Now that Rick Santorum has finally dropped out of the GOP race, it’s time to focus all our attention on the general election. Here’s how the battle stands, as of today.
Currently, RealClearPolitics has President Obama holding a 5.3% advantage using its poll of polls. However, it should be noted that that poll of polls includes the latest from Rasmussen Reports, which is a notoriously GOP-leaning polling service. If you exclude the Rasmussen result (which has Obama and Romney tied at 45), Obama’s lead swells to 6.4% on average.
I’m from what you might call the Bruno Gianelli school of political campaigning, in that I prefer electoral strategies that are as sweeping and 50-state oriented as possible. To that end, I’m going to envision a broader starting electoral map than most. Check it out here at 270towin.com. As you can see, this starting point gives Obama only a modest 26 electoral vote lead on Mitt Romney. However, watch what happens as we start narrowing the map:
-I think we can be relatively safe in assigning Michigan and Wisconsin to President Obama. Both of those states have been reliably blue in Presidential contests since 1992, and Wisconsin even went for Dukakis in 1988. Romney wants to put these states in play but chalk them up as blue.
–News came out today that President Obama has opened up at 13-point lead on Romney in Colorado. Granted, this is from Public Policy Polling, which some have accused of having a liberal slant, but given the result in 2008 and the demographic trends in that state (it’s becoming younger and more urban), I’m going to chalk them up blue until I see strong evidence to the contrary.
-I have had a sneaking suspicion for a while now that 2012 might finally be the year that Arizona turns blue. Obama did surprisingly well there in 2008 particularly given that, you know, John McCain is from Arizona. Given that illegal immigration is one of the few issues Romney has really been comfortable letting the conservative flag fly on, I think the increasing Latino population in that state might be motivated to turn out for Obama. That said, it would be imprudent to turn them blue before polling really shows what I think might be going on. Put them in red for now.
-It has been argued to me by knowledgeable people whom I respect that Missouri should be given solid “red” status – that the only way Obama can win Missouri is if its part of a landslide election. With all due respect to those people, I disagree. Missouri is an historic bellwether state that Obama lost by only 4,000 votes last go-round. It has a large population, two significant urban areas, and a national-average African-American population. I think it’s in play. Leave it beige.
After these adjustments, Obama’s initial lead has swelled to 50 electoral votes. More significantly, this map (see it in picture form here) gives Obama 231 electoral votes, just 39 shy of what he needs to get a second term. Meanwhile, Romney needs to pick up 89 electoral votes to get to the White House.
So, let’s game out the electoral scenarios revolving around the key swing states: Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
–If Obama wins Florida, the race is all but over. Romney would have zero margin for error; he would have to capture every swing state remaining except one of Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire in order to become President.
–If Obama wins Pennsylvania, this is also bad news for Romney. Obama could then secure re-election simply by picking up North Carolina plus any other state, or Virginia plus either Iowa or Nevada.
–If Obama wins Ohio, the situation is pretty much the same as in Pennsylvania; Obama needs just Virginia or North Carolina and one or two other states.
So, what this boils down to is Romney must sweep all three of those big states to put Obama in a really bad spot. If Romney can do that, Obama would be forced to win two of North Carolina, Virginia, and Missouri, along with nearly all of the remaining small states – a scenario that seems highly unlikely if Obama has lost the big states.
So, all that said, what does the state-by-state polling look like? Numbers below are averages of March polls found on RealClearPolitics.
Florida: Obama +5
Pennsylvania: Obama +5
Ohio: Obama +7
North Carolina: Obama +3
Virginia: Obama +4
Missouri: Romney +9
Nevada: Obama +7
Iowa: No recent polling
New Hampshire: No recent polling.
So, the good news in these numbers for President Obama is that it seems that if the election were held today, Obama would have an electoral college landslide, winning as many as 347 electoral votes, depending on how New Hampshire and Iowa turned out. For reference, Obama won 365 electoral votes in his 2008 trouncing of John McCain. On the other hand, in all but one of these states, Obama is polling below his nationwide lead. That’s to be expected, of course, but it demonstrates that Obama is not invincible.
No matter what though, it’s clear that if Mitt Romney wants to take the White House back for the Republicans, there’s a long, long way to go.