Saturday, September 1, 2012

Electoral College analysis

Let’s begin with the Electoral College foundation on which each candidate will build. A very conservative assessment gives Obama a base of 201 electoral votes, and Romney 181. These numbers exclude one state—Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes—that most observers are putting in Obama’s column, and one state—Missouri (10)—that is likely to go for Romney. Factoring in these probable outcomes, Obama’s base rises to 221 electoral votes, Romney’s to 191.

The next tier contains three states that Romney must win and two more that Obama must hold. The Romney 3 are Florida (29), North Carolina (15), and Ohio (18), in each of which Obama’s share of the popular vote in 2008 was well below his national share. No Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio, and Romney is unlikely to be the first. There’s no road to 270 electoral votes for the Republican ticket that doesn’t run through Florida. And losing North Carolina, which Obama won by only 0.3 percent, would force Romney to flip a major Midwestern state where Obama won by a much greater margin.

Let’s look more closely at Ohio. During the past five presidential elections, the Democratic candidate’s share of the state’s vote has trailed his national share by an average of 1.3 percentage points. 2008 was no exception: Obama received 52.9 percent of the national vote, versus only 51.4 percent in Ohio. But so far, 2012 looks different: the six most recent Ohio surveys give Obama an average of 47.2 percent of the vote—0.7 points more than his national share. Relative to the historical benchmark, then, Obama is outperforming in Ohio by two percentage points—enough to win the state even if the national vote is very closely divided.

Memo to the Romney campaign: whatever you’re doing in Ohio isn’t working. And if you don’t turn it around, your only chance is to make history in the upper Midwest.

This is where things get interesting. The Obama 2 are Wisconsin (10 EVs), which Obama won by 14 points in 2008, and Michigan (16 EVs), where he prevailed by more than 16. Polling this year has long indicated much closer races in these states, and the selection of Paul Ryan seems to have contributed to the statistical ties shown in the most recent surveys. Winning either of these states would be a game-changer, broadening Romney’s options for reaching 270 electoral votes and narrowing Obama’s.”


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