The Obama campaign wants to make the 2012 contest a “choice” between its candidate and the Republican party; the Romney campaign wants to make the vote a referendum on Barack Obama. Mitt Romney is laying low, letting the election revolve around Obama--and winning. While his campaign pushes back against Obama and the mainstream media, Romney is shaking hands on the trail--and winning support in key swing states.
At the outset, Romney’s path to victory seemed a narrow one. It was universally agreed that the 2012 contest would be fought in roughly ten swing states. But Obama’s weak economic performance, and Romney’s quietly effective campaign, has narrowed the field of play. It is now reasonable to imagine that Romney will win in North Carolina and Florida--two states that Obama won in 2008 and that he will likely lose this time around.
Romney is also close to, even with, or ahead of Obama in several other swing states, including Colorado, Iowa, and Ohio. He is also likely to win Indiana, which swung to Obama in 2008 but is likely to swing back. If Romney wins all of those states, all he needs to do to turn Obama out of office is pick up one of Obama's Electoral College votes from 2008 in both Maine and Nebraska, which split their votes. That would force a tie in the Electoral College (see map above) that would give Romney the win, provided the GOP holds the House.
Romney could also pass the 270-vote threshold by winning one additional state. If traditionally-Republican Virginia stays Democratic--as it may--Romney still has many ways to win. He has put Michigan in play, and a win there--assuming he wins the other states mentioned above--would guarantee him the presidency, even without Virginia.
Last week’s win by Scott Walker could also put Wisconsin in play for Romney--despite exit polls which seemed to show Obama with a substantial lead (the same polls showed a close race between Walker and challenger Tom Barrett, which proved not to be the case). And although New Hampshire has moved towards the Democrats in recent presidential elections, it has occasionally yielded polls showing Romney in the lead.
Obama looks likely to hold onto Pennsylvania, Nevada, and New Mexico--if the election were held today. But if present trends continue, the Obama campaign could find itself fighting a defensive battle on even more fronts. The air of desperation that has crept into Obama’s recent campaign emails is not just a fundraising gimmick--it is the result of real gains by Romney and the Republicans, who are--miracle of miracles!--winning.