If the presidential election were held today, all the polls indicate that President Obama would win re-election, albeit not by much. But of course the election isn’t being held today and there are 11 states classified as “toss-ups” on the Electoral College Map. And even if you concede the president 221 electoral votes in the other 39, that still leaves 49 electoral votes to go. And the road to those is anything but easy.
The eleven states that are currently classified as toss-ups are the following: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. The reason Obama is the favorite is that he’s hold narrow leads in 10 of the 11 (Missouri being the exception). But when a margin is only 2-3 points this far from Election Day it’s nothing a credible campaign can’t turn around. And whatever one thinks of Mitt Romney on policy, I think he runs a reasonably efficient campaign.
We can concede that Obama, a more than efficient campaigner himself can probably hold his leads in Colorado and New Hampshire, the latter being a state that’s become more reliably blue as extreme liberals who first messed up Boston are doing the honorable thing and fleeing the city (please note the sarcasm) and now doing the same to the Granite State. Wins in these two states nudge Obama to 234 electoral votes.
Five states represent prime areas for Romney to flip, and those are North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, Virginia and, to a lesser extent Nevada. The first four were won by Obama in 2008, however I don’t think what happened in ’08 is a credible guide to this November. The Republican base was demoralized then and independents much more likely to give Obama every benefit of the doubt. The first four of these states are usually part of a Republican coalition and I think if Romney doesn’t win them he has only his own campaign and/or debate performance to blame. Nevada’s a little more up for grabs, but besides 2008, the only other times it’s gone Democratic in recent years are for Bill Clinton. I don’t believe the current president’s position is as strong as Clinton’s was in 1992 & 1996 and therefore consider it a prime Romney target.
So Obama still needs to come up with 36 more electoral votes and only four states are left on the board: Ohio, Michigan, Iowa & Wisconsin. As a resident of the latter state this fills me with dread, as I won’t be able to watch the baseball playoffs or football without being bombarded with an array of ads. Indeed, the presidential version of the Big Ten race is going to be hotter than the chase for the Rose Bowl this fall. And while Obama leads in the polls in all four, if my above scenario holds, there’s no room for error.
Even if the president swept Ohio and Michigan he would still be two electoral votes shy and need to split Iowa and Wisconsin. We already saw the Badger State go strongly for Governor Scott Walker in this June’s recall election. While much of that had to do with animosity against the idea of the recall itself and Obama led exit polling conducted on the recall day, we also know that the exit polls understated Walker’s vote. Why wouldn’t they have understated Romney’s? And with momentum often being such a big consideration in politics, it’s all on the Republican side in this state.
Furthermore, there is no reason to concede that Obama will win both Ohio and Michigan. Ohio is another state that slightly leans Republican, so long as a credible campaign is waged. And while Michigan leans Democratic, the fact Romney’s father was a well-liked governor there will give him a better chance than most GOP candidates. And the weak numbers on manufacturing jobs are going to hurt Obama more here than in other states. I think the safe assumption is to guess a split happens here, which means the president. And guess what? Wisconsin and Iowa are worth 16 votes combined, so even if Obama won both, it wouldn’t get him over the top if he splits Michigan/Ohio.
So let’s sum it up—if Romney turns 2-3 point polling deficits into leads in traditionally Republican states of North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, Virginia and Nevada and splits Michigan and Ohio, he’s almost certain to win the presidency. And I contend the present political landscape makes it likely that any Republican candidate waging a competent campaign would pull that off. That’s why in spite of the polls I consider this election Mitt Romney’s to lose.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com.