There is no Mitt Romney victory without Florida. It’s that simple. Barack Obama has plenty of paths available to him: As long as he wins Ohio — which is looking more and more likely — he can win almost any combination of swing states and still reach 270 electoral votes. Indeed, if you simply give him every state where he holds a lead in the polling averages, he wins 281 electoral votes, and the presidency.

Romney, by contrast, has to run the table — without Ohio, he needs Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and — especially — Florida. So far, however, Romney hasn’t locked down this crucial state. In fact, the ten most recent polls show an even race with the slightest Romney advantage. And if you take an average of averages, Romney leads by 0.6 percent — as slim a margin as the race in Virginia, which is considered a toss-up by most observers.

It’s this fact that gives you a sense of why Romney has taken to running ridiculous ads against Obama in a state which he needs to win if he wants a chance at winning the presidency. The latest one, obviously aimed at Florida’s Cuban community, ties support for Obama to support for two famous Latin American dictators: Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. Here’s the text of the ad:

NARRATOR: Who supports Barack Obama?

HUGO CHAVEZ: “If I were American, I’d vote for Obama.”

NARRATOR: Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro, would vote for Obama.

MARIELA CASTRO: “I would vote for President Obama.”

NARRATOR: And to top it off, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency sent emails for Hispanic Heritage month with a photo of Che Guevara.

CHAVEZ: “If Obama were from Barlovento (a Venezuelan town), he’d vote for Chávez.”

ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.

This is more ridiculous than anything else, and for a closing message, it’s almost absurdly negative. And it’s those two things that should clue you in to the subtext of the ad — Romney is not confident he can win Florida. Judging from the polls, the outcome is still up in the air; the state is still winnable for Romney. But, all things equal, if you’re hoping to win the presidency as a Republican candidate, it’s not a good thing if you’re still fighting to lock down your support in one of your must-have states.

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer at The American Prospect , where he writes a blog .