Even though the 2010 election results aren’t yet finalized, speculation among political pundits about President Obama’s re-election chances already is running rampant.
Whether or not certain Republican candidates can win their party’s nomination and defeat Obama are topics for another day. The main purpose of this report is to simply analyze the mathematics that govern each side’s ability to win the next national election.
Photo: The White House
In 2008, President Obama secured his victory by winning 365 electoral votes (EVs); 270 are required. With reapportionment becoming official before December 31st, the 2012 map will begin to take shape. Right now, though, we know that Obama’s winning coalition of states will yield fewer electoral votes than it did in 2008.
Assuming that Texas gains four congressional seats from reapportionment, and Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah all add one, a grand total of eight more electoral votes would be assigned to the group of states that supported ’08 Republican nominee John McCain. Obama states like Ohio (down two), New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa look to lose districts, thus meaning another 10 votes would be deducted from the President’s previous total. The only McCain state poised to lose a district is Louisiana. Florida, Nevada, and Washington are Obama states that look to gain representation, so add three EVs back to his total. Therefore, the new Obama state configuration would fall to an apparent total of 358 EVs.
The McCain coalition, on the other hand, would see a net gain of seven votes, giving this group of states a future total of 180 electoral votes. Assuming that pre-apportionment estimates are completely correct, which is unlikely (Oregon is in good position to gain and Missouri might lose, for example), the total swing away from the President when merely considering population shifts will be approximately 14 votes, or the size of a state like Michigan or Georgia.
If this analysis is correct, then the Republicans, in order to unseat Mr. Obama, would have to convert states with an electoral vote value of 90 votes, in addition to winning every previous state they claimed in 2008.
How can this be done? From a Republican perspective, they first must regain the states Obama won that traditionally vote for the GOP nominee. Indiana is priority #1, North Carolina is priority #2. Switching Indiana from blue to red would give the Republicans 11 more votes and take away the same number from the Obama total. An N.C. win is a swing of 30 EVs, thus bringing the EV count down to 332 to 206 and putting the GOP within 64 votes of denying the President a second term.
Next come Florida and Ohio. With Texas (38 electoral votes in the next presidential campaign) being the only large state that the Republicans traditionally carry, Florida and Ohio become central to a GOP win. A Democratic candidate can lose both of these states and still win the election, but it is virtually impossible for a Republican to do so. With Florida and Ohio added to the hypothetical Republican total, the adjusted electoral vote count moves to 286 to 252, still in favor of the Obama coalition. This leaves the generic Republican candidate 18 EVs away from winning.
While that can be done by taking Pennsylvania or the president’s home state of Illinois, neither seems likely today, especially the latter. Therefore, the Republicans must add multiple states. Two small swing states that could return to the GOP fold are New Hampshire (4 EVs) and Nevada (6 EVs).
If all the above happens, then the Republican nominee would go over the top by winning just one of the following states: Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, or Colorado. Another option, if this latest group of states all remain loyal to Obama, is to carry Iowa and New Mexico (11 total EV’s). These two places are the only ones that have consistently flipped between the two presidential party nominees in the 21st century and must be considered competitive for both the eventual 2012 Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.
Though much will happen to define campaign 2012, the mathematical formula leading to victory will remain as described above.