Barack Obama and Mitt Romney may be ardently courting America’s biggest battleground state, but their real passion is for Ohio. Because as un-American as it sounds, all votes are not created equal in a presidential election.
Don’t be offended.
With barely two weeks before Nov. 6, it’s all about the electoral math. And as uncertain and unpredictable as the campaign looks heading into the final stretch, Ohio remains President Obama’s best opportunity to block a Romney win — and Romney’s biggest hurdle.
That’s why in the past week, four of the top 10 TV markets for campaign ads were in Ohio, and only one was in Florida (Orlando), according to NBC. That’s why, since September, Romney and Paul Ryan have done 34 Ohio campaign events and 20 Florida events, while Obama and Joe Biden have done 11 campaign events in Florida and 18 in Ohio.
“If you take Ohio off the board for the Romney campaign they basically have to win seven of the remaining eight battleground states,” said Robert Gibbs, a senior Obama campaign advisor.
A president is not elected by the popular vote, but by the electoral votes of each state, and most states are so solidly Democratic or Republican that modern presidential campaigns are waged in eight to 12 states that can swing to one side or another. A resident of deep-red Utah, say, or deep-blue New York, won’t see any campaign activity except for fundraising because the candidates need not worry about carrying them.
It takes 270 electoral votes to win. Based on polling and political trends Obama has 191 electoral votes solidly in his corner and Romney 169. Throw in the states that are leaning toward Obama or Romney, and it brings Obama to 237 electoral votes and Romney to 206.
Still up for grabs are eight states with a combined 95 electoral votes: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire and Florida.
With the right combination, either candidate can win.
For all the ups and downs of the 2012 campaign, the map has remained remarkably static through much of the past year. North Carolina, which Obama barely won in 2008, now appears to be leaning Romney, but overall the map still offers Obama more plausible paths to victory.
The president’s campaign long ago spelled out four basic routes to a second term, and there also are multiple combinations of those paths. Assume he wins the same states John Kerry won in 2004, a total of 246 electoral votes.
• The Western path gives Obama New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Iowa, and brings him to 272 electoral votes.
• The Southern path, looking less likely based on recent North Carolina polling, gets him to 274 with wins in Virginia and North Carolina.
• The Midwest path involves winning Ohio and Iowa, giving Obama 270 votes.
• The simplest of all paths is through Florida. Win the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes, Obama is re-elected with 275 electoral votes.
Romney has more challenging paths to victory, but they became considerably more plausible after Obama’s weak first debate performance shifted polling. Consider:
• If the Massachusetts governor pulls in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, he wins with 271 electoral votes — without Ohio.