With Election Day only 10 days away, the Obama and Romney campaigns are now drawing up their remaining paths to Electoral College victory. As outlined in an earlier article, Romney’s remaining paths are very limited. Romney essentially needs to sweep the swing states of Ohio, Virginia, and Florida and then add at least one more swing state to his win column. As documented below using polls released from the last 72 hours, Obama’s path is much simpler and has more room for failure. Given his larger safe state base of electoral votes, Obama can get to 270 electoral votes though many different avenues as explained below.
Step 1: Win the safe states (247 Electoral Votes)
Like Romney, Obama must begin by winning the states that he safely won in 2012 by 10 points or more. These states include:
California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois(20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (20), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (12), Washington D.C. (3), Wisconsin (10).
President Obama holds a strong lead in the polls for all but two of those states – Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Even in those states appear very likely holds for Obama. The President leads by 2.3 points in the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls in Wisconsin, and Nate Silver of The New York Times gives Obama an 86.8 percent chance of winning the state. In Pennsylvania Obama has a 4.7 point lead in the RCP average, and Nate Silver gives him a 94.8 percent chance of winning the state.
Step 2A: Win Ohio plus one other state (24 Electoral Votes)
If Obama wins his safe states, as the polls show he likely will, he only needs 23 more Electoral College votes to get the 270 he needs for re-election. The easiest path for Obama would involve winning Ohio (18) and one other state from the list of Iowa (6), Colorado (9), Nevada (6), Virginia (13), New Hampshire (4) or Florida (29).
Obama currently leads in Ohio by 2.1 points in the RCP average. Nate Silver gives Obama a 74.9 percent chance of winning the state. Obama also is leading by 2.4 points in the RCP average from Nevada, 2.0 points in New Hampshire, and 2.3 points in Iowa. This simple formula of “Ohio plus one” for Obama explains why both campaigns are spending so much time and money in the Buckeye State.
Step 2B: Win Florida
If he fails to win Ohio or any of the states above Obama could also get to 270 just by winning Florida’s 29 electoral votes, which would put him a 276 electoral votes along with his safe states. Unfortunately, option B for Obama does not look likely as Romney currently leads by 1.5 points in the RCP average of polls from the state, and Nate Silver gives Romney a 62.5 percent chance of winning there.
Step 2C: Win Virginia plus two other states
If Obama fails to win Ohio and Florida he could still get to 270 by winning Virginia (13) plus two states from the list of Iowa (6), New Hampshire (4), Colorado (9), and Nevada (6).
Obama is currently tied with Obama in the RCP average of polls from Virginia. Obama trails Romney by small margin in the RCP average from Colorado, but as documented above Obama leads in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
Step 2D: Sweep the small swing states
Finally, in the nightmare scenario in which Obama loses Ohio, Virginia, and Florida there is still a scenario in which he could win re-election. If Obama won all his safe states plus Iowa (6), New Hampshire (4), Colorado (9), and Nevada (6) he would have 272 electoral votes, two more than is needed for re-election. As documented above, Obama currently leads in all of these states except Colorado, and only trails in Colorado by a small margin.