Here's the obvious: if Barack Obama wins every state in 2012 where he won in 2008, he will have 358 electoral votes and he will be reelected. If Obama 2012 loses states Obama 2008 won with as many as 88 electoral votes -- he still gets reelected. The GOP in 2012 must recapture states that voted for Obama 2008 with at least 90 electoral votes to put a Republican in the White House on January 20, 2013.
Neither a majority of the vote nor a majority of the states guarantees a winner in presidential politics. Under the remarkably skewed system we use to elect our presidents a candidate can win the necessary 270 electoral votes by carrying only the 11 largest states. Those 11 states are (with their electoral votes in parentheses): California (55), Texas (38), New York (29), Florida (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Georgia (16), North Carolina (15), New Jersey (14).
Notice the most remarkable thing you see here? Barack Obama carried nine of these 11 states in 2008. He won 216 electoral votes in only nine states. In six of those states he won by wide margins ranging from 26% (NY) to 10% (PA). That gave Obama 154 electoral votes by an average state victory margin of 19%. Its more likely Obama will be hit by lightening than that he will lose any of these six states and their 154 electoral votes in 2012.
Additionally, Obama won eight smaller states by more than 22%, with an average margin of victory of 29%. These states, with 42 more electoral votes, are: Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut. Add to this three more electoral votes from Washington DC, which Obama carried by 86%. This gives Obama 199 electoral votes from 17 states where he won in 2008 by an average margin of 24%.
Then you must add eight more states, all carried by Obama in 2008 by greater than 10%. These states, with 59 more electoral votes, are: Maine (17%), Washington (17%), Oregon (17%), Wisconsin (14%), Nevada (13%), New Hampshire (10%), Minnesota (10%), Iowa (10%). This gives Obama 2012 a total of 258 electoral votes from 25 states where he had an average victory margin in 2008 of 20%. Thus, the goal of the Obama 2012 reelection campaign really boils down to winning only 12 more electoral votes. That's all he needs to win reelection. They get one of those in Nebraska where they allocate electoral votes by district, not state wide. All they need now is 11 more.
And there are still six more states that Obama carried in 2008 that have yet to be counted in this tally. Winning again in any single one of the following will mean reelection for Obama: Florida (29 electoral votes), Ohio (18 electoral votes), North Carolina (15 electoral votes), Virginia (13 electoral votes); or Indiana (11 electoral votes). Also, winning again in Colorado (9 electoral votes) and adjacent New Mexico (five electoral votes) will reelect President Obama even if he fails to win any of the states of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia or Indiana.
Swing states are not determined by TV pundits, columnists, analysts or by someone's hopes, wishes, dreams or expectations. States carried by double digits switch parties in the span of a single presidential election only very rarely. States that have, and may again switch parties in a single election, those states rightly considered "in play" are really only states previously carried by 9% or less. And less is the key. The lesser, the better. The closer the last election was, the greater the possibility of switching the Electoral College votes from one party to the other in the very next election.
For the Democrats, here are the legitimate historical and statistical swing states where they must defend, with Obama's 2008 margin in parentheses: Colorado (9%), Virginia (6%), New Mexico (6%), Ohio (4%), Florida (2%), North Carolina (1%). All together, these states have 100 electoral votes.
Republicans also have their swing states, those states McCain carried by 9% or less. Statistics have no ideology or political preference. These GOP swing states are historically and statistically just as vulnerable as Democratic swing states. They are, with McCain's 2008 margin in parentheses: South Dakota (9%), North Dakota (9%), South Carolina (9%), Arizona (7%), Georgia (5%), Montana (2%), Missouri (1/10th of 1%). Missouri was the closest state in all the 2008 election, practically dead even in the vote count. All together, these states have 55 electoral votes.
If the Republican Party candidate is to win the 2012 presidential election he must garner 270 votes in the Electoral College. That means he will have to take states away that President Obama won in 2008. We know Obama can already afford to lose 88 electoral votes and still win reelection. Do the math.
Here are all the states Obama won in 2008, with his margin of victory and the current 2012 Electoral College votes. See if you can find a way for a Republican to pick up the 90 Electoral College votes he needs. Which states can he take away from Obama?
WEST (Margin, Electoral College Votes)
Hawaii (+45%, 4)
California (+23, 55)
Washington (+17, 12)
Oregon (+17, 7)
Nevada (+13, 6)
Colorado (+ 9, 9)
New Mexico (+ 6, 5)
TOTAL 2012 ELECTORAL VOTES = 98
Illinois (+25%, 20)
Michigan (+17, 16)
Wisconsin (+14, 10)
Minnesota (+10, 10)
Iowa (+10, 6)
Ohio (+ 4, 18)
Indiana (+ 1, 11)
TOTAL 2012 ELECTORAL VOTES = 91
Vermont (+37%, 3)
Rhode Island (+28, 4)
New York (+26, 29
Mass. (+26, 11)
Maryland (+26, 10)
Delaware (+24, 3)
Conn. (+22, 7)
Maine (+17, 4)
New Jersey (+14, 14)
Pennsylvania (+10, 20)
New Hampshire (+10, 4)
TOTAL 2012 ELECTORAL VOTES = 109
Washington DC (+86%, 3)
Virginia (+ 6, 13)
Florida (+ 2, 29)
North Carolina (+ 1, 15)
TOTAL 2012 ELECTORAL VOTES = 60
All figures are taken from the New York Times 2008 elections results by state