Republicans on Tuesday released an arguably rosy calculus of just how their eventual nominee might beat President Obama in 2012.
The Republican National Committee said its road to 270 (the number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency) counts on Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia -- three traditionally Republican states won by Obama in 2008 -- to flip back to the GOP. Victories there, combined with wins in two other swing states, would bring the GOP nominee close to the White House, the RNC asserted.
"If Obama loses these states and remains unable to widen the map, the GOP nominee will be only 51 electoral Votes away from the White House," wrote Rick Wiley, the RNC's political director, in a memo released this morning.
What's more, Wiley broadcast just where Republicans might focus to pick up most of those additional electoral votes: Ohio and Florida.
"Forty-seven of the remaining Electoral Votes necessary for the GOP nominee could come from the perennial bellwethers of Ohio and Florida alone," he said. "If these states were to fall, then there are numerous possibilities for the remaining four Electoral Votes needed by the GOP nominee to win."
But victories in those states aren't a sure thing. Obama leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- the three GOP candidates leading the presidential primary field -- in current polling.
Obama would beat Romney, for instance, 45-41 percent in Ohio, according to an Oct. 26 Quinnipiac University poll. Obama beats Cain and Perry by wider margins, according to the same poll. Obama also leads those candidates in Florida. He has an edge on Romney, 45-43 percent, in the latest NBC News/Marist poll, and would beat Perry, 47-39 percent, and Cain, 47-41 percent.
However, Obama’s percentages in all the states are in the mid- to high-40s; incumbents are on safer ground when they’re closer to 50 percent.
And victories in North Carolina and Virginia aren't sure things, either. Romney leads Obama in Virginia, according to a mid-Oct. Quinnipiac poll, but only by one point. Obama leads other would-be Republican challengers, like Perry and Cain.
And Obama's shown little interest in ceding those states, anyway; the second leg of his recent bus tour this month took him through both North Carolina and Virginia, and the 2012 Democratic National Convention's backdrop in Charlotte is a move intended to keep those states in the Democratic column.
But even if Obama loses Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia, he could still get more than 270 electoral votes by winning three other states he carried in 2008 – Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.
Wiley sought to address those in his memo:
States like Nevada - where unemployment and foreclosure rates have skyrocketed - or Iowa, Colorado, or New Mexico – where George W. Bush was victorious in 2004 – could each push a Republican nominee across the finish line. Furthermore, if otherwise-reliable blue prizes like Michigan or Pennsylvania, where polling shows even lower job approval numbers than Florida and Ohio, were to switch to the GOP column, then the number of bank-shots Obama will need through the Electoral College will be nearly impossible to make. Other, smaller ‘blue’ states like Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Washington aren’t exactly “gimmes” either.
You can check the electoral math with the National Archives' 2012 Electoral College Calculator.