How President Obama gets to 270

at 06:30 AM ET, 12/14/2011

On Tuesday morning, the braintrust of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign gathered a select handful of reporters to make a simple case: the incumbent has a number of different paths — five, to be exact — he can follow to win the 270 electoral votes necessary to secure a second term.


President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Since we’ve spent lots and lots of time breaking down the electoral map — and making the case that Obama is stronger than his job approval ratings indicate — we thought it might be fun to look at each of the paths laid out by his team to see how likely each might be.

We do that below. One important point before we start: The Obama team used as its baseline for each of these five scenarios the 246 electoral votes that Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) won in his 2004 loss to President George W. Bush. That means that Obama could lose none of the states he and Kerry carried in 2004 and 2008 — including swing states like New Hampshire and Wisconsin — and have the numbers add up. The paths are ranked from most likely to least likely for Obama.

1. Florida path: If Obama wins the 29 electoral votes in Florida, he’s at 275 and a winner. Florida moved hard to Republicans in 2010 — the party elected Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio — but there are signs that the Sunshine State electorate is trending back to the ideological middle. Scott is among the least popular governors in the country, which won’t help the eventual GOP presidential nominee, and Florida has a large Hispanic community that should vote overwhelmingly for Obama. But if the GOP nominee decides to put Rubio on the ticket as the vice presidential pick, that could complicate this path for Obama.

2. West Path: This scenario requires Obama to sweep Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada and then also take Iowa, where he won overwhelmingly in 2008 but Kerry lost narrowly in 2004. (Add those four states up, and Obama is at 272 electoral votes.) Democrats have had a number of successes in the southwest of late, and each of the trio of states has two communities where Obama tends to do very well: Hispanics and young people. Of the three, New Mexico is the likeliest to go to for Obama, and Colorado, which still has large pockets of conservatism, is the toughest. Iowa seems likely to go Obama’s way, although it will be a far tougher fight than it was in 2008.

3. Midwest path: The industrial Midwest has turned against Democrats in a major way since Obama carried every state in the so-called Rust Belt three years ago. But, if Obama wins only Ohio and Iowa, he’s at 270 electoral votes and a winner — albeit by the thinnest margin possible.

As we mentioned above, Iowa seems likely to go for Obama, but Ohio is a much tougher state to win. The state is populated by older, white voters who have traditionally been the demographic group most resistant to Obama.

Ohio favored Republicans in 2010, but Democrats are hoping Gov. John Kasich’s (R) aggressive conservative agenda — including his now-repealed attempt to drastically limit public employee collective bargaining rights — proved to Buckeye State voters that the GOP agenda is too radical for them.

Still, if this is an economic referendum on Obama nationwide, winning Ohio — which had 9 percent unemployment in October — will be tough.

4. South path: In 2008, Obama was the first Democrat to carry North Carolina since 1976 and to win in Virginia since 1964. If he repeats that feat in 2012, he gets to 274 electoral votes.

Democrats put the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte as a sign of his commitment to winning the Tarheel State, and the large number of young and well-educated voters helps his cause — especially when combined with the significant minority population in the state. But, North Carolina has conservative tendencies and Democrats will need to minimize their losses in the more rural parts of the state to keep it close.

Virginia will be a battle of the suburbs and exurbs in Northern Virginia. In recent elections, Democrats’ winning formula is to run up the score in the close-in suburbs to Washington, D.C., fight to even in the rapidly growing exurbs and not lose too badly everywhere else. The 2009 and 2011 statewide elections in the Commonwealth both favored Republicans — the former far more than the latter — which raises questions about whether Democrats’ formula doesn’t add up anymore.

5. Expansion path: Three years ago, Democrats were confident that they would have won Arizona had Republicans not nominated homestate Sen. John McCain. And, with no prospect of an Arizonan on the national ticket this time around — sorry Jan Brewer — the Obama team sees the possibility of turning Arizona blue.

But, the politics of immigration may make that an impossibility. When Brewer signed the nation’s most stringent immigration bill into law in 2010, she effectively ended Democrats’ hopes of defeating her as she became a hero to Republicans and to the many conservative-minded independents in the state.

Democrats are drawn to the possibility that the Arizona immigration bill will fire up the state’s large Hispanic community, and they’re probably right. But to win in Arizona, Obama needs to figure out how to win over some significant chunk of the white vote. And that seems very unlikely at the moment.

Romney called self “moderate” and “progressive” in 2002: Andy Kaczynski strikes again.

The St. John’s University student who has been peppering the GOP presidential race with old videos of the candidates has dug up a 2002 local news clip of Mitt Romney playing up his “moderate” and “progressive” politics.

“I think people recognize that I’m not a partisan Republican,” Romney said, “that I’m someone who is moderate, and that my views are progressive.”

We all know that Romney has called himself such things in the past, but mostly in regards to his 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy. (Dave Weigel did a quick search for other examples of Romney using the p-word in his 2002 campaign, and came up basically empty.)

The fact that there is now video from less than a decade ago of Romney moderating makes it more salient — and gives his opponents a more recent clip that can be easily inserted into attack ads.

Bookmark alert: Fix friend Nathan Gonzales is launching a new web site geared toward compiling state-based political news.

PoliticsInStereo.com launches today and points users to top reporters and bloggers in key states in an easy-to-read three-column format, featuring views from the right, left and non-partisan sources. The initial launch includes the first five states in the presidential nominating process: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada.

Gonzales is deputy editor at the Rothenberg Political Report and a contributing writer to Roll Call.

Be sure to stop over and have a look. We think you’ll find it useful.

Paul Ryan opponent releases poll: Democrats have targeted House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) ever since he released a controversial budget proposal that would turn Medicare into a voucher program.

And Ryan’s opponent has now released a poll that shows the congressman with a big lead that shrinks considerably when Democrats introduce negative information.

The Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates poll, shared with The Fix, shows Ryan leading Democrat Rob Zerban 53 percent to 32 percent on the initial ballot test. Once a statement is read saying Ryan has “put extreme right-wing politics first and has been a leader of this obstructionist, do-nothing Congress that is not addressing our nation’s problems,” Ryan’s edge drops to 49 percent to 43 percent.

Ryan’s personal numbers are pretty solid for now, though, with both his job approval and personal favorability in the mid-50s, and 54 percent saying he deserves reelection. It is up to Zerban to define Ryan in the months ahead in this competitive district.

Fixbits:

Did Texas Gov. Rick Perry just blame his poor debate performances on his back surgery this summer?

David Axelrod zings Newt Gingrich : “Just remember, the higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see his butt.”

Bill Clinton will campaign for Obama in 2012.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) cheerleads for Gingrich.

The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody explains why the thrice-married and Catholic Gingrich resonates with evangelical voters.

Christine O’Donnell (remember her?) comes to Romney’s defense.

The Tea Party Patriots will hold a Presidential tele-forum and straw poll on Dec. 18. Romney and Michele Bachmann are participating.

A new poll suggests Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) wouldn’t necessarily woo lots of Latinos to vote Republican if he were on the GOP presidential ticket.

Christiane Amanpour is leaving ABC’s “This Week.”

Texas Republicans and Democrats were unable to reach an agreement on a new primary date Tuesday, but did extend the filing deadline. The dates had to be moved because the state is still without legal maps for the state legislature and Congress, despite filing soon coming to a close.

We have a proposed redistricting map in Pennsylvania — one that draws together Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz. The GOP controls the process, and it focused on shoring up its 12 Republican members in some tough districts rather than targeting Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) in the eastern part of the state.

Must-reads:

Gingrich tax plan would slash revenue, add billions to deficit” — Kim Geiger, Los Angeles Times

Democrats find a welcome distraction” — Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

Romney’s $10,000 wager was a safe bet” — Kathleen Parker, Washington Post

 
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