Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast explains just how hard it is for Mitt Romney to win.
There’s a secret lurking behind everything you’re reading about the upcoming election, a secret that all political insiders know—or should—but few are talking about, most likely because it takes the drama out of the whole business. The secret is the electoral college, and the fact is that the more you look at it, the more you come to conclude that Mitt Romney has to draw an inside straight like you’ve never ever seen in a movie to win this thing. This is especially true now that it seems as if Pennsylvania isn’t really up for grabs. Romney’s paths to 270 are few.
This is the reason why I watch RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight so closely. They are constantly analysing the Electoral College and not Rasmussen’s polls.
Imagine it’s election night, say 10:45 east coast time. Four eastern states haven’t been called yet: Ohio (18), Virginia (13), North Carolina (15), and Florida (29). Also, in some Western states, the polls haven’t closed, or the races are too tight to project just yet—Colorado and Nevada, say. Arizona has just been called for Romney. At this point, Romney actually leads, 188 to 182. In this scenario I’m assuming Obama has won Iowa (6), which is admittedly close but where his lead has been stable at three or four points, and New Hampshire (4), where Obama has a similar fairly small but stable lead, and Michigan (16), where the gap appears to be opening up a little.
So it’s a six-vote Romney edge. They’re feeling great up in Boston. Especially with the big Eastern four still up in the air. Right?
Not really. Let’s look at these West Coast states. Even though they’re still voting in California, obviously Obama is going to win it (55). And equally obviously, he’s going to win Washington (12) and Oregon (7), where neither side even bothered to spend a dime. Throw in Hawaii (4). Those 78 votes haul Obama up to 260. That’s something to keep in mind for election night: Whatever Obama’s number is at 10 pm Eastern, add those 78 EV’s—they’re a mortal lock, and a hefty insurance policy. If he wins Nevada (6) and Colorado (9), it’s over.
Some pundits suggest that of Romney selects Rubio as his running mate then Florida is in the bag. That actually won’t matter:
In other words, Obama can lose the big Eastern four—Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida: all of ’em!—and still be reelected.
And barring some huge cataclysm, he’s not losing all four of those states. If he wins even one—say Virginia, the smallest of the four—then Romney has to win Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire; all possible, certainly, but all states where he has been behind, narrowly but consistently, for weeks or months.