How Obama Gets to 270 in 2012
It's all in the math — and the numbers aren't looking good for the GOP.
January 3, 2011 - 12:06 am
Collective wisdom (and wishful group-think) among Republicans is that Obama will be a one-term president. “One & Done” is a rallying cry with the merchandise to match.
Not so fast my friends — as Obama’s victorious lame duck session proves, never underestimate this president or the power of the presidency.
Obama does not take defeat easily and tends to recycle negative energy into fuel for his re-launch. Obama’s re-launch plans for 2011 include spending more time outside of Washington “engaging with the public,” according to a top White House adviser. This is in reaction to criticism of him for being aloof and disconnected from the great unwashed masses.
So as the president re-engages the public, the media will be there to chronicle glowing accounts of every backyard summit. We can watch as Obama’s two-year road to re-election is paved with re-kindled love between the “lamestream” media and “The Anointed One” version 2.0. And we on the opposing team will shake our heads in disgust as our GOP candidates get lambasted in the media for every small infraction from their past and present.
Meanwhile, President Obama will have the power of incumbency. Note that since the founding of our republic there have been 56 U.S. presidential elections, 31 of which have involved incumbents. Of those 31 presidents, 21 have won, which means that, based on the historical odds, Obama has a 67% chance of winning re-election.
Now if the power of incumbency, the media fawning, Obama’s remarkable ability to bounce back, and Obama’s extraordinary campaign and speaking skills weren’t enough to ensure his re-election, let’s examine what Obama really has in his favor: the 270 math of the almighty Electoral College. (Never discuss this with Al Gore, by the way.)
But before Republicans get too depressed, here is some good news. The 2010 census has shifted 11 electoral votes to “traditional” red states. (Traditional red states as defined from the 2004 Bush victory. Texas, for example, gained 4 votes, and Florida gained 2, even though Florida turned Obama blue in 2008.) See all the electoral vote changes here on this interactive map.
However, even the gain of 11 electoral votes spread among “traditional” GOP red states matters little when examining the unfavorable odds the GOP will confront getting to 270 in 2012
We begin by using the 2004 Bush/Kerry election as a baseline for the red vs. blue electoral map. In 2004, President George W. Bush won 286 electoral votes to Senator John Kerry’s 252.
But cynics warned there was trouble ahead, for if Ohio’s 20 electoral votes had gone to Kerry then he would have been elected and Obama might still be the junior senator from Illinois.
Although 2004 was a close election, GOP strategists would dream about the look of the 2004 map. If not for those pesky northeast, Great Lakes, and wacky left-coast states, the vast body of the USA was coated in ruby red.
Here is the Obama/McCain 2008 electoral map with Obama winning 365 electoral votes to McCain’s paltry 173.
Question: How do Republicans make their way back from 173 to 270?
Answer: With much difficulty.
Assume for a moment (and this is a HUGE assumption) that what I call the “Red Rogue States” of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana that turned Obama blue in 2008 will shake off the magic fairy dust he sprinkled over them and return to the red Republican barn in 2012. These five “must win” states total 86 electoral votes, bringing our generic un-named Republican presidential candidate up to 266.
(Note: the new 2012 electoral vote totals are being used to reach 266.)
So where does our generic presidential candidate find the remaining four votes?
Oh, how I wish that was the only major problem keeping the GOP from reaching 270.
The first potential problem is that Arizona is included in the 266 total.
In 2008, Arizona was McCain’s home state and easily added 10 electoral votes to his 173 total.
But in 2012 can Arizona be counted on as reliably red?
Or will Arizona follow Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada into Obama blue territory? There is a good chance it will, especially if the Hispanic Institute Five-State Voter Project has its way.
The Hispanic Institute, a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt organization, has the following as its stated mission: to provide “an effective education forum for an informed and empowered Hispanic America.”
Certainly a worthwhile mission and one that I fully support. Especially when you consider Hispanics are our fastest growing minority, currently standing at 16% of the population.
Through its Five-State 2012 Voter Project, the Hispanic Institute seeks to promote and grow the participation of Hispanics in civic engagement and the electoral process.
Success has already been achieved for the Five-State Voter Project’s pilot program — Nevada’s 2010 midterm election. The project added 10,000 new registered voters and increased the percentage of Hispanics voting in Nevada to 16% for a midterm election. (By comparison, Hispanics comprised 15% of the state’s voter turnout in 2008.) So, to have increased the percentage of a minority voting block by even one point in an off year election was deemed a great victory and psyched up the leaders to implement their 2012 full plan of attack.
So what does this Nevada “victory” mean for the 2012 Electoral College map?
Consider the five targets of the Five-States Voter Project: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada — together they represent a new 2012 total of 60 electoral votes.
During the 2008 election the percentage of Hispanic voters in these five states was:
- Arizona 16%
- Colorado 13%
- Florida 14%
- New Mexico 41%
- Nevada 15%
The Five-State Voter Project fully expects the percentages of Hispanic voters in these states to increase for the 2012 election. For example, Arizona’s 2008 Hispanic vote of 16% is now projected to be 18.3% in 2012.
Hispanic voter growth like Arizona’s is not good news for the un-named Republican presidential candidate, especially when the GOP is considered hostile (fairly or unfairly) to Hispanic issues.
Obama received 67% of the Hispanic vote in 2008, and if that vote stays loyal, it could keep Florida blue and turn Arizona blue for the first time since 1996.
Even now, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada must be considered long shots to return to the red land of the 2004 electoral map.
So when you hear Obama bringing up the DREAM Act over and over until it passes in the next two years, you know he is really dreaming of his re-election.
Now, let’s go back to our generic presidential candidate sitting at 266 electoral votes.
Remember my assumptions about the “Five Red Rogue” states that must return to red in 2012?
Florida is most problematic, especially with Florida’s Hispanic vote hovering around 15% and now targeted by the Voter Project for further increases. If only four of the five “Red Rogue States” return and Florida stays blue, our discussion ends right there and Obama is re-elected.
Too bad I don’t even get to discuss Iowa, which Obama won by 15.3% in 2008 but which could be the swing state which brings the GOP candidate up from 266 to 272 with its 6 electoral votes.
Any way you look at it, the 2012 electoral map is not user friendly for the GOP presidential nominee, even if national unemployment stays at 10% and the economy is sluggish.
The hope for Republicans in 2012 must lie in traditionally Democratic and electoral rich blue states like NY, MI, NJ, and PA. But I would not want to bet the farm on those states, with their deep blue voting patterns and heavy union membership.
The new reality is the GOP has run out of reliable red states due to changing Hispanic demographics and Hispanics’ group loyalty to President Obama and the Democratic Party in general.
In 2012, the African-American vote combined with the Hispanic vote will comprise at least 30% of the electorate. If Obama wins these groups by the same percentages he did in 2008, 95% for African Americans and 67% for Hispanics, he easily wins re-election. Unless Republicans can make major inroads into those two minority groups, whatever Democrat follows Obama in 2016 will also start off with a huge electoral advantage.
Sorry about the 2012 reality check. But you can profit from this analysis by clicking on Intrade, the online prediction market. Here, you can gamble on whether the Democrats will keep the White House in 2012. Today, players are betting there is a 57.5% chance of that happening, compared to a 41.7% chance the Republicans will take back the White House.