If one studies polls until their eyes fall out or follows non-stop state by state election analysis this post should be just for you. If not, well than read for fun or just go read a nice murder mystery.
There are dozens of election maps currently out and they all estimate about the same thing. President Obama has a lock on more electoral votes than Mitt Romney. The exact numbers depend on the maps whether they be offered by Fox News, Realclearpolitics, the Huffington Post or somebody else. The individual states that are swing, a lock for Obama or for Romney also depend on the map creator.
But generally there is a consensus on the most likely battleground states of this election. That consensus lists old attendees such as Ohio, Florida, NH and Iowa. New additions such as Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia also make the list. Then there are the states that might or not be on some lists. These states include Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and in a rare case or two Missouri.
For the purposes of this post I am going to assume that Realclearpolitics map is best. RCP does an excellent job compiling polls and other data from the states to form its electoral map. As it stands right now President Obama has 221 electorate votes (solid, likely or leaning Obama states) compared to Mitt Romney’s 181 votes (solid, likely, or leaning Romney). The state’s RCP lists as toss-ups include CO, NV, IA, MO, WI, MI, OH, NH, VA, NC and FL. In the map New Mexico leans Obama.
If we start with these numbers and assume nothing changes this gives Romney a floor of 181 electoral votes (more likely than not). Missouri is likely to go Romney giving him 191 votes. North Carolina is also likely to swing Romney’s way giving him 206 electoral votes. The tricky part for Romney comes in the form of assembling a coalition of winning states to get from 270. Romney could take traditionally red Virginia along with red leaning Florida, moderate New Hampshire, Iowa and Ohio. This would give him 274 electoral votes. Or he could focus on traditional swing states such as Ohio, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire and add a new state to his coalition such as Wisconsin or Michigan. This would also put him over 270 electoral college votes.
But in each case Romney will need to over-perform to a certain extent among each state’s constituencies. In states such as Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia, Romney would need solid support from moderate, suburban swing voters. In Wisconsin or Michigan Romney would need the moderate, rural voters to come out for him strongly. In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida he would need a combination of the above two.
I omit Romney from winning Nevada largely because I do not expect him to perform strongly among Hispanics. Even if one assumes Mormons come out in mass for Romney this only off-sets his weakness with Hispanics. Romney has yet to show he can appeal to left-leaning Clark County voters.
There are many variations of states Romney can win to get to 270 votes. But speaking personally I really only see one or two. Starting with the RCP map as a template Romney wins North Carolina and Missouri. From there he proceeds to win Ohio and Florida. This gets him to 253 electoral votes. This is where my two scenarios diverge. I see Romney winning CO, IA and NH in one to get him to 272 electorate votes. I also see him winning either Wisconsin or Michigan along with Colorado to get him above 270. CO, IA and NH have moderate suburbs Romney can court. Wisconsin and Michigan are traditionally left but have advantages for the GOP.
These are of course just two simple plausible scenarios. You may have one or a dozen others that are just as plausible. Until election day however we will just have to content ourselves with these scenarios.
However, a few states may offer us clues to how election night will go. If Romney wins Florida and Ohio it is more likely than not he will be the next president. It is hard to see those state’s demographic voting groups not mimicking other swing state voting blocs. Likewise, if Obama carries either Ohio or Florida it means he will win comfortably. However, if he only wins Virginia early than we could be in for a long night as he would need either IA or another Western state to get him to 270 (assuming he does not lose WI, MI, or PA). The way the map is shaping up we could know who the next president is before we cross the Mississippi.