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An Electoral College Edge for Obama?

At the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza makes an argument that although 2012 isn’t going to be anything like 2008, President Obama still has an edge over Mitt Romney in the swing states that will decide the election. While the numbers do give Obama a slight advantage, as RealClearPolitics’ Electoral College map indicates, the triumphalism about the president’s re-election we’ve been hearing lately from Democrats is more the product of bombast than insight. Stunts like the Democrats’ attempt to promote myths about the Republican “war on women” aren’t likely to change that map. More to the point is the fact that the states that will determine the winner are likely to be influenced heavily by an economy that few outside the administration and liberal editorial pages believe has been turned around.

There isn’t a lot of doubt about which states are up for grabs this November. Nor is there much uncertainty that the battle for the White House this year will more closely resemble 2000 and 2004 than President Obama’s romp four years ago. The outcome will, as Cillizza rightly understands, depend on whether the voting patterns of the last few elections will be re-written by dissatisfaction over the president’s uninspiring performance in office.

As Cillizza states, there is not much argument there are nine swing states that should be in play this fall: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin–comprising 110 electoral votes. He points out that Democrats would include Arizona, Indiana and Missouri, adding 32 votes to the total of those in doubt even though none of them have a history of abandoning the GOP. Republicans would include Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Mexico, adding 41 to the swing state total, but only New Mexico has gone for the GOP even once in the last generation.

If none of those flip this year, that leaves us with the nine swing states and because as Cillizza points out, Obama carried all nine in 2008, he must be considered to have an advantage.

The only problem with this reasoning is that a poor economy that can no longer be blamed on the Republicans leaves Romney an opening. Each state is a different story. In New Hampshire, Romney may have a regional edge. Virginia may revert to Republican form after deserting the GOP for the first time in decades last time around. Wisconsin may be influenced by the outcome of the Scott Walker recall effort that is itself a referendum on the 2010 Republican midterm victory. The point is there are still too many variables and far too much time until November to list any of these pure swing or semi-swing states in either column.

With the GOP contest now all but concluded, the general election is about to begin. President Obama enjoys the enormous advantage that comes with incumbency as well as Camelot-style press coverage that has largely eschewed the personal attacks that dogged the re-election efforts of all of his recent predecessors. But until we know whether the economic state of the union on September 1 is such to inspire confidence in an Obama rerun, coloring any of the states up for grabs any shade of blue or red is a mistake.


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