How Obama Gets to 270 in 2012

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.

Bush carried 31 states and 50.7% of the popular vote.

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.