There's been a lot of talk about what the swing states are for 2012, and theoretically there's a lot we could play with here. But, while there are many possible ways the upcoming presidential election could play out, the truth is, I believe, that there are far fewer scenarios that are probable.
Let's do some math. In 2008 Obama won by a margin of 192 electoral votes (Obama 365, McCain 173). By the 2012 electoral math, changed by the 2010 census, those same states represent a 12-point drop for Obama (Obama 359 vs. McCain 179). But, it's doubtful this will happen again in 2012. Here's why:
Three years ago the energy of Obama's movement along with a collapsing economy helped him steal Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana and Colorado out of the Republican column. Regardless of who is chosen as the Republican nominee that's not likely to happen again. In 2008 Obama was the exception here; since 1980 these states have gone exclusively Republican -- with the exception of Colorado in 1992. These states, along with Nebraska's one blue electoral vote going back to red add up to 49 electoral votes.
That changes the landscape to Obama 310, GOP candidate 228. Still a comfortable margin.
Now the election for POTUS comes down to New Hampshire, Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada and, of course, the all important Florida. Hispanics are prominent in three of these five states, and frankly if Romney, Huntsman, Gingrich or the ghost of Barry Goldwater can appeal to the Hispanic demographic with a vice presidential candidate, the GOP is in prime position to occupy 1600 Penn Ave.
Enter Marco Rubio. He's Hispanic, he's from Florida, and well, he's warm blooded. And yes, he has said in no uncertain terms that he is definitely not interested. But, under the above circumstances, the Republican nominee is likely to offer him everything but the Oval Office keys. He might even get the resolute desk as a souvenir. Rubio enters with no baggage, is basically deployed solely to New Mexico, Nevada, and visits every beach in the Sunshine State.
Under this scenario, if the Republican ticket can win Florida, Nevada and New Mexico, then Ohio can go as blue as the deepest parts of the ocean and the GOP could still win the White House. With those 40 Electoral College votes it's almost in the bag.
The landscape is now Obama 266, GOP candidate 268. We know it takes 270 to win, so what are we forgetting? New Hampshire.
If things play out this way then it all comes down to the Granite State. That leaves the head of the GOP, at this moment Romney, battling it out for 4 measly Electoral College votes in New Hampshire. Make no mistake, he can't win without Florida, and if he wins Ohio too then there's really not a conversation -- it's more of an exclamation point.
With a Romney/ Rubio ticket, the former head of Bain Capital and Salt Lake Olympics, and former Governor of Massachusetts will be going door-to-door in Manchester and Londonderry. He will depend on his VP more than many candidates have in the past while he is trusted to win one of the smallest states in the union. Now that would be an embarrassing way to lose the White House.
Bottom line, if the Republicans secure Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and yes, New Hampshire's votes, then it doesn't matter if Obama wins Ohio. There I said it, New Hampshire matters and Ohio doesn't, kind of.
I know, I know Marco Rubio isn't interested. But who wouldn't want to be that important?
Stay tuned next week for part two, the Democratic roadmap...
(A special thanks to 270towin.com)