Electoral Vote Math: How Mitt Romney Can Get 270

(updated on 05/09 after North Carolina passed an amendment to ban gay marriage—this triggered/forced Obama to support gay marriage)

With the battle for the White House this election year, 2012, is now (as official as it can be) between Obama and Romney, both sides will begin their electoral strategy—although they may not admit it.

In the US, we elect our President using an indirection election – each state has a number of electors and the state’s popular votes determine which candidate the electors from that state will cast their ballots for. There are 48 states that have a winner-takes-all rule for Electoral College. In these states, the candidate who receives the majority of the popular vote will get all of the state’s electoral votes. The other 2 states, Nebraska and Maine, don’t use the winner-takes-all rule. They use a proportional allocation of votes based on popular votes at the Congressional district level.

Due to the latest census results in 2010, the number of electoral votes for some states may have changed. For example, the states that John McCain – Sarah Palin won in 2008 gave them a total of 173 electoral votes. If we assume that Romney will be able to carry these same states, he will get a total of 180 votes:

John McCain's red states in 2008

John McCain’s red states in 2008

What other states will Romney need to carry for another 90 electoral votes to reach 270 — the number needed to win the race?

IN (11 electoral votes): in 2008, McCain lost this state by a slim margin 1% (28,391 votes). Latest poll in Indiana showed Romney in front by 9%. Romney will need this state to be red in November.

NH (4 electoral votes): latest poll in New Hampshire by Dartmouth (4/5) showed Romney leading Obama by a slim 2%. With Romney’s north-east tie, this will be good win for Romney. Score an upset here for Romney!

IA (6 electoral votes): with its small number of electoral votes, Iowa is not as important as other states. However, winning IA will help in case that Mitt Romney cannot pick up NH. So what I am thinking is…score either NH or IA for Mitt Romney – both will still be better though, of course.

Romney will then need 75 electoral votes from some combination of these swing states (total of 105 electoral votes): WI (10), OH (18), PA (20), VA (13), NC (15) and FL (29):

FL (29 electoral votes): Florida is one of a few true “swing” states and probably most important with its 29 electoral votes. John McCain lost Florida by a small margin 2.8%. And this year, it’s very hard to imagine Romney winning the election without carrying Florida and its 29 electoral votes. All of these factors are mainly reasons of the speculation that Romney will add Senator Marco Rubio to his ticket as VP – in addition to Rubio’s Hispanic appeal, Tea-Party appeal and Conservative appeal. Latest poll by Fox News (4/15-4/17) showed Obama leading by slim 2% margin – adding Marco Rubio helped Romney picking up only 1% however. More importantly, 48% in the same poll disapproved Obama’s job performance versus 43% approved. And, 55% haven’t seen signs that the economy has started to turn around versus 40% seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. These 2 numbers suggest that Romney – in order to win the election – needs to pressing Obama on his failed policies in economy and to stay away from distractions by Obama’s camp such as social issues, Romney’s wealth and tax rates, etc.

On 5/9, Obama announced his support for gay marriage—a change from his non-support of this issue in 2008 campaign. In 2008, 80% of the voters were Catholic/Protestant/Christian—45% of this group voted for Obama. The 18-29 age group was only 15% of the total voters and 61% voted for Obama. Perhaps, Obama may not be able to offset the loss of votes in the religious group with the gain of votes in the younger age group in a state that he won in 2008 by just 2.8%. This will solidify a Romney win in this state.

OH (18 electoral votes): Ohio is another important swing state that Romney may be able to carry. McCain lost this state in 2008 by 4.5%. Coincidentally, latest polls (Rasmussen Reports 4/18) showed Obama leading by a workable 4%-6% margin – almost the same margin that Obama won in 2008.  Again, 58% have not seen the signs that economy has started to turn around versus 40%. Another Senator – Rob Portman of Ohio – will be considered as a potential VP candidate. If Romney picks Rob Portman, he probably is counting on the Senator’s ability to deliver his own state in November – not a guarantee. Romney needs to discuss why he is better than Obama in economy, job creations and don’t fall for his distractions in order to make up the gap.

Again, the effect of Obama’s support of gay marriage may move Ohio to leaning red. Obama took 48% of the votes of the Catholic/Protestant/Christian group—81% of total voters. On the 18-29 age group—17% of total voters—he got 61% of the votes. If more than a third of this religious group would not vote for Obama because of the gay marriage issue, this state will be in the color of red. Again, it’s unlikely that the votes gained from the younger voters will offset the loss of votes from the religious group. Ohio is also leaning red now.

NC (15 electoral votes): while FL and OH are important, North Carolina will also be a key swing state for Romney to pick up – its 15 electoral votes rank fourth in the swing states list.  Latest Rasmussen Reports poll (4/10) showed Romney in front by a less-than-margin-of-error 2%. But, in 2008, Obama won this state by only 0.3% margin – a mere 14,177 votes. This state may turn red this November.

On 5/9, there were 1,318,486 votes for ‘Yes’ (61%) on the marriage amendment while 832,618 (39%) votes for ‘No’. There were 966,901 total votes in the Republican Presidential primary for the state. If we assume all Republicans voted ‘Yes’ on the marriage amendment, then about 351,585 Democrats voted ‘Yes’ on the amendment. How much of these 351,585 votes—16.3% of total voters—will Obama lose in November? This state is now a red state for Mitt Romney.

If Romney can win FL, OH and NC, he will only need to win just 13 electoral votes from some combination of these swing states: WI (10), PA (20), and VA (13).

WI (10 electoral votes): I believe it won’t be an easy task for Mitt Romney to win WI for several reasons. First, Governor Walker is facing a tough recall election although he is leading at the moment. If he survives the recall, perhaps he may be able to pull Romney up as well. On the other hand, this state was lost to Obama in 2008 by a hefty 13.9%. And, Obama was ahead of Romney by 11% on latest Rasmussen Reports poll (3/27). However, the poll was taken before Romney’s win in WI Republican primary. In any way, it may be difficult for Romney to score a win here. Despite rumors that Paul Ryan may become the VP candidate, I don’t think that will become reality for 2 reasons: it’s more important to have Paul Ryan in Congress to work with a President Romney in budget; and even with Paul Ryan on the ticket, it may not help Romney to win WI anyway.

VA (13 electoral votes): latest poll by Roanoke College (3/26-4/5) showed Romney in front by 5% in a state that Obama won by 6.3% in 2008. In the poll, on the direction of the country, 71% thought the country was headed in the wrong track – versus 23%. The top 4 most important issues are: economy (34%), unemployment (19%), budget deficit (7%) and gas prices (6%).  President Obama’s favorable rating in this poll was poor – 49% favorable versus 40% unfavorable. People are mostly unhappy with Obama. Again, can’t emphasize enough that Romney needs to keep talking and discussing about economy, unemployment and budget deficits. This state looks lightly red now.

What are the effects of Obama’s support of gay marriage? In 2008, Obama won 92% of the African-American voters—a group that was 20% of total voters—and 65% of the Hispanic/Latino voters (a group of 5% of total voters). If more than a third of these 2 groups change their decision about Obama in November because of the gay marriage issue, Romney would be able to win this state easily.

On the other hand, Obama won 60% of the 18-29 age group—a group of 21% of total voters. Will Obama gain enough on this group to offset the votes that he will lose on the other 2 groups? It’s unlikely. Virginia is now leaning red for Mitt Romney. And winning VA will enable Romney with enough of the 270 electoral votes needed.

PA (20 electoral votes): this is an important state but was lost to Obama in 2008 by a large margin 10.4%. However, Republicans scored a big win with Senator Pat Toomey in 2010 and took back the Senate seat from Arlen Specter – whose conversion to Democrat, in 2009, really helped Obama with the decisive vote in the Senate until Scott Brown’s arrival in the Senate. We will wait and see the exit polls in the state primary on 4/24 to read voters’ minds.

PA also could be affected by Obama’s new position on gay marriage. In 2008, 80% of the voters were Catholic/Protestant/Christian, and about 50% voted for Obama. The young voter group was about 18% of total voters—65% voted for Obama. Although this state remains a toss-up just because his margin of victory was large (10%) in 2008, it may be won by Romney.

In the end, Mitt Romney will get enough 270 with these states red—and PA may be a likely red state:

Romney's red states in 2012!

Romney’s red states in 2012!

(maps are created using http://www.anamericanvision.com/maps/electoral/electoral.php)

 Ch3 Nguyen









11/07/2012: In the end, American voters selected President Obama for his 2nd term. Gov Romney could not carry OH, VA, NH — with FL was still to close to call at the time of this writing. The popular votes were close: Obama 50%, Romney 48%

Final 2012 Electoral Map with FL too close to call

Final 2012 Electoral Map with FL too close to call


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