Key swing states: Romney down

2012-05-24 13:55

New York - American elections are won and lost in swing states. The US has 50 states, each with a certain amount of designated electoral college votes, 270 of which are required to become president.

Very few states actually change their minds from election to election. In fact, it is usually only 13 states which "swing" between Democrat and Republican, but in this election that number is being whittled down. And this whittling suits the incumbent, Democrat Barack Obama. In a very strong sense.
What goes on in these states determines who is president. It is that simple. Lose the swing states: Make a concession speech, retire from politics.
The states that traditionally have the ability to turn for candidates are Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, Wisconsin and Florida, with North Carolina having swung Obama's direction in 2008.

Pollsters have also mystifyingly thrown Arizona into the mix.
These 14 aforementioned states are worth 172 electoral college votes. This is a great boost to either campaign when the traditional voting blocs total 186 safe votes for Democrats and 170 for Republicans. Except the upcoming election is not following traditional voting patterns.

Dog show

So let's get stuck into some of this maths in a bit more depth for these key states.
To get a few things straight: Neither Arizona nor Minnesota is actually competitive for this election. Arizona might have been in 2008 (but was most likely saved by the fact that John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, was from there) but is no longer.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has led in every poll there bar one since February. And only 511 people took the one that fell to Obama, which he won by only two points (within the margin of error). Minnesota hasn't voted Republican since 1972, and the Republican Party's organisation in that state is an absolute dog show.

So we're actually starting at a base of 196 electoral college votes for Democrats, 181 for Republicans and 161 up for grabs.
Pennsylvania is a traditional swing state, but polling in recent months has shown a sharp swing toward Democrats, and the state has favoured Democrat candidates in recent times anyway, albeit by slim margins.

Poor polling with Latinos

I don't think Pennsylvania is fairly classified as a swing state this time around – it has 1 million more registered Democrat voters than Republicans, and it would take something utterly exceptional to fall into Republican hands.

The same applies in Missouri – it would take an incredible effort to get it out of Republican clutches. Romney is up by an average of only three points, but Obama has not led in this state at all. Not even once. So that would make it 216 electoral college votes for Obama, 191 to Romney and 131 still to be won.
Republicans' polling with Latinos has been diabolical. In fact an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll published on Wednesday showed Romney behind amongst Latino voters by 34 points, 61% to 27%.

 And Romney's harsh policies regarding immigration mean this is unlikely to change. What once were swing states – Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada – are in the Democrat camp, according to polls, probably due to large Latino populations.

On a surface level this should hurt Romney in Florida too, but the majority of Latinos in Florida are Cuban or Puerto Rican – Cubans are entitled to different paths to citizenship than the usual immigration rules, while Puerto Ricans are US citizens.

Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado are all seemingly going to vote for Obama for the second election in a row in November. Polls back this up demonstrably. That's another 20 votes in the Democrats' bag (which means we're at 236 votes for Obama and 191 for Romney with 111 remaining).

Magic number

Michigan is likely to fall Democrat, with the largest reason being Obama's push for the auto-industry bailout and an unpopular Republican governor who is due a backlash.

That puts another 16 votes in the President's column. This, however is countered somewhat by North Carolina which Obama surprisingly won in 2008, the first time the state voted Democrat since Jimmy Carter won in 1976. So we'll give another 15 electoral college votes to Romney.
This means that Obama is sitting on 252 probable electoral college votes, with Romney on 206 and 80 to be contested.
Which leaves us with six states that could really go either way: New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Florida.
The problem for Romney is that unless things change in these key states, Obama only needs 18 more electoral college votes to get to the magical unassailable number of 270 – the Republican requires 64. Winning either Ohio or Florida, two of the most vital swing states, would lock this down for Obama.
If Romney doesn't turn things around in stark fashion in the next six months, he won't be opening his briefcase in the Oval Office.