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Oct 13 2012

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How Romney Wins

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Win 270 - Win a 4 Year Lease

Since the first presidential debate, momentum in the race for the White House has switched to Mitt Romney, who has swiftly closed the gap with President Obama, after trailing badly in September polls. In all the national polls listed on Realclearpolitics.com (RCP) since the October 3rd debate, the margin runs from a tie to Romney +4. Averaged out, it provides Romney with a one point lead.

But the presidency isn’t won nationally on popular vote, it’s won in the Electoral College; a creation of the Founding Fathers, incorporated into the Constitution, which requires a candidate to get a majority (270) of the 538 Electors. The Electors are apportioned by population among the States according to the latest census (2010).

Thus the presidential election is actually 50 individual state elections that occur simultaneously, with each campaign attempting to build a coalition of states to get to the all important 270 Electoral Votes (EVs). In 2008, President Obama won the presidency with a popular vote victory of 53-46 percent, but he won an out-sized victory in the Electoral College, 365-173, 95 more EVs than required.

In building his coalition, the President significantly expanded the traditional Democratic base by winning a trio of states than had not voted for a Democrat in years, sometimes decades – Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. In the case of the Old Dominion, Obama won by a very comfortable margin in a state that last went to a Democratic presidential contender in 1964.

The President also won all of the “swing states” under contention that year: Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, in addition to the all important states of Florida and Ohio. Team Obama also came within a whisker of winning the more solidly Republican Missouri. Obama also crushed Republicans in what had once seemed to be the “swing” states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Obama’s 365 EV victory was the best Democratic showing in a two-party national election since Lyndon Johnson’s sweep in 1964 (Clinton’s wins in ’92 and ’96 were larger, but Ross Perot’s 3rd party run both years had many states fall into the Democratic column by plurality, not majority).

So, with the 2008 map as a reference point, Team Romney has an uphill climb this year. To win, it had to take back states that were traditionally in the GOP column, and also contest and prevail in swing states that the President carried, in some cases by very impressive margins, in the last election. A tall order under any circumstances.

With 24 days to go, how does Team Romney get to that victory?

Demographic Context: Before we get to the specific elements of a plan, a note of context regarding national demographics and how they play with the overlay of the Electoral College.

President Obama’s support in minority communities is as strong as it is well known.

POTUS won 95 percent of the African American vote in 2008, as well as 67 percent of the fast-growing Latino vote. Support in these communities is expected to be strong again this year, with a recent survey indicating that the President has increased his support among Latinos to 70 percent.

The numbers have an outsized significance in part due to media reporting that reflects a perception that these lopsided majorities will be the decisive advantage for the President in November. On the face of it, that would be true in a national context, but in fact, it does not have the same impact with the overlay of the Electoral College in the “swing states.”

Using candidate travel as the litmus test for which states are truly in play, there are nine bone fide “swing states” up for grabs: New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado and Nevada. The election will be decided in these states, which are zero-sum games – they must be won individually. Therefore, what matters for the President is not the national margins among minorities, but the composition of the minority populations in these states.

Here, the facts are a little more complex than national demographic preferences suggest.

30 million African Americans – 83 percent of all the nation’s African American citizens – live in states that are already part of the base for either the Democrats or Republicans (15.4 million in GOP states/14.5 million in Democratic states).

Point of fact, only 6.2 million African Americans (17 percent of the total) live in the swing states. Of those that voted in 2008 (highest recorded African American turnout), the most consequential concentrations of African American voters were in North Carolina (23 percent) and Virginia (20 percent). The figure trails off in the low double digits for Florida and Ohio before dropping to single digits for the rest. This necessarily dilutes the impact of the African American vote as a decisive driver in an Obama victory.

Additionally, Team Obama’s plan to expand this cohort are challenging given the new baseline created by the enormous gains in the African American vote from 2008. That effort was so effective in maximizing African American turn out that it has left precious little room to improve with this time around. For example, the President won 98 percent of the African American vote in North Carolina in 2008 and 97 percent of the vote in Ohio the same year.

These very high totals do not take into account any potential African American discontent as a result of the President’s performance or record that might impact turnout of those who voted in ’08. It is therefore more likely that Team Obama will be taxed to maintain the gains from ’08 rather than expanding the field even further in a meaningful way.

The same facts are true for Latino voters.

Of the 50.5 million Latinos in the country, half live in deep blue California or deep red Texas, which are already incorporated into each Party’s base. Of the rest, only three swing states have Latino populations in double digits. Colorado (21 percent), Florida (22.5 percent) and Nevada (26.5 percent).

In addition, although Latino turn out in 2008 was a record, it still only represented 50 percent of eligible Latino voters. Latinos who showed up on Election Day in 2008 made up five percent or less in all the current swing states except Nevada (15 percent), Florida (14 percent) and Colorado (13 percent).

Thus, for Team Obama to translate lopsided Latino support for the President into actual votes in the swing states, the much discussed Obama micro-targeting campaign will have to do better that 2008 under very different economic and political conditions.

A challenging goal.

The same  proposition is true in reverse for Team Romney and the Mormon vote.

Mormons make up a bare fraction of the population at 1.7 percent. But that vote is heavily concentrated in the Western states (76 percent), and critically, in two battleground states, Colorado (2.8 percent) and Nevada (6.5 percent). While certainly not decisive for the GOP, as with the enthusiasm that POTUS enjoys among African Americans, similar enthusiams for Romney will likely be shared by Mormons this year. That could serve to blunt Obama demographic advantages in the West, and in a very close election, could prove decisive if the race comes down to turnout.

With this understanding of national demographic advantages in the context of the Electoral College, we have a must better grasp of what will be necessary to create a path to victory for Team Romney.

 Here is the suggested Romney battle plan.

Reclaim Friendly Territory: Romney begins with McCain’s coalition of 21 states and 180 EVs intact. This figure is greater than John McCain’s 173 EVs due to reapportionment. Romney now needs 90 EVs to win.

The first step is to lock down traditionally GOP states that voted for Obama in the last cycle. Indiana is safely in the GOP column again this cycle (Romney +12 points) after its flirtation with Obama in ’08. This puts 11 EVs in Romney’s colum.

Then there is North Carolina. The President won North Carolina by a scant 14,000 votes, with maximized African American turn out (98 percent) and a record 35 percent of the white vote. A small slip in either cohort will eliminate Obama’s ’08 advantage.

Economic conditions provide fertile ground in North Carolina  for such a pivot.

Currently, North Carolina unemployment is almost two points higher than the national average at 9.7%, up 37% since 2008. And despite the hype and the presence of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte in September, the Obama campaign has not been able to move the needle significantly, despite heavy early investment.

By way of context, in 2008, North Carolina was a pick ’em race in mid-October. Romney current leads there by between 3 to 9 percent. North Carolina (+15 EVs) appears to be ripe to rejoin the GOP fold.

Adding those two states bring Romney to 206 EVs with 64 EVs remaining to claim victory.

Lock Florida: speaking bluntly, Romney can’t win the election without winning Florida. It is the “must have” for almost any successful, grounded election strategy.

Just consider the alternatives.

A hypothetical contingency without Florida (29 EVs) would require Romney to win every other swing state, including Wisconsin, to lock down a bare 271 EV victory. That not only provides Romney with no room for error, it is also historically unrealistic.

With the exception of the three-party contest of 1992 (where Bush 41 won a plurality victory in Florida with Clinton taking 39 percent and Perot with 20 percent) Florida has voted with the winning candidate in every election back to 1964.

Historically if Obama wins Florida, it is unlikely that Romney can win the election.

The good news for the GOP is that victory in Florida is definitely achievable.

First, even in his historic win in 2008, President Obama only won Florida by three points, under-performing his national average by four points. Said another way, Florida was still competitive even when Obama was at his zenith of popularity, and with no record to defend.  As the realities of governing have created  tangible consequences, this provides a genuine opening for Team Romney.

Second, the demographics of Florida play to the GOP’s advantage.

Seniors, (age 65+) made up 25 percent of Florida voters in 2008. Despite the Obama tsunami that rolled across the nation, seniors in Florida favored McCain by 8 points, turning Obama’s national numbers almost upside down, 53-45 percent in favor of McCain. This is support that Romney can build on at a time when the President’s approval rating among seniors in around 40 percent.

The Obama campaign has talked up its strength among Latinos, but this is more complicated in Florida as the composition of the Latino vote in the Sunshine State is much different from the rest of the nation.

Where 59 percent of Latino Americans are of Mexican origin, Florida Latinos have a plurality of more conservative-leaning Cuban Americans (32 percent). This fact limited candidate Obama’s inroads among the Florida Latino vote in ’08, where the President won the cohort 57-42, but underperformed his Latino totals nationwide by 10 points.

More evidence of a potential Romney opening are the results of the 2010 gubernatorial election. In that contest, now Governor Rick Scott effectively split the Latino vote, carrying 49 percent. This proves that the Latino vote in Florida is competitive for a Republican candidate willing to go after it.

And there is the military vote. In the 2004 election, the three counties closest to Eglin Air Force base all gave George W. Bush over 70 percent of their votes, as did Clay County near Naval Air Station Jacksonville (which had over 20,000 military and civilian workers on-site). Bush carried the state handily. In 2008, those same counties once again awarded McCain with over 70 percent of their votes.

That lopsided support for the GOP remains today. According to a Military Times poll, Romney is out-polling President Obama 2-1 among members of the military – 66-26 percent. This is a big advantage for the GOP in  a state with a significant military presence.

In addition to these ethnic demographic groups, there are also openings among religious voters.

Obamacare’s birth control subsidy mandate, with no effective conscience exemption for religious affiliated groups, creates an opening among Catholics who were 28% of the vote in ’08 (and split their vote evenly between Obama and McCain). Also, the Administration’s tense relationship with Israel may swing additional votes to Romney in Florida where Jewish Americans make up 4% of the vote in a cohort that traditionally votes overwhelmingly Democratic.

For Team Romney, these demographic advantages can be aligned with issues that highlight the dismal economy in Florida.

With state unemployment at 8.8% (a full point above the national average) – a 26% increase from 2008 – and with the highest foreclosure rate in the country (1 in every 352 homes in Florida are in the foreclosure process), Florida is the kind of state that would be amenable to a clearly-stated economic argument for change.

Taken in total, if Team Romney can maximize its openings with specified demographic groups, coupled with a strong economic message, the former governor stands an excellent chance of improving on McCain’s showing, putting him in a position to take the state.

A spate of new polls gives Romney a growing advantage in Florida. Overall RCP provides an averaged advantage of +2 points. Four years ago, Obama was leading in Florida on this date by +4. Adding Florida would take Romney to 235 EVs, 35 left to achieve victory.

After Florida, there are notionally 66 EVs left: Nevada (6) Colorado (9), Iowa (6) and New Hampshire (4), in addition to the Big Kahuna’s for 2012, Wisconsin (10), Virginia (13) and Ohio (18). Prioritizing these states and aligning resources accordingly will be the key to victory.

Plan to Win Without Ohio: there, I said it.

Yes, its heresy and it goes against all political wisdom. It would be much easier to win with Ohio and, yes, no Republican has won the presidency without Ohio since the GOP’s first national run in 1856.

But to point out the obvious, no matter how formidable a tradition/statistic, it is only true – until it isn’t.

In the case of Election 2012, if Romney fails to win Ohio, it does not mean that he can’t win the election. There is an alternate path, and both prudence and reality dictate that Romney seriously consider that alternative.

Ohio has never warmed up to Mitt Romney.

In the Republican primary, Romney barely edged out Rick Santorum by one percent (10,000 votes). On that same day, national surveys had Romney down 7 points in Ohio in a direct match up with President Obama. Even after Romney sewed up the Republican nomination, through the summer and past the conventions, the former governor has never led the President in the compilation polling averages in Pollster.com.

Only now is the race becoming truly competitive even as it remains volatile. Today, Obama still leads Romney in composite polls by a little more than a point. On this date four years ago, Obama was up 2.5 points.

The answer to the Ohio puzzle appears to be directly linked to jobs.

Unemployment in Ohio is less than the national average at 7.2% and actually lower than it was in 2008. Ironically, the President may be reaping benefits created in part by the business-friendly state policies implemented by Republican governor John Kasich, which saw a dramatic decline in unemployment in 2011-12.

Still, it seems clear that in a state where 1 in 8 jobs depends on the automotive industry, voters are giving credit for better economic conditions to President Obama and the Detroit bailout, which many believe saved their livelihoods. That Romney opposed the bailout on Obama’s terms only augments Obama’s case in the state.

So, Romney is left with the difficult task of convincing voters that he can bring about better economic times when he opposed government measures that many feel saved over 10 percent of the jobs in Ohio. It becomes a very hard sell.

But difficult does not mean impossible.

A “win without Ohio” strategy does not mean that Romney should abandon Ohio. It is the biggest prize of the remaining swing states, and winning there opens up more flexible electoral possibilities. But given the history this election cycle, making Ohio a must win is a dangerous “eggs in one basket” proposition.

There needs to be a credible Plan B, just in case.

Raid Behind “Enemy” Lines – Take Wisconsin: how silly, right?

Wisconsin, where the public sector union movement was born? A state that border’s Obama’s home state of liberal Illinois and favored the President in ’08 by landslide 14 points? But do a little digging and you see why Wisconsin is ripe for the picking.

First, although Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is slightly less than the current, national average at 7.5% (vs. a national average of 7.8% for September), this figure is more than 40 percent higher than the unemployment rate for the state in 2008. Unlike Ohio, things have not gotten better in Wisconsin under the Obama presidency. And foreclosures, another tangible sign of economic activity, are an issue in Wisconsin with 1 in 700 homes in the foreclosure process as of July 2012.

So, the seeds of an economic argument in favor of change are already there.

Second, Wisconsin’s politics are not nearly as liberal as President Obama’s lopsided win in 2008 would suggest.

President Bush lost Wisconsin by 2/10ths of a point in 2000, with Nader taking 3%. In 2004, Bush lost by 4/10ths of a point to John Kerry.

The state is competitive nationally.

And then there has been the State’s volatile politics since ’08 with the election of Republican Scott Walker in 2010, the fight over public unions and the angry and combustible 2-year recall effort. Despite the most determined efforts of liberal groups and unions to oust him, Walker is the only governor in American history to have been affirmed in a recall. Indeed, Walker won the recall election by a bigger margin than his original victory in 2010, 53-46 percent.

The valuable bi-product of Walker’s win only six months ago is the high level or organization and micro-targeting of persuadable voters that has already been done for the GOP. This kind of voter intensity does not exist in any other state, let alone a swing state. It is an obvious Romney advantage, if they choose to seize upon it.

The latest RCP average for Wisconsin has President Obama leading by roughly 2 points since the beginning of October; that is within the margin of error. Four years ago, Obama was ahead in Wisconsin by 8 points on his way to a 14 point victory. A promising sign for Team Romney.

If Team Romney is able to lock down Wisconsin, it will have secured a vital pivot that enables additional paths and alternate coalitions to ensure victory. This new political terrain justifies Wisconsin as a plausible Plan B to a “must-win” strategy in Ohio.

A win in Wisconsin would bring Romney to 245 EVs with 25 needed for victory out of a remaining 56 EVs.

Go All Out on Virginia: the Old Dominion is a wild card, culturally conservative historically, but in the middle of a longer-term political transition. It is one of the most lucrative prizes among the swing states, and Romney is very competitive in the state.

But winning will not be easy, and it will not be cheap.

President Obama pried Virginia away from decades of GOP dominance at the national level with a fairly astonishing 7 point victory margin, almost flipping the results of George W. Bush’s victory in the state in 2004.

In Virginia, President Obama won among both men and women. Indeed, he gained an amazing 11 points among Virginia men compared to John Kerry in ’04. He locked down all age groups but those over 65. He maximized support among African Americans and Latinos (Latino participation increased from 3 percent in ’04 to 5 percent in ’08). Obama benefited from the exponential growth of Washington DC’s Virginia suburbs and exurbs, which have seen a huge influx of new residents that are more racial diverse and less conservative.

The positive news for Team Romney is that candidate Obama’s performance in Virginia (not dissimilar from North Carolina) was probably a ceiling instead of a floor.  Team Obama will be fighting to retain gains from ’08 rather than expanding the field, as the exceptional nature of the ’08 race settles into something more familiar with an incumbent president and his record.

 In addition, Virginia is in a volatile political period as it assimilates so many new voters, which has created massive voter swings since ’08. In 2009, only a year after the President’s victory, Attorney General Bob McDonnell won the governor’s office by a staggering 18 points, nearly three times Obama’s margins. So political conditions in Virginia are still fluid, providing an opening for Romney to build a successful coalition for victory.

The key for Romney will be ground game and turnout.

He must run up high margins in Virginia’s less populous rural south and southwest, already reliable Republican territory. He must also maximize the benefit of the conservative/military vote in Norfolk-Virginia Beach area, where Obama won decisively in ’08.

But most critically Romney will need to change the dynamics in three Northern Virginia counties where Obama blew off the doors in ’08, but that McDonnell won by significant margins, if not double digits in ’09: Prince William, Loudoun, and the largest, Fairfax. Together, these counties make up nearly 25 percent of Virginia’s total population of 8 million.

Whoever wins Virginia will have won a majority of votes in these three counties.

Currently, Virginia is a pick ’em race with the candidates essentially tied. The President had enjoyed advantages here in September that were erased in a more recent Romney surge. The promising news for Team Romney is that at this point in 2008, candidate Obama was already ahead by better than 6 points. Virginia is more competitive and winnable today, but only if Team Romney dedicates sufficient time and resources to the state.

A victory in Virginia brings the Romney total to 258 EVs, just 12 needed for victory with 43 left to pick from.

The Winning Combination: at this point, Team Romney has options.

Of course, if Romney were to win Ohio, he can lose the rest of the swing states and still win the election with 276 EVs; game, set, match. But assuming Romney loses Ohio, where do Republicans prioritize their efforts to get 12 of the 25 remaining EVs?

Colorado: Obama clobbered McCain here in ’08, winning by 9 points, but the state is more fluid today than that result suggests.

Bush won here in both ’00 and 04 (though by less of a margin the second time around). Bob Dole beat Clinton in the three way race for Colorado in the awful GOP year of ’96, but Clinton won in the same three way race against Republican Bush in ’92.

Today, Colorado is the only swing state with a Republican edge in voter registration.

Romney has the opportunity to make a solid economic argument in Colorado, which has an unemployment rate above the national average at 8.2%, a more than 40% increase from 2008. It is also among the top 10 states for foreclosures.

In making that argument, Romney will be going up against the formidable Obama coalition from ’08, which won based on significant support from women, as well as Latinos, who made up 13 percent of Colorado’s voters. However, for the President to win in Colorado, Obama will have to maintain the same coalition at ’08 levels, under very different economic circumstances. A geometrically more difficult task today.

Still, the ballot initiative legalizing the sale of marijuana in Colorado will likely bring out the youth vote and generally fortifying likely Obama voters, but any surge here should be countered by the 2.8 percent of Colorado citizens who are Mormon and will turn out heavily for Team Romney.

For these reasons, among the remaining swing states, Colorado gets the most value for money for the GOP.

 Currently, Romney leads Obama in Colorado by roughly one point. Four years ago today, Obama was leading in Colorado by 4 points, a positive harbinger for Team Romney, making Colorado a good bet for the GOP.

A victory in Colorado would put Romney on the cusp of victory with 267 EVs. A win in any of the remaining three swing states of Nevada, Iowa or New Hampshire would assure victory.

But where to go from here?

Nevada would seem the obvious choice.

The state has 6 EVs. The state economy is in horrible shape with 12.1% unemployment, a 58% increase among the unemployed since 2008. And Nevada has the second worst foreclosure crisis among the swing states, with 1 in 415 homes in the foreclosure process. Among all the swing states, you would think that a Romney economic argument would resonate particularly well, not even mentioning the demographic advantage of having 6.5 percent of Nevada’s population made up by Mormons.

But despite all these apparent advantages, Nevada is a dicey proposition for Romney.

The fact is that Romney has never led in Nevada (in composite polls). And the President has a formidable coalition in the state dating back to his ’08 win when Obama won Nevada by 12 points.

President Obama’s winning coalition in Nevada included a majority of both men and women. The gap with women was particularly striking, with women made up 52 percent of the’08 Nevada vote, and going for Obama 59-38 percent. In a year when Romney has had challenges with the women vote, this might be difficult to overcome.

In addition, 25 percent of Nevada’s ’08 voters were either African American or Latino in ’08. Obama won 94 percent of the African American vote, and out-performed his national average among Latinos in Nevada with 76 percent casting ballot for Obama in ’08. Add in that Obama won among every age demographic, except those over 65 (powered by a particularly strong showing among the youth vote) and Nevada becomes an especially difficult nut to crack for the GOP this year, despite economic conditions.

As with Ohio, this is not to say that victory in Nevada is impossible for Romney. But it may come at a higher cost value ratio than other paths to the presidency.

Four years ago today, Obama was up by 3 points in Nevada. Today he is up by a composite 1.6 percent. Less, but still ahead – consistently.

That leaves Iowa (6 EVs) and New Hampshire (4 EVs).

Both states are a notional hard sell for Romney from an economic perspective.

Iowa unemployment is 5.5% and New Hampshire’s is 5.7%. While these rates are higher for both states than they were in 2008, today they are fully 2 points less than the national average. In comparison to the nation these states’ are booming.

Politically, President Obama won both states in 2008 by almost identical margins; 9.5 percent in Iowa, and 9.6 percent in New Hampshire.

In both states the President dominated among women, winning 55 percent of the female vote in Iowa and 61 percent in New Hampshire. And POTUS dominated among Indies in both states, winning 56-41 percent in Iowa and 59-39 percent in New Hampshire.

These statistics represent real challenges for Team Romney.

So which state do you choose to prioritize? The Republican primaries hold the answer.

Iowa has never been Romney country.

Romney went down hard in ’08 to Mike Huckabee after a huge investment in time and resources.

This year, a gun-shy Romney waited until the last few weeks to swoop into Iowa amid general Republican chaos, and even with momentum on his side, lost out to Rick Santorum. Specifically, Romney lost among self -described Republicans, self-described conservatives, and lost 2-1 among self-described Evangelicals, who made up 57 percent of the Caucus participants.

Even though the Caucus is only a fragment of the overall Iowa electorate, it still points to a danger zone for Romney in the general election.

In ’08 Iowa exit polls, 31 percent of Iowa’s voters identified as Evangelicals. No other swing state has as large a cohort of Evangelicals as Iowa.

While recent polls show that Romney’s support has grown among Evangelicals nationally to 75 percent, the predominance of Evangelicals in Iowa electorate, and his problems with this cohort dating back to January, make New Hampshire the better value for money for the Romney campaign, despite the cheaper ad market in Iowa.

Some of the advantages of New Hampshire are obvious.

Romney’s private sector career and political career were in neighboring Massachusetts. Romney even has a home in New Hampshire. And Romney is equally well known for his two presidential runs. He lost New Hampshire to John McCain in 2008, but New Hampshire was the Romney firewall this past winter where Romney simply crushed it in New Hampshire.

According to ’12 exit polls in New Hampshire, in the six candidate field, Romney won the primary among all age groups and income groups taking 39 percent of the total vote. He won 30 percent of Indies and 14 percent of self identified Democrats. He won among Catholics and Protestants, and he won among the 22 percent of New Hampshire voters who self identified as “born again.”

This places Romney in good stead when you consider the context of the ’08 race and that Obama’s numbers were most likely his ceiling instead of a floor coming in to 2012.

Obama drew even with McCain in ’08 among men (48 percent of New Hampshire voters). There is room here for Romney to improve. In addition, 45 percent of New Hampshire voters were Indies. While Obama won by 20 points in ’08, current polling in the state shows the difference to be down to mid-single digits if not flipped in Romney’s favor.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but culturally, New Hampshire is more friendly territory for Romney, a Northeastern Republican.

Like Virginia, New Hampshire is winnable, but it will require resources and time.  Team Romney should allocate them.

At this time, four years ago, candidate Obama was up in New Hampshire anywhere from 7 to 15 points. Today, Obama’s advantage is less than a point.

Romney can win here.

Put New Hampshire’s 4 EVs into Romney’s column and he wins the election by the barest of margins with 271 EVs. If President Obama were to win all the other contested states, the final count would be 271-267. A slim win, but a win nonetheless.

So that’s it. The path outlined here is the closest thing to a straight line for a resource allocation-t0-victory strategy given existing political considerations, and understanding those conditions are volatile.

Conclusion: a few final thoughts.

1) If the race is actually as close as outlined here, it would be possible for President Obama to win a popular vote victory (based on huge winning percentages in populous Obama-base states of California, Illinois and New York) and lose the election in the Electoral College, just as Al Gore did 2000.

No sitting President since Grover Cleveland (1888) has won the popular vote and lost the election in the Electoral College. The implications in today’s toxic political environment would be highly unsettling. Needless to say, it would be even worse if any particular state required a recount and the eventual intervention of the Supreme Court – again. Such an event could trigger the end of the Electoral College by constitutional amendment.

2) The path laid out here is minimalist and doable. It does not preclude additional Romney gains over the next three weeks. Ohio may well get over its Romney-phobia, and the recent trends in Nevada may bode well for a better than expected GOP performance in the West. The Carter-Reagan contest in 1980 has a close race until the end of October, before a decisive shift created a Reagan landslide.  Increased polarization makes the same type of landslide less possible, but not impossible.

3) A burst of polling after the first presidential debate showed that other, previously safe Obama states were moving into a less secure position. If that trend were to continue, Pennsylvania would factor prominently.

Bush came within 2.5 points of winning Pennsylvania in ’04, making additional gains from his 4 point loss in ’00. Unemployment in Pennsylvania is up over 30 percent from 2008 and foreclosures were up 24 percent from January to June 2012. The economic argument is there if it can only be made.

4) On the flip side, little has been said of Virgil Goode, who is running a one man-one state presidential candidacy in Virginia. Goode provides a release valve for conservative and libertarian voters who do not trust Romney, and in a very close race, could play a “spoiler” role similar to Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000.  Same goes for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate who may be flying under the radar and garner bigger than expected totals in the mountain West.

4) Even today, with momentum having switched to Romney, the President still has the greatest number of paths to win 270 EVs. But Team Obama’s biggest problem has become time itself. Additional deterioration in the President’s polling position erodes Obama’s options by the day, expanding the field and Romney’s own opportunities. POTUS does not have a great deal of time to turn the dynamics around.

5) Money, statistics, world events, and turn-out are all that matters right now.

Of course there are the debates, but unfortunately for the President, the first debate had the highest audience and probably the highest impact.  Only a significant gaffe will be race-changing in the next eight days.

Thus, the campaign money wars over ads and organization, statistics still to come on the US economy and QIII economic performance affecting Wall Street, the flames of the Middle East and the economic crisis in Europe devolving further – with, well, who knows…, all of which will fuel the most important factor – who actually shows up to vote.

At the end of the day, after all the pollsters, consultants, campaign events and literally billions raised and and spent trying to drive opinion, the final result is in the hands of individual citizens. There never ceases to be a certain awe about that.

This is the most consequential election since 1860.

Do your part.

Be heard.

Cast your ballot.

Be part of history.

 

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