Gov. Scott Walker has survived the recall attempt in Wisconsin, although it appears the Democrats may have won a symbolic victory in the state's Senate. That is not cheering news for the Obama campaign, and neither are the depressing economic numbers, the chaos in Europe, or the amazingly tone-deaf Obama campaign ad that came out last week. I mean, you know you have screwed up pretty badly when you produce a campaign ad that is so bad that the opposition runs the thing in its entirety as an ad for their candidate.
But still, it is awfully difficult to see how Obama loses this thing.
Here are my assumptions (inspired by John Hart):
If a state went for both Kerry and Obama, it's a lock for Obama.
If a state went for both Bush and McCain, it's a lock for Romney
That leaves nine states that Obama won that Kerry did not. They account for 112 electoral college votes:
New Mexico (5)
North Carolina (15)
Obama won 365 - 173, a margin of 192. It is generally assumed that he has lost six electoral votes to redistricting (although this gets complicated, particularly if we shift a 2008 Obama state to a 2012 Romney state and that state has gained seats). But using that six-vote-loss figure, that makes it 359-179. Take away the 112 votes at stake in these swing states and we are starting out at 247-179.
I will assume that Romney wins North Carolina, Indiana, and Iowa (33 votes): 247-212.
That leaves 79 votes in play in six states: Florida (27), New Mexico (5), Nevada (5), Ohio (20), Virginia (13), and Colorado (9). Of these 79 electoral votes Obama needs 23 to win; Romney needs 58.
Time to start playing with scenarios.
If Obama wins Ohio and Virginia then Romney loses even if he wins everything else -- including Florida -- by 280-258. So Romney needs Florida plus one of Ohio/Virginia.
If Obama wins Florida, then Romney can't win, period -- there are only 52 votes left in play after Florida is taken out of the equation. Even if Romney wins everything else on the board, Obama wins with 274-266.
And even if Romney wins Florida and, say, Virginia, he still needs 18 more votes -- say, Colorado plus New Mexico and Nevada -- to pull it off. If Obama wins only Ohio and New Mexico he still wins 272-268.
All the races above are within five points at the moment, and heaven knows the Obama campaign has not looked particularly ept this week. And yes, the economic news has been bad and Europe shows alarming signs of hurtling off the edge. But that does nothing to alter the fact that this is very much Obama's race to lose.