2012 election battleground map

So, what does the battleground for the coming 2012 presidential election look like?  Well, those national tracking polls you've been hearing about won't tell you.  All they do tell you is what a national sample of registered (or maybe "likely") voters said on any given day.   And of course the samples for those polls (and even the questions) get "gamed" by the media who sponsor them.

But the simple fact is that we don't elect a President "nationally".  In effect, we hold 50 different state-by-state elections, with each state being allotted a set number of "electoral votes" based on state population.  And you can pretty much bet the farm on "how" about thirty-five or forty of the states will vote in November...which leaves you with the "swing states".

The map below reflects the most likely swing states, based on polling over the past year.  They are: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.  Of course that list could (and will) expand or contract over the coming months, but this gives you a pretty good idea of the lay of the land.

With that being the case, the Democrats (i.e. Obama) have 196 votes in the bank, with the Republicans (i.e. Romney) having 181.  And since you have to have 270 in order to win the White House, you can quickly see how important any "swing states" will be.  And each of these states of course have their own polling numbers...and voting histories.

And this year there's a new twist: the states that have traditionally voted Republican are "worth more" in terms of electoral votes in 2012 than they were in 2008, because they picked up a net of about 7 more votes in the reapportionment that resulted from the 2010 Census.  (This follows roughly the same thing happening after the 2000 Census, when those states netted about 5 more votes).

The bottom line to this is that the GOP could win in 2012 with fewer states that George W. Bush won in 2000, (when he received 271 votes...just one more than he needed to win).

What would that map look like?  Take a look:

In short, the GOP just needs to win back Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire, (Indiana did go to Obama in '08 by a whisker, but looks safely in the GOP camp at this point).  And of course it has to hang on to all of the others it won against Obama in 2008.  The result?  Exactly 270 votes. 

Of course there are opportunities in some of those other swing states...and issues will change things between now and Election Day, (Iowa is a very possible opportunity).  But even if you were to write them all off, in reality Romney just needs to win back traditional Republican territory.

Obama on the other hand has to win - again - on Republican turf.  And he has to do it this time with an actual track-record which he lacked in 2008, with everything from Obamacare, a sagging economy and record deficits and government growth hanging around his neck.  Not the kind of issues that lend themselves to winning in traditionally Republican territory.

Oh, one other twist to this map: Nebraska and Maine both award two of their electoral votes by congressional district, which means their votes could be split, (Obama won one of Nebraska's in '08).  If this happens under the scenario above, we could have a 269 to 269 tie: in which case the US House picks the President, casting one vote per state...and currently the GOP controls the majority of US House delegations.

But no matter how you slice it, it's likely to be a close race.  And every vote counts.