What it will take to win in 2012 - How the Math makes the Presidential Election a Tough Race for the GOP to win

In 2008, Obama raised $745 million dollars, and will likely have over $1 billion to campaign with.  This money means he will have the money to run an effective campaign whereever he wants.  Additionally, Democrats believe that the Obama campaign will help turnout African-American voters.  So, they will campaign for Obama even in some states where they have no chance to win, to help win congressional and/or senate races there; as well as to help with local elections. 

Based on 2008, 2010, and other data, some states are very likely to go GOP no matter what, and are effectively off the board for Obama to win.  They are: Wyoming, Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Nebraska (except for 1 electorial vote), Kansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Texas, South Carolina, North Dekota, South Dakota, and Georgia.  That is 155 Electorial Votes. 

Based on the same data, the Obama is very likely to win: New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Conecticut, California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Islan, Vermont, Hawaii, and DC.  That is 186 electorial votes.

Some other states are strongly leaning towards Obama:

  • Obama won Michigan by over 16% in 2008, and is likely to win it again
  • Obama won New Mexico by over 15%, and will likely win again
  • Obama won Wisconsin by almost 14%, and based on the 2010 elections, looks well poised to win there again (2010 elections were close, and subsequent recalls suggest GOP momentum exists, but is not sufficient to cause a 14% shift.
  • Obama won Nevada by 12.5%, and 2010 results where the less-popular Reid won in Nevada in 2010 suggests a likely Obama win there as well.

Although those are not a sure thing, they are very likely and bring Obama’s base electorial votes to: 223.

Obama won the election by about 7.3%, those 223 electorial votes all would remain Obama wins even if his total share of the vote was reduced in each state by 12.3%.  If the GOP wins any of those states, it will likely be the case that the GOP wins in a landslide (at which case, state by states will not matter).

The remaining states up-for-graps can be grouped as leaning GOP, leaning Obama, and battle ground.


Those leaning for the GOP are:

  • Arizona (won by McCain by over 8%)
  • Montana (won by McCain by over 2%)
  • Missouri (won by McCain by 0.13%)
  • North Carolina (won by Obama by 0.33%)
  • Indiana (won by Obama by over 1%)
  • 2nd district of Nebraska (won by Obama by over 1%)
  • Florida (won by Obama by just under 3%)

Those states bring the GOP total to 235.  All these states will be compeditive states where Obama will run a strong campaign.  A strong GOP contender will have to fight to win each of those states.  That said, it is hard to see the GOP losing any of these states and winning the election.  These are all states where based on 2000, 2004, and 2010 data, the GOP has the natural advantage.  The challenge is that Obama will likely spend significant money on these states.

Obama leaning states are:

  • Pennsylvania (Obama won by over 10%, Kerry and Gore won)
  • Minnesota (Obama won by over 10%, typically blue state)
  • New Hampshire (Obama won by almost 10%, Kerry won). 

These three states will, of course, be states the GOP needs to fight for, and may pick off in a surprise win.  These will be states where Obama will visit, spend money, and fight to sure-up.  They bring the likely Obama vote to 257.

The 4 key Battle Groud States are easily divided into the two the the GOP has the best chance to win and the two  that Obama has the best chance to win.

GOP leaning Battle Ground States

1. Ohio – Obama won Ohio with about 4.5% of the vote.  Ohio went for Bush in 2004 and 2008, and generally leans slightly towards the GOP.  To win Ohio, the GOP needs to be able to win moderate voters, union voters, and blue-collar workers.  Anti-unionism may appeal to the base, but the base is already motivated to support against Obama.  The GOP needs to win the votes of small-government, pro-life, pro-family union workers.  Anti-union stands –especially given that union laws are primarily state laws — are not good politics.

2.  Virginia.  Obama won Virginia by 6.3%.  He won based on a huge surge in African-American Voting, and based on winning government workers inside the beltway.  In 2010, the GOP swept state government elections where there was less African-American turnout, and where Northern Virginia government workers voted for the GOP.  Typically speaking, African-American turnout is lower than was in 2008, and lower than is expected in 2012.  Obama will get a significant boost from African-Americans.  Typically speaking, federal government workers in DC live in Maryland if they are more liberal, and Virginia if they are more conservative/moderate.  In most all elections, these government workers in VA vote GOP (as they are typically civilian defense workers and other security workers).  They voted GOP when Gilmore, Allen, Bush, Bush, Reagan, Ford, etc. ran. 

The math is such that, for any Republican to win a federal-state-wide race in Virginia, he needs to win the following groups (1) social and religious conservatives who are in the rural parts of Virginia, (2) fiscal conservatives who live in the suburbs and are often social moderates, (3) the civilian military federal government workforce which exists in large numbers in Northern Virginia and Norfolk (which includes DOD and other security-related federal agencies), and (4) the libertarian anti-tax, anti-government sliver of Virginia that will likely vote Ron Paul in the primary. 

Democratic wins typically are based on winning inner-city Richmond, Inner-city Norfolk, and winning in large number of minorities in Northern Virginia; while at-the-same time, winning over federal workers in Northern Virginia.

Minorities are not swing voters, but their turnout matters.  It will be high.  The reminaing swing voters are moderates (the soccer moms), and government workers (the typical being a defense/security federal civil servant who supports small government, defense, low taxes, but who does not like pay freezes and does not like being called bad names.

If the GOP wins Ohio and Virginia, the electorial total reaches 266, 4 votes shy of what is needed.

Obama Leaning Battle Ground States

1. Colorado – Obama won with by about 9% in 2008.  About 21% of Colorado is Hispanic.  The Hispanic vote is critical to the GOP winning Colorado, and Colorado is the easist pick-up for the GOP to win of Obama-leaning states.  The Colorado house is controlled by the GOP, their senate by the Dems.  They have a dem as governor.  Colorado supported Bush in 2000, and 2004, and Dole in 1996.  25% of folks in Colorado have no religion, as compared to a 17% national average.  Only 4% of Colorado is black.  Polls show Obama now polling 40 – 50% there.  What does all this mean?  It means Colorado will be up for graps, and Obama’s campaign plan will likely be to attack the GOP candidate as being anti-Hispanic and part of the religious right.

2.  Iowa – Obama won Iowa by 9.5% of the vote.  Although Iowa leans blue, Bush won in 2004.  Iowa is genearlly reflective of the mood of the country and is a swing state.  If the GOP can win the general election by 3 points, they will like Iowa.  If not, Obama likely will. 


Although a lot of things matter in the election, the actual electorial math suggest that only a few states will likely determine the winner.  If the GOP  candidate can win Ohio, Virginia, and Colarado, he will likely win the election.  The key to Ohio is increasing and gaining appeal to working class union workers.  The key to Virginia is to appeal to conservative-leaning government workers,.  The key to Colarado is to appeal to Hispanics.  In all cases, the GOP need to keep its base supporters — which is mind-numbingly easily.  As long as Obama is the nominee, any GOP candidate will win the GOP base, and the base will turn out.  The GOP also needs to continue to reach out to social and fiscal moderates.  Critically importaint, the GOP needs to reach out to Ron Paul supporters, as (assuming Paul does not win), these voters will be critical undecideds.  The GOP must not become the party of war, and needs to appeal to Paul supports. 

Simply put: to win the election, the GOP nominee needs to use a broad tent approach, and make sure to gain the support of more than just the party base.  We need a nominee who will court, appeal to, and be supportive of groups who backed Bush, Dole, Bush, and Reagan, but who do not agree with the GOP base on every issue.  Simply put, the only way to win is with a coalition of supporters that runs on a platform that is not: (1) unions are bad, (2) government workers are bad, (3) hispanics are bad; but rather one that promotes small government, conservatives values, and that attempts to improve the lives of people in unions and out of unions.  People in the public and the private sector.  People of every race and ethnicity, and that runs on a broad tent as Bush and Reagan did.