The 12/35/50 Solution

In previous articles here at Redstate and elsewhere, I have argued that winning the Hispanic or black vote outright is not necessary to win the Presidency.  Instead, the preferred strategy should be to weaken the Democratic hold on black, Hispanic and female voters.  Furthermore, because a President is decided through the electoral vote count, the GOP need not even target the overall black or Hispanic votes, but only those in particular states.  This targeted strategy is more cost-effective and narrows the number of states needed.

At the outset, the Democratic Party starts with a built-in advantage with respect to electoral votes- 247-206- with the remainder being up for grabs.  Obviously, the Democrats have less work to do to reach the magic 270.  That leaves the following states as swing ones: Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa and New Hampshire.  While some have argued that Democratic entrenchment in large states like New York and California can be overcome by GOP gains in the Upper Midwest in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, or possibly Pennsylvania, one has to look at the electoral history here.  George H.W. Bush won Pennsylvania and Michigan in 1988 and the victory in Pennsylvania was thread bare.  Reagan was the last President to sweep all these states, except Minnesota.  Thus although they are often spoken of in terms of targets, unless the conditions are particularly ripe, Republicans cannot count on these states.

Looking at the swing states noted above and the key demographics- female vote, Hispanic vote and black vote- improvements in 2016 in these states with these demographic groups could make the race very interesting.

In Nevada, Romney lost by 67,800 votes in 2012.  Reaching the targeted goals of 12% of the black vote, 35% of the Hispanic vote and 50% of the female vote Romney would have won that state by 4,000 votes.  Iowa presents a totally different dynamic since the number of black and Hispanic voters in that state are negligible.  In 2012, however, Romney garnered only 40% of the female vote.  If he had hit 50% of the female vote, he still would have lost but by 8,000 votes rather than 91,000 votes.

Moving onto Colorado, Romney lost by 137,000 votes.  Reaching the targets still would have resulted in a loss by over 60,000 votes.  Much is made of Ohio and their history of sending people to the White House.  In 2012, Romney lost by 166,300 votes- a close race in a high population state rich in electoral votes.  This would seem to be the best target going forward for the Republicans.  Romney garnered 30% of the Hispanic vote in the state and 44% of the female vote.  Hence, there is little work to be done in both those areas.  If he had reached the targets, he would have won Ohio by 79,000 votes.

New Hampshire is like Iowa in that the Hispanic and black vote make little difference since there are so few voters in those demographics.  However, a slight improvement in the female vote would have resulted in a GOP loss, although by only 10,000 votes rather than 39,600- again a closer race.  In Virginia, Obama won by 149,200 votes in 2012.  Reaching the targets would have resulted in a 10,000 vote loss.  Here, Romney fell slightly short of the target with respect to Hispanics and garnered 33% of their vote in Virginia.

Finally, there is Florida.  Here, Romney lost by 74,300 votes.  He exceeded the target by getting 39% of the Hispanic vote.  Part of this is attributable to the sub-demographic in this state, namely the presence of a large number of Cuban-Americans who tend to vote Republican.  Thus, the goal in Florida is not to necessarily go after the Hispanic vote (the GOP is exceeding the target already), but after the female and black vote.  If he reached the targets in these areas, Romney would have won Florida by  187,000 votes.

Taking into account that any margin of victory under 20,000 could be perceived as attainable for the GOP using 2012 numbers, how would this affect the electoral map?  Romney would have taken Ohio, Nevada and Florida outright and come within 20,000 votes in Iowa and Pennsylvania.  Making those “within 20,000 votes” states Republican since it easier to make up 1,600 to 17,000 votes than 170,000 votes would have given Romney 318 electoral votes and the presidency.

But, if we just assume that Obama would have prevailed in those close states regardless, the final electoral vote count would have been 279-259 in favor of Romney (I am giving Obama Pennsylvania, Iowa and Virginia here).

What does this say for 2016?  First, the key states like Ohio and Florida are clearly attainable for the Republican Party.  They alone represent 47 electoral votes right there.  Most importantly, not much work has to be done with the key demographics in order to achieve those goals.  That would totally negate the built-in advantage the Democratic Party holds in the electoral vote count.  Equally important is the fact that they both have Republican Governors facing reelection this year so making sure they win is step one.  Step two is to align reforms that succeed in areas of concern in those states with national GOP policies that are visible to the average Ohioan or Floridian.  For example, in Ohio job creation- especially in black areas,- and education reform in Florida- especially as it impacts minority populations- are two strategies.  Should Kasich prevail, job creation should be his top priority and then formulate policies that target equal pay for women and decreasing unemployment for blacks.  Should Scott win in Florida, school choice that has a demonstrable positive effect on Hispanics and blacks would be a winning formula going forward.

However, that would still leave both parties short.  The keys then fall on four states: New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, and Iowa- four geographically and demographically disparate states.  In both New Hampshire and Iowa, the population is primarily white.  However, Romney lost both states in 2012 while winning  59% of the white vote nationally.  In both Iowa and New Hampshire, he got only 52% of the white vote.  Obviously, the key in these states is the female vote.  Appealing to nuts and bolts economic issues, especially those faced by women, should bolster the vote.  The fact is that mothers and women in general worry most about education, health care, the cost of food, the cost of gasoline to get from point A to point B, etc.  Minimizing the social issues like abortion, contraception and gay marriage- that is, benign ignorance of the issues- and sticking to the core economic issues should make up some ground.  Romney got 42% of the female vote in New Hampshire and 40% in Iowa.

As for Virginia, it is my considered opinion that this is a bogus blue/purple state.  Outside the major metropolitan areas, especially DC, the electorate is conservative and more apt to vote Republican.  Therefore, a concentrated, aggressive, grassroots “get-out-and-vote” campaign in these conservative areas can overcome the advantages the Democrats enjoy elsewhere in Virginia.

Finally, there is Colorado.  Colorado is like Virginia in some respects in that once outside the metropolitan areas (or college towns), the electorate is conservative and more apt to vote Republican.  Again, a grassroots effort to mobilize the conservative vote is necessary.  Unlike Virginia, however, there is an added advantage to achieve an increased Republican/conservative turnout- the referendum process.  Getting one or two questions on the ballot could spur conservative turnout.  These could be issues like gun control, abortion or even a new tax policy.

No matter how one looks at it, the election in 2016 comes down again to a handful of states.  Two of them require little work.  One is traditionally red, but twice voted for Obama (Virginia).  In another the GOP has a built-in advantage with Hispanics (Florida).  The least likely to flip- Colorado- would still spell a Republican victory by 26 electoral votes (282-256).  But, the work must start now.

{Note: Figures were derived from official vote counts in 2012 election and exit polling data}

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