Since the start of his campaign for President, Mitt Romney has faced an uphill battle to reach 270 votes in the Electoral College. President Obama has led consistently in the key battleground states for most of the race. In fact, before the first debate Mr. Romney was trailing in every single battleground state according to the Real Clear Politics average.
Despite polling within the margin of error nationally, Romney –provided the polls were accurately depicting the electorate – did not have a reasonable chance of winning. However, since the debate, the Republicans building blocks to an Electoral College majority have begun to fall into place.
Early in the campaign Romney secured Indiana, a dark red state that went for Obama in 2008. Romney also maintained small but comfortable margins in Missouri and Arizona, two states on the Democrats wish list (similar to Michigan and Pennsylvania for Republicans). The inclusion of Indiana on his side left Romney with a mere 191 secure Republican electoral votes.
The next two states on Romney’s list are North Carolina and Florida, which count for 15 and 29 votes respectively. John McCain lost North Carolina by the smallest of margins in 2008. Florida, which went to George W. Bush by five points in 2004 has moved to the right in the past few years electing a very conservative Governor, a strong majority of Republicans for their house delegation, and a Tea Party Senator in Marco Rubio. For most of the campaign Romney was dead even with Obama in North Carolina while trailing by a couple of points in Florida.
Romney’s path to 270 starting at 191
Option #1 Option #2 Option #3
Since the debate Romney has established a solid four-point lead in North Carolina (up by as many as nine in one poll) and has swapped places with Obama in Florida as he now has a small yet fairly consistent lead. Two Florida state polls point to his much improved performance among Latinos as a key to the turnaround. North Carolina and Florida add 44 electoral votes to Romney’s total and bring him up to 235 votes.
Colorado and Virginia moved sharply to Obama in 2008. George W. Bush won both states by relatively secure margins in 2004, but the states are still favorable to Republicans as demonstrated by Governor Bob McDonnell’s landslide win in 2009. Colorado’s nine electoral votes and Virginia’s 13 represent the next stretch in Romney’s path to 270. Romney has the slightest of leads in Colorado while recent polls have shown him also moving ahead in Virginia. The two states in Romney’s column move him to 257 votes.
The final, simplest move for Romney is to win Ohio’s 18 electoral votes. He still trails by a couple of points so he has some work to do. Romney’s alternate route is to win Nevada and Iowa’s six votes each for a total of 269 and an Electoral College tie. A tie in the Electoral College would be broken by each state congressional delegation voting as an individual vote. If the Congressional make-up remains the same, the tie-breaker would go the Republicans. Winning Wisconsin’s ten votes and New Hampshire’s four would also put him over the top.
Despite the long odds he faced over the summer and into September, Romney only needs to continue his positive movement in Virginia and Colorado, while picking up a point or two in Ohio. However, if Romney wants to improve his chances, he needs to increase his standing in the remaining winnable states like Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. If these states are even in the polls on Election Day Romney will have developed a reasonable backup plan and greatly improved his chances of winning.