Poll Analysis: Paul Ryan Pick a Big Winner

The best case for why Obama remains a slight favorite is that Romney needs to win more of the toss-up states to get to 270. Obama’s base is larger than Romney’s. If Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota remain solid for Obama, he has 237 Electoral College votes, not far from the 270 needed. Romney seems to be solid in states with 191 Electoral College votes.

A win in either Ohio or Florida would almost assure Obama's re-election. Romney needs to win North Carolina (where he is ahead), Florida, Ohio, and Virginia (all of which are about even or slight Obama leads), and then one more -- Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin are all possibilities. Nevada seems more of a stretch. An earlier PPP poll in Wisconsin suggested that Ryan on the ticket cut Obama’s lead from 6% to 1%. No Republican has won Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984, and Obama had a big win there in 2008 (14%). However, the GOP has come very close on several occasions and as recently as 2000 and 2004, and of course the GOP won both the Senate and governor races in 2010 and the recall election earlier this year.

If the candidates finish up even in the popular vote, it is likely that Obama will win the Electoral College race. It seems unlikely that Romney will run stronger in the battleground states than nationally, and therefore win enough of the close state races to get to 270. Romney might need a two- to three-point popular vote win to string together the states he needs. In 2004, Bush won by 2.4%, and carried 31 states with 286 Electoral College votes. Those states today have 6 more Electoral College votes, but New Mexico’s five are almost certainly lost to Romney. Bush won Ohio and Nevada by 2%, Florida and Colorado by 5%, and Iowa by less than 1%. Bush won Virginia and North Carolina more decisively (8% and 12%), but both states had large shifts for Obama in 2008 due to much higher African American voter participation. Colorado and Nevada have also become less GOP-friendly the last few years, with growing Hispanic voter participation.

This year, only the GOP gets a bump for naming its vice president. The Democrats get a pair of chains. Each party will get a bump at its convention, though the GOP has more room to grow, since Romney and Ryan really get to introduce themselves to some people for the first time at this event.

The race could look a lot different when the debates roll around.