close presidential elections in American history. As the race comes down to the wire and we anxiously await next Tuesday, it's valuable to have a clear framework in mind for how each man can plausibly win, charting a path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As we were all reminded in 2000, while the winner is historically highly correlated to the results of the nationwide popular vote, the presidency is not directly determined by our individual votes but by the Electoral College. It therefore becomes increasingly important to focus on battleground or tipping point states rather than national polls to discern the trajectory and outcome of the contest. Indeed there is about a 5% chance that we'll see 2000 in reverse with Romney winning the popular vote, which he leads according to national polls, but losing the Electoral College and with it the presidency as his polling lags in key states such as Ohio.
I've documented the five potential electoral maps that I'm keeping in mind down the home stretch using the terrific 270toWin iPad app and thought I'd share them with you. A fairly simple distillation of the most likely ways Mitt Romney or Barack Obama will find their way to a victory speech on November 6th (we hope).
Romney Scenario 1: Core 4 +1
Romney takes back the two preeminent battlegrounds of Ohio & Florida as well as the two historic red states of North Carolina & Virginia plus any other single contested state. In this map, I've made that state Colorado, as that's Romney's most likely +1. Note: All of these scenarios assume Indiana flips back to red this year as it is undisputed and has a 99.7% chance of going Romney as well as Romney winning all of Nebraska's 5 electors, one of which Obama claimed in 2008.
Romney Scenario 2: Sans Ohio Straight Tie-Win
Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. Ohio is the seminal state for both campaigns and has a better chance of deciding the election than all other battlegrounds combined. Romney's electoral calculus gets much more difficult if he fails to win the Buckeye State but not impossible. This map lays out the sans Ohio scenario of Romney winning by essentially running a straight through all other battlegrounds. Note however, that he can leave New Hampshire to Obama and still achieve a 269-269 electoral college tie settled in the Republican House of Representatives. But in reality, New Hampshire should fall to Romney before Nevada, so that outcome is unlikely. In fact Nate Silver calculates the chance of a tie at 0.3%.
Romney Scenario 3: Wisco Rescue + CO & NH
A win in veep candidate Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin (which hasn't gone Republican since 1984 despite being extremely close in '00 & '04) would help compensate for an Ohio loss and give Romney considerably more breathing room in finding a way to the White House even without the Buckeyes. One such path includes Colorado & New Hampshire.
Romney Scenario 4: Wisco Rescue + CO & IA
Another such path by which Romney could compensate for an Ohio loss with Wisconsin is by adding Colorado and Iowa to the Cheesehead State.
Obama Scenario: WI, OH, NV
The President's path to a second term is considerably simpler in that he need only hold Wisconsin, win the big Ohio prize and take one other non-New Hampshire battleground, most likely Nevada. Winning only NH in addition to WI & OH while ceding all other major battlegrounds to Romney would leave Obama with a 269-269 tie and a loss at the hands of his friends in the GOP House.
Of course there are countless more electoral map permutations, but given the state of the race in the final stretch, these five will get you a long way towards framing and projecting the paths to 270. Either candidate could also cross the bar with one of these minimalist scenarios and keep rolling, racking up more than necessary to assume the presidency, but all we care about is who gets to a majority of the 538 electoral votes and how he does it.
Keeping these five maps in mind, I highly recommend following Nate Silver's indispensable daily analysis and probabilities on FiveThirtyEight, the RealClearPolitics aggregation of state and national polls and the prediction markets. Also, cast your vote on the Pearce Godwin Blog for who you think will come out on top.
Here's to a clean and clear outcome in 9 days time and a rejuvenation of the American spirit and economy over the coming years. As has become a pre-election tradition on this blog, enjoy one of the coolest creative efforts I've ever seen below. Please, get out and vote, however you like.