Down the Ballot

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Electoral College Musings

Electoral Vote Table 2012
Source Obama Romney Other/Tossup 319.1 218.9 -
RCP 332 206 - 332 206 -
NBC 237 191 110
PBS 247 206 85
270TW 237 182 119
CNN 237 191 110
Provided above are some of the leading news sites electoral map predictions. All of these maps tell a slightly different take on a general theme of the race right now: It is President Obama's to lose. How his campaign conducts itself over the next 50 days along with his perceived responses to events will determine if he remains above 270 or fails to make 270. Don't forget those debates either. They will may or may not play a big role in shaping our perceptions of the two major campaigns.

I will note that little polling has been done to determine what role third party campaigns will play in the 2012 election. These electoral maps are not completely accurate. Also for those fans of Fox News. If you visit their site, you will that they use Real Clear Politics data.

Some Thoughts

My two favorite sources for election data are Electoral and 538 by Nate Silver. These sites dive into the numbers from multiple sources. They each have Obama above 300 electoral votes. You only need 270 to win, so if the election were held today Obama would still be president. In 2008, Obama won 365. He's down 33 by and 45.9 by 538.

Romney has only managed to pick up two states: Indiana and and depending on what site you visit  every other week, North Carolina. The next 50 days or so are going to be an uphill for Romney, and the other candidates hoping to chip away at his electoral edge. The election is being waged in about 110 electoral votes worth of contests. 8-10 states depending on the source listed above. 270 TO Win lists South Carolina as a toss up, which is very misleading because they use polls conducted nearly a year ago, that had Obama up in SC. More recent polling is lacking, at best South Carolina is a likely Romney state, if not solid.

In general, the commonly accepted battleground contests are: NC,VA, OH, FL, NV, CO, IA, NH. Some maps may place Wisconsin, Missouri, and Pennsylvania in the battleground column. Yet, barring a significant change in the race I would say these are probably already known outcomes.

If Mitt Romney wants to win, he needs to carry the majority of these 8 states. If he can 7/8: NC,VA,FL,NV,CO,IA,NH he can win the election 273-265. He can still lose Ohio and win the White House. Is it likely that he can win 8 battlegrounds? Things would have to go extremely well for him on election night.

What if he lost all the smaller electoral contests? NH,IA,CO,NV? If he allows Obama to win these he loses the White House to Obama by 6 electoral votes 272-266. If Romney concentrates on the Midwest and midatlantic region and carries OH,IA,VA,NC,FL he can flip the results and beat Obama for the White House.

The realities facing the Romney campaign are that he needs to carry either all but Ohio or the four large states of OH,VA,NC,FL and one of the small contests. Any one of them will give him the 270 he needs. In many ways the President has a much easier task. Hold the line.

Another thing that is interesting to note is that since 1952 all incumbent Presidents that have won re-election have always gained votes in the electoral college. If Barack Obama wins re-election, he will be the first president to win reelection by fewer electoral votes than the number of votes that go him elected since FDR in 1940. In 1936, FDR won 523 electoral votes vs Governor Alf Landon, then in 1940 he garnered 449 votes against Wendel Willkie.

50 days is a long time politics, and world events have a way of altering the dynamic of a race in a matter of hours. Most predictions right now are just educated guesses.

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