Four years ago, Barack Obama won the electoral college over John McCain by a comfortable margin of 365-173. He picked up not only every swing state except Missouri, but also a few states that hadn't gone Democratic in some time, like North Carolina and Indiana. There are a number of reasons for Democrats to feel optimistic this year, but one that hasn't yet gotten much attention is this: the electoral map looks awfully unfriendly to Mitt Romney. Barack Obama could lose not only Indiana and North Carolina, but also some big prizes like Ohio and Florida, and still win re-election.
Over the weekend, the Associated Press offered one of what will no doubt be a long line of electoral college projections, and they rate 186 electoral votes as solid Democratic and another 56 as leaning Democratic, for a total of 242 of the 270 needed to win. They have 159 votes as solid Republican and another 32 leaning Republican, for a total of 191. The rest—Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia— are up for grabs. Their list seems pretty solid to me—I can't really find anything to disagree with. If we take that as a starting point, that means Obama needs only 28 out of those 105 swing EVs to win. Which he could get by winning Florida and nothing else. Or Virginia, Colorado, and Iowa, and nothing else. Or Ohio, Nevada, and New Hampshire, and nothing else.
Now, the caveat: if the economy grinds to a halt, Romney will win by 5 points and the electoral college won't matter a whit. But if it's closer than that, there are a large number of ways for Obama to put together his 270, and a significantly smaller number of ways for Romney to put together his 270. Just one more reason for Team Romney to worry.
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