With Election Day just 14 days away both the Romney and Obama campaigns are finalizing their Electoral College strategy. There are 538 electoral votes distributed amongst the states. A candidate needs to 270 to win the majority needed to win. If Mitt Romney is able to defeat President Obama, he will probably have to walk along the following very narrow Electoral College path.
#1 – Win all the states John McCain won in 2008 (180 electoral votes)
Romney’s first step is securing all the states that John McCain won in 2008 which are:
Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arizona (11), Arkansas (6),Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (8), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Dakota, (3),Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (28), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), and Wyoming (3)
Those states combined will give Romney 180 electoral votes, and as seen below Romney has no room for error. The Obama campaign had some hopes of taking Arizona from Republicans in 2012, but Romney holds a 5.3 point lead in the Real Clear Politics Average of polls from that state. The good news for the Romney campaign is that, barring a dramatic change of events, Romney seems destined to easily hold on to all the states McCain won in 2008.
#2: Add North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, and Florida (68 electoral votes)
The next step for Romney involves winning four states Obama won in 2008. If Obama wins all of these states he will be up to 248 electoral votes. If Romney loses any of these states it is impossible for him to get to 270 when accounting for all the states Obama is currently winning by safe margins.
The good news for Romney is that the polls favor him in these states as well. Indiana is traditionally a red state, and the polls show Romney winning there by double digits this year. In North Carolina Romney is winning by six points in the most recent poll from Rasmussen Reports, and 5.6 points in the Real Clear Politics average.
Virginia and Florida are much closer, but Romney still holds the advantage. Rasmussen Reports has Romney with a three point lead in the most recent poll from Virginia, and the RCP average has the race tied there. In Florida Romney is winning by five points in the most recent poll from Rasmussen Reports, and by 2.1 points in the RCP average.
#3: Add Ohio plus one (24 electoral votes)
The last step for Romney is the hardest. Romney must win Ohio and one other state from the list of New Hampshire (4), Colorado (9), Nevada (6), or Iowa (6). Given the current state of the polls, Romney has a better chance to win the states listed above instead of winning states like Wisconsin (10), Michigan (16), Pennsylvania (20). If Romney is able to win Ohio plus just one other state it will put him over the 270 mark for an Electoral College majority.
The bad news for Romney is that Obama leads by one point in Ohio in the most recent survey from Public Policy Polling. Obama also leads by 2.1 points in the RCP average. Ohio has also already began there early voting process, so if Obama is ahead as the polls suggest those votes are already being cast.
Even assuming Romney is able to gain on Obama and win Ohio, he then will have to win one of the other states listed. Romney currently has a 0.2 point in the RCP average from Colorado, and a 1.0 point lead in the RCP average of polls from New Hampshire. Obama holds a 2.4 point lead in the RCP average from Iowa, and 3.0 point edge in Nevada.
So in summary, Ohio is the keystone piece for both campaigns. At this point Romney still does not have the votes he needs to win the presidency, but he has completed two of three steps on his journey, and is very close to completing step number three.