Welcome to the official launch of this season’s Wargames. It’s way — way — too early to call this election either way, so instead we’re going to look at the changes since 2008, and the special challenges Mitt Romney faces. My maps are all courtesy of 270toWin‘s iPad app, which is a superior tool to their website. The maps are prettier, too.
First up, Team Obama is counting on at a 50/50 election, which looks OK to them. If you drop Obama down to 50% of the vote, from his 52.9% of four years ago, here’s what you get.
In this scenario, Romney picks off NC, IN, FL and NE’s second district. That’s a 290 to 248 victory for the President, or four better than what George W. Bush pulled off in 2004. Those of us who remember that election know that isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room, but it will do. Unless Romney implodes between now and then, this is probably Obama’s best-case scenario. Maybe he blames Bush.
There’s been talk on the Obama side of maybe picking up Arizona this year, but I haven’t heard much of that talk the last few weeks.
If Romney connects with voters while “his” 527s help make “Obama” a dirty word, he might manage a cozier win in the popular vote, with 51.5%. If we drop Obama down to the remainder, let’s what happens to the map. You might be in for a surprise — I know I was.
Would you look at that. Romney could beat Obama by three points, and still pick up only OH — while Obama picks up another four years at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. As far as wins go, that’s about as ugly as they come. But it does feed into a strain of thinking on the Left that the Democrats enjoy a permanent Electoral College advantage.
Nobody is immune to this kind of thinking, by the way. The Republicans succumbed to it around the time of Bush 41’s election, smiling at the fact that the Democrats could never overcome their natural advantage in… California. This was shortly before California turned deepest blue and Bill Clinton made serious inroads into the South.
Anyway, the Democrats look at the same numbers I’m using, and can’t help but squeal with joy that the next state Obama could lose would be VA — where he won by a whopping 6.3% over McCain. Going up from there, Obama’s next “narrowest” win was my home state of CO — where his margin was 7.3%. These are not numbers to sneeze at. It would seem that the third tier of states would be very, very difficult for Romney to take away.
Well, maybe — maybe not.
To believe all this, you have to believe that the electorate is static. That simply by calculating changes in the popular vote, we can accurately predict where each state will fall based on how they voted last time.
But obviously, the electorate is not static. 2008 was very different electorate from 2004, which was different again from 2000. Don’t let the similar end results of 2000/2004 fool you; the War on Terror had shaken things up considerably. I suspect the Democratic overreach of 2009-10 and the Tea Party have shaken things up yet again.
Which brings us to the voodoo portion of the show, where we chant and perform bizarre rituals to try and determine just how mixed up/muddled up/shook up things have gotten.
This time, we’re playing the game slightly differently. Instead of big blue and bold red, we’re going with shades of red and blue. Dark blue, safe Dem. Middle blue, likely Dem. Light blue, leaning Dem. And the same goes for the GOP. The darker the red, the safer the state.
What we have here is a close race — but with much more upside potential for Romney. He would probably pick up CO and WI with that same 51.5% of the vote, and maybe OH, too, which would be good enough for the win.
I’ll be gentle and give you a brief rundown of some of my more oddball changes to the map.
Did I really paint OR medium blue? Yes, I did. I don’t think Romney has a sea otter’s chance in a gas turbine of picking this state up, but I am hearing lots of dissatisfied rumbles from the state.
VA, light blue. Maybe closer to a toss-up. Romney will have to use the Tea Party to full effect in Coal Country to neutralize Democrat gains in NoVA. But it can be done.
NH, light red. All word on the ground is, Obama is through here. NH really soured on Bush, but is likely to come back to the fold for a Northeastern moderate — so long as Romney doesn’t go Scary Right with his Veep pick.
FL. Similar story to NH. Also, I haven’t been able to find a single elderly Jew who hasn’t fallen sincerely out of love with the President. It would take a winning war for Israel, fully backed by US power, to win them back. (Don’t give the White House any ideas. –ed.
CO. Yes, Obama won big here in 2008. Yes, the state GOP has spent six years in a circular firing squad. But the magic is gone. My gut tells me Obama hangs on, my brain says not quite yet.
WI. Totally in play.
PA is light blue, but could go white in a heartbeat. Those bitter clingers are more bitter and clingy than ever. Watch closely — especially for voter fraud in Philly and Pittsburgh.
AZ. I expect Obama to make a very serious run at the state. I also expect him to lose.
NV. It’s the reverse of CO. My gut tells me Romney eke out a win here, my brain says not so fast.
MN. It’s PA’s nicer, younger brother. Obama has been very nasty, and will get nastier. That’s just not how Minnesotans like to play. Also, the state’s progs aren’t so excited any more about the Lightbringer. Events in WI next month may have an influence, too.
I’m also looking at NJ. Not because I expect Romney to win, but because Chris Christie remains so popular there. The GOP has a whole lot of Not Scary governors now, which helps the party’s image and provides extra infrastructure in some of these battleground states.
But before we go, just one last map… the one I really ought not make you see…
This is not an implausible scenario.
Sleep tight, muchachos.