The electoral map reveals how perilous is President Obama’s grip on the White House. Let’s start, as RealClearPolitics does, with a base of 170 electoral votes for Mitt Romney. It’s hard to imagine that Obama could win any of even the less-red states that comprise that batch (e.g. Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Montana). To get 100 more and seize the presidency, Romney only needs some states that routinely went Republican before the 2008 race (Nevada, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia) and needs to hold on to a few that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) managed to win (Arizona, Missouri). This gets Romney to 273.
In other words, Romney doesn’t need to win (but he might) in New Hampshire or New Mexico. He would love to, but isn’t required to, break through in states like Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin or Michigan. (The first and last would seem the most likely.)
It may come as a shock to liberals when you break it down by the only measure that matters (electoral votes), but Romney can do worse that George W. Bush did in 2004 (when he won Iowa and New Mexico) and still win the White House.
This doesn’t mean Romney will have an easy time of it, but it does suggest that Romney doesn’t need to twist and turn on policy, or throw the longball for VP to win the race. If he runs better than McCain and worse than Bush, then he’s very likely to win.
Of the states critical to Romney, it is not hard to see how important Ohio, Florida and Virginia are to his prospects. These states have a cumulative total of 60 electoral votes. Romney won all three in the primaries, and each has large urban and/or suburban areas of the type Romney has won all across the country. All three states have GOP governors. In 2010, Ohio and Florida each elected a conservative senator in part due to a backlash against Obama.
All of this leads us to a couple conclusions. First, a popular VP pick from one of them would be a smart thing indeed. Jeb Bush, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell would qualify and please the base without turning off swing voters.
Second, if you think of some of the issues that matter in these states (trade, Cuba policy, jobs) Romney is well positioned. Virginia (in part from government-related hiring in Northern Virginia) is the only one of the three with unemployment below 7 percent. Florida’s is over 9 percent. Romney need not rethink or restyle his agenda, nor (as liberals keep arguing) move “to the center.” He simply has to communicate over and over again why his middle-of-the-road Republican policies and his background in the private sector would be better for those states and the country.
Republicans should be relieved, but not cocky, about the electoral landscape. The states most at risk will very likely be close. But Democrats’ confidence at this point seems unwarranted. It is very easy to spot Romney’s path to 270 electoral votes.