Two – Seventy to the Oval
To all intents and purposes, America has moved into the general election. Mitt Romney has stumbled his way to the (de facto) Republican nomination, and the far right fringes are joining with the establishment in rallying around their candidate.
Over the next six months there will be hundreds of sensational headlines attaching great significance to the latest poll, capturing a fleeting snapshot of the American public. This is all white noise. Yes, the national narrative is important, but that’s not how this election is going to be won.
The key to the White House lies in the magic number 270. Amass 270 electoral votes and that is it. You win. You’re President.
This is a fact that most of the mainstream media don’t give much time to. Lip service is paid to the importance of ‘swing-states’, but the analysis is never thorough. Studied carefully however, and Obama seems well placed for a second-term.
Almost certainly, Obama has 186 electoral votes in the bag, compared with Romney’s 156. States like California, Oregon and New York will go to the Democrats, and states like Texas, Alaska and Mississippi will go to the Republicans. This much is all but certain.
But on top of this, the Associated Press has estimated a further four states – with 55 electoral votes – lean Democrat: Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All four were won by both Kerry and Gore, and all four were carried by at least a 10% margin in ’08. By way of contrast, only 32 electoral votes lean towards the Republicans: Indiana, Missouri and Arizona.
If we add all this up, Obama is sitting on 241, with Romney trailing badly on 188. Now, these calculations could all be upturned if events change dramatically in the lead up to November, but this is a race with a polarised electorate firmly entrenched in one camp or the other, the ‘undecideds’ are few are far between and are unlikely to dramatically alter the above estimations.
So where does that leave us?
Almost obviously, Obama is in a stronger position. If he wins Florida – a state where Obama’s team is campaigning aggressively – that would be it. The 29 electoral votes would give him a second term. More likely, considering the stubbornly high unemployment in Florida, Obama will seek to cobble together the votes elsewhere. Ohio and either Virginia or North Carolina would get him there, as would New Hampshire and important holds in the Midwest.
For Romney – a candidate marked by mediocrity – it is a big ask. While some Democrats are nervous about how close the race currently is, the odds remain stacked against him. Republicans will be hoping that the economic recovery remains anaemic and that he can slip into the White House by virtue of being seen as a man who knows how to create jobs.
Otherwise he will almost certainly be condemned to the footnotes of American history.