% in the state. Second and perhaps more importantly, increased Hispanic turnout. But just like MO, AZ has changed since 2008. In 2010 it overwhelmingly reelected a GOP Governor, reelected John McCain and gave the GOP two new Congressional seats. And public policy pursued by Republicans since 2010 has helped drive many Hispanics out of the state. So increased Hispanic turnout is no sure thing.
Much has been made of Mitt Romney’s narrow electoral path to victory. But it is not looking as bad as it did a month ago. Romney is polling very competitively with the president and is leading in some OH and FL polls. The president’s lead in other swing states such as NH, PA, VA and the Western states is tenuous at best. Perhap the Obama campaign may have to win a new state just to win the election in 2012.