Electoral College Best Case Scenarios

Stephen Green projects the best case and minimal winning scenarios for Obama and Romney.

VodkaPundit Stephen Green reprises his long-running Wargaming the Electoral College series by projecting the best case and minimal winning scenarios for Obama and Romney.

I’ll let you click through for the full effect but the best case for Obama is winning every state he carried in 2008 minus Indiana and North Carolina, yielding 332 Electors.  Romney’s best case has him also peeling away Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin for 337 Electors.  Without even looking at the current polling, it should be obvious that Obama’s best case is a helluva lot more likely.

The two “squeaker” scenarios are actually more interesting.

Green has Obama winning 270 to 268 by losing Ohio, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa from his 2008 haul but hanging on to Nevada and Virginia. I can’t see that happening. That is, as I noted in commenting on Doug’s post on the dead heat in Virginia, I can’t imagine the set of cultural and economic forces that would collide to have Obama both win Virginia and lose Ohio—much less Colorado.

The Romney scenario is more plausible:  ”He picks up the expected IN and NC, along with FL, NH, OH, VA, to get exactly to 270. ” The only real outlier there is New Hampshire; I’d think it would be easier to peel off Iowa (which would yield two more Electors).

My guess, though, is that we’re not in for either a landslide or a squeaker. I accept Steve’s premise that Obama has lost Indiana and North Carolina; it really took a perfect storm for him to win those deeply red states last time.  But my expectation is that either Obama will get a boost toward the end of the race and thus hold on to Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire or that the undecideds who are not sold on Romney will finally decide the Devil They Don’t Know is better than the One They Know and he’ll pick up enough momentum to win comfortably.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Well, of course Republicans are busy trying to steal the election in FL and PA by blocking the rights of minorities and college kids to vote, so there’s that.

    But I’d still call it a toss-up. By all the usual logic, Mr. Obama should be down five points nationally. The electoral college won’t save him from that. Fortunately Mr. Romney is a complete douche, so that fact may allow Mr. Obama to squeak past, unless of course the electorate-rigging by the GOP succeeds.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: As I’ve written previously, I’m dubious of the impact of the voter ID laws. On the other hand, I’m generally supportive of attempts to keep transient college students from voting in college towns; they should vote absentee in their home of record rather than being allowed to govern the locals who actually have a long-term stake in the community.

  3. paladin says:

    Well yeah James, it’s a good thing we didn’t have voter ID laws when JFK “won” in l960 and when LBJ “won” with Precinct 13 “votes”. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about the more current voter suppression videos about the Black Panthers in Philly in ’08 which Holder declined to punish, and voter turnout at 100% in some Philly precincts.

    Yes, voter fraud is just a myth and anyone who says otherwise is just a knuckle-dragging racist.

    Living in Texas, I have no doubt that with a presidential election this close, the Democrats won’t use all means possible to win—including a replay of Precinct 13.

    If the GOP is smart, they will send a battalion of lawyers to Philly, TX and other places because the Obama Gang has been schooled in politics in Chicago.

    The GOP has to punch back twice as hard.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @paladin: Aside from the fact that your examples are more than half a century old, how would voter ID laws have changed any of that? These weren’t cases of individuals voting multiple times but of official corruption of the vote tally.

    For that matter, even if the Black Panther business weren’t 99 percent horseshit, how would checking people’s ID cards prevent thugs from intimidating voters?

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Stay tuned. The first estimate of 2nd quarter 2012 GDP is due at the end of this month. That estimate is a major component of most econometric predictive models of presidential vote outcomes.

    If it’s over 2% which seems pretty unlikely right now, the president should have no problem in securing reelection. Between 1% and 2% is simply too close to call. Under 1% would probably mean Romney.

  6. Vast Variety says:

    @James Joyner: As the resident of a college town; Grinnell, Iowa; I’m prefectly happy with the students voting here instead of at home. Some of those students do end up staying here long term.

  7. wr says:

    @James Joyner: If I move to Oberlin to get a job at McDonalds, I can vote in the next election. But if I come to go to school, I shouldn’t be able to?

    In both scenarios, I’m “transient.” Certainly there are few 20-year McDonalds vets. And if I’m on the minimum wage track, odds are I’m not setting down roots in this community.

    Can you give me one constitutional reason why I should be allowed to vote in Oberlin in scenario 1 but not scenario 2? Doesn’t that violate the essence of “equal treatment under the law?”

  8. Davebo says:

    I’m generally supportive of attempts to keep transient college students from voting in college towns

    Heaven forbid folks be allowed to vote in the district they live in. What about people who move every three or so years? Should we block them as well.

    Not one of your better moments sir.

  9. Cycloptichorn says:

    When I went to Austin for college, I lived there for 5 years and ended up staying for another 4 after I graduated. Why, exactly, should I not have been able to vote in the jurisdiction where I lived? I utilized Austin’s public services; I was affected by the decisions made by their city council; I paid local taxes that supported the city on a variety of transactions. It’s ridiculous to say that I should not have been allowed to vote on these and other matters, just because my status was a student.

    Re: the actual topic, however, I think Obama has a much easier path in front of him at this point. Take the RCP map as a starting point (which everyone seems to agree upon) –

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/2012_elections_electoral_college_map.html

    Obama 221, Rmoney 181.

    Obama seems extremely likely at this point to win WI and MI; two polls released today in WI put him up 7 and 8 points respectively. I would also wager that he will win MI, though polling there is closer.

    I think he’s the favorite in OH right now at the moment as well; polling has had him in the lead for the last two months, and the state GOP is downright toxic.

    Those states would put Obama at 265. At that point, he could win either VA, OH, IA, CO or NV and win the whole thing. I like those odds.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @wr: @Davebo: The courts have generally sided with college students in these disputes. I nonetheless strongly sympathize with residents of college towns who want to maintain community standards—reasonable occupancy rates, noise levels, upkeep requirements, etc.—potentially being outvoted by kids with no stake in the community.

  11. Cycloptichorn says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s completely false to say that the kids have ‘no stake in the community.’ That’s been the exact opposite of my own experience, and seems sort of like a grumpy old man statement to make.

  12. Vast Variety says:

    In larger cities the students may have no real statke in the community in which the college resides. In a town like Grinnell however with some 8000 residents and about 2000 students and faculty when school is in session they can have a big stake.

  13. James says:

    @James Joyner:

    […] kids with no stake in the community who have different policy priorities than I do”

  14. paladin says:

    I guess you’re right James—anyone who shows up to vote ought to be allowed. I mean, really, what’s the harm?

  15. stonetools says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    If it’s over 2% which seems pretty unlikely right now, the president should have no problem in securing reelection. Between 1% and 2% is simply too close to call. Under 1% would probably mean Romney.

    I think you are on to something there. IMO,if Obama loses, future historians will point the finger at Obama’s refusal not to go all in on stimulus in Match 2009. Had he gotten a $1.2 T stimulus or something close, unemployment would probably be somewhere around 7% , Obama would be cruising to victory, and the Democrats would be looking to retake the House after limited losses in 2010.Ah well, a man can dream…

    I see Obama squeaking through , despite an early scare. Hispanic votes will lift him in NV and CO.

  16. James says:

    @paladin: Of course. Because some voters are more equal than others.

  17. @James Joyner:

    I’m generally supportive of attempts to keep transient college students from voting in college towns;

    Of course, the problem (or, really, a problem) is that how does one define “transient”? How do we know how long they will stay?

    By this logic, military folks who move around, even those that buy houses in a place for a couple of years should not be allowed to vote either.

  18. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I have a sneaking suspicion the entire election could come down to the single state of . . . Nevada! And if you’ve ever spent any significant time in Nevada you’d know that that’s truly a scary proposition. I also believe Virginia could very well get in touch with its inner Florida 2000.

  19. John D'Geek says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    By this logic, military folks who move around, even those that buy houses in a place for a couple of years should not be allowed to vote either.

    Funny you should mention that, since many Military folks go out of their way to keep their residency in their state of origin. This is perfectly legal, and quite an old tradition.

  20. @John D’Geek:

    Funny you should mention that, since many Military folks go out of their way to keep their residency in their state of origin. This is perfectly legal, and quite an old tradition.

    Yes, “many” do–and I am sure that “many” don’t (some I have known kept Florida as their state of residence, even though they really aren’t from Florida originally for tax reasons). I am also sure that “many” do not. I am also sure that “many” college students retain their home residencies for voting (in fact, I know they do).

    However, that’s not the point.

  21. Console says:

    @James Joyner:

    The funny thing is that voter id laws tend to give even more power to the people that do the “official corruption.”

  22. EMRVentures says:

    @James Joyner: An example of this occurring? Or is it just speculation? Americans where they live should be able to vote. We don’t impose tests on how long have you been here, how long are you staying, do you own property, what is your stake in the community, can you read, do you have enough money to pay the poll tax.

  23. anjin-san says:

    @ paladin

    I hate to break it to you, but there are no “Black Panthers”. Sorry dude. I am from East Oak originally, and the guys who you are so terrified of are not Black Panthers.

  24. anjin-san says:

    kids with no stake in the community.

    Ummm. They live there. That kinda gives them a stake. Why do Republicans so love the idea of second class citizens?

  25. Brutalfacts says:

    I simply refuse to believe that a tenth of a point of GDP here and there will swing the election. Romney has based his entire campaign on his ability to manage the economy while providing no specifics, no vision. Obama has and will continue to hit him with Bain, tax returns, outsourcing and other non-economic issues until Election Day.

    Florida….think Ryan Plan. Ohio….think outsourcing. NV and CO….think Latino. MI, WI, and PA will stay blue using a combination of the above factors. The path for Romney is very narrow and I can’t see him running the table like he will have to if he has any shot of winning.

    Obama will continue to drip information hurting Romney. Romney has nothing but “I am not him” to run on. The race will be fought in a handful of states with the message tailored specifically to that state. Remember that last jobs report? Didn’t think so, so much noise will be made that attention will be pulled away from the economic data to the candidates themselves. Throw in a pinch of extreme GOP crazy in the heated days leading up the election and Romney loses.

  26. Tlaloc says:

    On the other hand, I’m generally supportive of attempts to keep transient college students from voting in college towns; they should vote absentee in their home of record rather than being allowed to govern the locals who actually have a long-term stake in the community.

    I don’t see how this makes sense. College students generally are going to live in a given town for 4+ years. They are directly affected by local politics. In fact in some ways they’re more dramatically affected by local politics given that they may well depend to a much greater extent on municipal services and cannot easily leave said town for another (transferring schools being a much bigger deal than simply changing jobs).

    What’s more we have no requirement that non-students live for X years in a specific place to be suffraged there. You can move to a place and vote in the next election barring there being simply too little time to get the paperwork filed.

    Lastly, especially when discussing the nationalized election for president the impact of leting students vote in one area as opposed to another seems pretty trivial. Yes the electoral college may mean it makes a tiny bit of difference, but come on…

    So it makes no sense to me to restrict college students to voting in their “home towns” as opposed to where they actually live. On the other hand as a scheme to make college voting as hard as possible (and thus to discourage their participation) it unfortunately makes perfect sense. Which is why most on the right support it.

  27. Tlaloc says:

    @paladin:

    I guess you’re right James—anyone who shows up to vote ought to be allowed. I mean, really, what’s the harm?

    We might have a participatory system, the horror!