Electoral maths isn't pretty for Romney

2012-10-11 15:24
US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds up a baby during a rally in Newport News, Virginia. (Jim Watson, AFP)

US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds up a baby during a rally in Newport News, Virginia. (Jim Watson, AFP)

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Cape Town - American elections are untypical – they aren't as easy as one person one vote.

The electoral college system means each state is assigned a certain number of electoral votes, dependent on population, and whoever wins a majority of these electoral votes (270 or more) becomes president.

For states with a large population, such as California or Texas, this means a lot of influence, and for those sparse or tiny like Rhode Island or Maine means fairly little.
 
This translates into campaign tactics that limit the presidential candidates in states that are "toss ups" or "swing states". Of the 50 US states, most tend to lean strongly toward one political ideology at the presidential level.

Massachusetts, for example, is a strongly liberal and Democrat state, while Texas leans toward the right. Democrats will not win Texas in this election cycle, and Republicans stand no chance of winning Massachusetts.

This leaves around eleven states that are usually competitive, but in this election cycle we're down to eight (Michigan and Pennsylvania are leaning Democrat leading up to this election, while Missouri will likely fall Republican).

Decisive advantage

These eight are Florida (29 electoral college votes), Ohio (18), New Hampshire (4), Virginia (13), North Carolina (15), Colorado (9), Nevada (6) and Iowa (6).
 
The balance of power in these states gives a decisive advantage to President Barack Obama. With 538 electoral college votes at stake, 270 votes will secure victory, and, according to reasonable projections Obama can pretty much bank on 247 of them* while Republicans have a total of only 191** near certain votes.
 
This means one very specific thing: If Romney loses Florida he cannot become president, as its 29 votes will put Obama ahead of the 270-victory threshold. It also means Romney can't afford to lose any combination of votes that add up to anything more than 22.
 
For example, Romney will lose if:

-       Obama wins Florida (even if Romney wins all remaining swing states)
-       Obama wins Ohio and any other swing state (except New Hampshire which would put both men on 269 votes).
-       Any random combination of states awards him 23 or more votes (like Virginia, Colorado and any other state). 
 
The problem for Romney is that swing state polls are not kind to him as things stand, although they have narrowed in recent days. The Real Clear Politics average (which averages out all polls, regardless of methodology, in a very unscientific manner) has Obama up in all swing states except North Carolina.

Nate Silver at the New York Times, poll-master general, says much the same thing, adding that Romney is less than a percentage point ahead in North Carolina.
 
Incidentally, if Obama does only win 22 of the 100 available electoral votes (such as winning Ohio and New Hampshire, and losing the rest) both candidates will be tied at 269. If this happens the Constitution points to the House of Representatives to decide who becomes president, and that chamber will likely have a Republican majority.
 
 
*California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin.
 
** Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming.

  - Are you in the US? Send us your stories or views and related photos on the build-up to the US elections .

Read more on:    barack obama  |  simon williamson  |  mitt romney  |  us  |  us elections 2012
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