The Political Forecast & Review
April 13, 2012
By Jim Ellis
Rick Santorum’s abrupt withdrawn from the Republican presidential campaign has completely changed the nation’s political course. What looked to be a long GOP fight that could possibly have ended in a late August open convention is now virtually over, and everyone must quickly transform into general election campaign mode. Therefore, what happens next? How does a general election campaign featuring President Obama and Mitt Romney actually unfold?
Let’s reset the national map. In 2008, Mr. Obama scored a 365-173 Electoral Vote victory over Sen. John McCain. In marching to victory, Obama won 28 states plus the District of Columbia, and the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska. The latter tally is significant because Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that split their Electoral Votes. A candidate wins two EV’s for winning the statewide vote and a single vote for every congressional district won. Since Obama carried NE-2, he added one additional Electoral Vote to his total.
Regaining this district is actually an important 2012 goal for Republicans. Under a minimum victory scenario that lands Romney on exactly the 270 Electoral Vote total required for a candidate to win the Presidency, losing the Omaha-based 2nd District could actually force the new Republican-designee to carry an additional state.
Assuming Romney wins all 22 states that John McCain won in 2008 and NE-2, he actually starts in a better position than the Arizona Senator ended. Because reapportionment transferred twelve Electoral Votes away from the Democratic states and toward ones that typically vote Republican, the starting vote would actually be Obama: 358; Romney: 180. So, with doing nothing more than winning all of the McCain states and reuniting Nebraska, which appears probable, Romney is already 14 net votes ahead of where McCain finished. But, he needs 90 more to win.
According to cumulative national polling, 48 states appear now to be voting the same way that they did in 2008. The two that are, today anyway, venturing from Democrat to Republican are Indiana (11 Electoral Votes) and Iowa (6 Electoral Votes). If you add these two states to the equation, the new vote count tallies Obama: 341; Romney: 197. This brings the GOP challenger to within 73 votes of unseating the President.
Where are those 73 votes? Clearly North Carolina (15 EVs) and Virginia (13 EVs) are two states that Romney must switch, but both are going to be bloody political battlegrounds and the outcome is uncertain in each place. But, if Romney were to win both neighboring states, and its virtually mandatory that he does, he would creep to within 45 votes of victory. This leaves him Florida (29 EVs), Ohio (18 EVs), Pennsylvania (20 EVs), Michigan (16 EVs), Wisconsin (10 EVs), Nevada (6 EVs), New Mexico (5 EVs), and New Hampshire (4 EVs), and maybe Colorado (9 EVs) as legitimate swing states. Obviously, Romney’s simplest path to victory after capturing North Carolina and Virginia (and holding Indiana and Iowa) is to win Florida and either Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan.
We saw some flawed polling this week in a couple of key Senate races. In Maine, the liberal Maine People’s Resource Center conducted a survey of their open Senate campaign now that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) is retiring. Their methodology is questioned in at least two ways. First, they miscast the Maine political party division by an aggregate of 14 points, thus skewing their results. Secondly, they base their general election poll on a Democratic candidate who finished second in the primary field even on their own poll. This clearly underestimates Democratic Party strength in the three-way general election. Their conclusion is that Independent former Gov. Angus King has a 56-22-12% lead over Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers and ex-Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D), respectively. While it is clear that King is the apparent front runner, this poll very likely exaggerates the size of his lead.
In Virginia, Roanoke College also went into the field, interviewing for a too long a period and even screening for Christian voters. This method brings more conservative voters into the sample than reflected in the normal Virginia voting pool and explains former Sen. George Allen’s (R) 44-36% lead over ex-Gov. Tim Kaine (D). All other polls predict the race to be within three points at most, with some showing Allen leading and others posting Kaine to a slight advantage.
Confirming what we have seen for the last few months, Rasmussen Reports did a one-day survey (April 9th) of the Massachusetts Senate race and they, too, project a dead heat between former Obama Administration official Elizabeth Warren (D) and Sen. Scott Brown (R). The Democrat leads 46-45% according to their latest polling results.
Two primary races, to be decided April 24, are heating up in Pennsylvania and both on the Democratic side. Former President Bill Clinton waded into the incumbent-on-incumbent race in the new 12th District race (Johnstown, northern Pittsburgh suburbs) to endorse Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA-12) over Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4). The two were placed in the same district because Pennsylvania lost a seat in reapportionment. This campaign is already getting rough as both Congressmen are exchanging political blows. Polling suggests Altmire has a small lead.
In the eastern part of the state, ten-term Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA-17) is facing a strong challenge from wealthy attorney Matt Cartwright (D) in a district that is very different from the one Holden has represented for the past ten years. In fact, a new Cartwright internal poll suggests that the challenger actually holds a 42-36% lead over the incumbent. Since Holden is now running attack ads against Cartwright, this projection could be correct.
Jim Ellis is a professional election analyst who has worked in national campaign politics and grassroots issue advocacy since 1978. He currently writes and speaks as a member of the PRIsm Information Network.