Presidential Election Math

In the waning days of the Presidential campaign, campaign events and coverage begin to obsess over electoral math. The variables this year? The big three: Ohio, Florida and Virginia dominate coverage, but Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin are all in question. With Obama holding onto a slight lead in all those states except Florida, forecasters are throwing out numbers as high as 80% (as of this evening) for the President’s re-election.

From the remaining battleground states, Obama will need 33 electoral votes, while Romney needs 64. Fortunately for Romney, he holds a 1% lead in Florida according to the most recent CNN poll. If he loses Florida, he would need to sweep every other contested state. This won’t happen.

Should Obama win Ohio’s 18 votes, which seems likely with his comfortable 3-4 point lead, Romney will need to not only sweep the large states (fairly likely) in order to prevent Obama from capturing the last 15, but also pick up a few nearly-even states such as Colorado and Nevada and upset Obama in Wisconsin and Iowa, where the WSJ’s polls published today suggest he trails the President by 3 and 6 points, respectively. If Romney manages to win Ohio in addition to Virginia and Florida, however, he’s only 2 points shy of the necessary 270 electoral votes. Any remaining state would be enough to win him the election, including New Hampshire, where the WSJ reports that Romney has cut Obama’s lead to less than 2 percentage points. Fivethirtyeight, a New York Times blog, has Romney trailing in all those states however, saying his best odds in any of those states are a mere 36% for Colorado.

The Wall Street Journal published surveys today highlighting the electorate’s rigidity. In Iowa they found only 4% of voters remain undecided. Fivethirtyeight predicts a 3 point advantage to Obama and the WSJ found a 6 point lead, putting Iowa’s 6 electoral votes all but out of Romney’s reach. Perhaps most important is the WSJ’s finding that out of almost 1,200 decided voters (WSJ did not publish the exact figure), only 4, or.34%, say they might change their mind. If this is true for other states, Romney needs more than a “calm, cautious” end to his campaign.

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