09/08/2011 06:44 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2011

Late Returns: Seven Swing States Shall Settle Stakes, Maybe

Are you wondering where campaign reporters will be camped out for the next fifteen months? Or what states' airwaves will be buffeted by wave after wave of attack ads? Or whose phones shall ring forever with the din of robo-calls? I want to believe it's too early to be definitive, but Larry Sabato has taken an early squint into his old crystal ball and has foreseen that seven states in particular shall loom large as battlegrounds:

Republicans are a lock or lead in 24 states for 206 electoral votes, and Democrats have or lead in 19 states for 247 electoral votes. Seven super-swing states with 85 electors will determine which party gets to the 270 Electoral College majority: Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18) and Virginia (13). Prior to Obama’s 2008 victories in each state, several of these toss-ups had generally or firmly leaned Republican for most elections since 1980. Virginia, which hadn’t voted Democratic since 1964, was the biggest surprise, and its Obama majority was larger than that of Ohio, which has frequently been friendly to Democrats in modern times. Massive Hispanic participation turned Colorado and Nevada to Obama, and it helped him in Florida. New Hampshire was the only state lost by Al Gore that switched to John Kerry; its special New England character makes it especially volatile.

But is it possible to be this certain, given that we don't know who the GOP will nominate?

The flip side of the early predictability of states is how little difference the identity of the eventual Republican nominee makes, if you restrict the choice to the three who are arguably most electable, all current or former governors: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman (who is very unlikely to win the nomination). Romney’s familial ties in Michigan could make him more competitive than others there, and in the Granite State as well, since voters became familiar with him during his gubernatorial term in Massachusetts. As a Southerner, Perry might be able to quickly secure a region that tends to vote for one of its own. New Mexico would be a next-door neighborhood target for Perry, too, just as it was for Bush in ’04. Huntsman’s more moderate positions might get him into the fight not just in toss-ups but for a few Democratic-leaning states. These small variations aside, the same overall game plan will be used by any of this group.

Oh, well. Looks like this is good news for the residents of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia -- provided you like negative ads and the constant presence of reporters and your phone ringing off the hook with calls from robots.

[Sabato's Crystal Ball]


For some more Sabato stuff, scroll to the end and read about everyone's favorite potential electoral college scenario, the dreaded 269-269 tie! [Sabato's Crystal Ball]

Jon Huntsman's 'lay the hammer down early' scenario is to win New Hampshire, swing through South Carolina with a victory, and cement the deal in Florida. A minor hitch: South Carolina Governor and GOP kingmaker Nikki Haley has ruled out giving Huntsman her endorsement. [CNN]

Alex Pareene predicts that after last night the media will begin to shut the door for the "lovable third-tier candidates -- the guys who were never, ever going to win this." [War Room @ Salon]

"There’s a lot that’s controversial about monetary policy, but debate moderators and other reporters really shouldn’t let politicians get away with misstating the inflation rate." Yet that's what they did last night. [Yglesias @ Think Progress]

Romney was the only candidate that did not mention Reagan by name last night. Why didn't he? How will voters determine if Romney has a plan to Reagan all the Reagans to a more Reaganesque level of Reaganity? [Taegan Goddard's Political Wire]

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