Romney needs a big shift in momentum to close the gap, but time is running short. By David Morris, Deputy Managing Editor September 14, 2012 A second term in the White House for President Barack Obama is beginning to feel inevitable.SEE ALSO: Road to the White House: Deep Mud Ahead It’s not impossible for Republican challenger Mitt Romney to win, but he’ll need a dramatic reversal to make it happen -- a huge error by Obama in one of three debates scheduled for October, or more bad news about the economy that either keeps many Democrats home on Election Day or moves undecided voters toward the GOP. Based on an analysis of poll results, voting patterns and other data, Kiplinger gives Obama 21 states and the District of Columbia, for a total of 269 electoral votes. That’s just one short of the 270 needed to win four more years in the White House. We give Romney 24 states, putting 206 electoral votes in his column. Advertisement Five states, accounting for 63 electoral votes, are toss-ups: Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa. If no states shift from one candidate to the other, Romney would have to win all five toss-ups to leave him and Obama in a 269-269 tie. In the case of a tie, picking the next president would fall to the House of Representatives, where each state gets to cast one vote for president. Under such a scenario, Romney would win, since Republicans will control a lion’s share of congressional delegations in 2013. But that’s a long shot; Romney is unlikely to win all of the states that are, for the moment, too close to call. Obama won them all in 2008, and momentum seems to moving his way in several of them now, including Florida, the biggest prize in the bunch, with 29 electoral votes. If Obama wins there, the election could turn into a rout. On the other hand, if he won the smallest toss-up prize -- six votes in Iowa or Nevada -- and Romney won the rest, Obama would claim a narrow victory. Obama’s strongholds include the Pacific Coast, the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Five electoral giants alone -- California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio -- account for 142 electoral votes, more than half of the incumbent’s total. Advertisement Romney’s strength is concentrated in the South, the Plains states and the Mountain states. But Texas, with 38 electoral votes, is his lone big prize. About three-quarters of the states aligned with him award nine or fewer electoral votes. Aside from the five up-for-grabs states, Romney’s best hopes for gains are Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, the home state of his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. Absent a momentum shift, though, it will be a long, difficult autumn for Romney and his supporters.