With just one year to go before the 2012 U.S. presidential election, McDermott Senior Advisor Jon Decker and Government Strategies Practice Group head Steve Ryan take a state-by-state examination of the Electoral Map. Unlike 2008, this general election contest is likely to be highly competitive.
Exactly one year from today, voters across the country will be going to the polls to vote for president of the Unites States. While public opinion polls show that President Obama’s approval rating remains mired in the low to mid-forties, both parties acknowledge that the 2012 election will be very close.
A presidential election is not a contest to win the popular vote nationwide. Instead, it’s a contest to win in a combination of states that will produce 270 votes in the Electoral College. Reach the magic number of 270 and the keys to the White House are won.
Thanks to victories in Indiana, North Carolina, Florida and traditionally Republican Virginia, President Obama turned the 2008 Electoral Map into a sea of blue. The Obama/Biden ticket handily defeated McCain/Palin 365–173. Not only was it an Electoral College landslide, it was the best performance by a Democrat in a presidential election in decades.
Unlike 2008, the 2012 election will be highly competitive. With unemployment nationally at 9.0 percent and the economic recovery slowed, President Obama’s re-election path is much more difficult than it was three years ago. Although much can change over the next 365 days, we can accurately project the Electoral College map for many states today:
Map 1 shows the states that President Obama won in 2008.
Map 2 makes an initial cut of those states that lean heavily to either party, but picks 11 states that are not easy to project. It includes a chart showing the current unemployment rate in those swing states and the president’s margin of victory for those states in 2008.
Map 3 is an educated forecast, based on current information, of the way the map would look if the presidential election were held today. It first assumes that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee; that the U.S. unemployment rate will be above 8.5 percent on election day; and that the faltering U.S. economy will not experience a profound turnaround over the next year.
If the third map is 100 percent accurate, the 2012 presidential election will be markedly different from the one that propelled Barack Obama to the White House.
An upcoming newsletter will examine the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.