Politics

The Six States That Will Elect the President in 2012

The list of key states is much shorter this year, leaving Obama and Romney little room for blunders.

Forget those long lists of swing states, purple states or whatever else folks are using as labels to stir up interest in the November election between President Obama and GOP nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney.

The reality is that although the campaigns and super PACs will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on TV advertising and will spend much of their time in about a dozen states, only six will essentially determine the outcome of the election: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire.

To win, Romney might have to claim all three of the biggest states on the short list. To be sure, the former Massachusetts governor can lose one state from the Florida-Ohio-Virginia column and still take office next January 20, but the path would be difficult.

A close look at the states shows what little margin of error either candidate has:

Florida: Both sides will spend heavily in the expensive media markets of Florida, battling for the Sunshine State’s 29 electoral votes. Romney can instantly lock up the state if he chooses Sen. Marco Rubio as his running mate, but even if he doesn’t, he still has the advantage in Florida. Along with traditional GOP voters, the tea party, evangelicals, the Miami Cuban community and retirees are a potentially potent coalition that could deliver for Romney.

Ohio: This will be the second-most expensive state to compete in for both campaigns. Obama has a lot going for him in the battle for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes. Obama’s team, maintaining a lead in the polls that has yet to recede significantly, is confident that the assault on Romney’s career at Bain Capital plays well in the Buckeye State. So does criticism of Romney’s disdain for Obama’s auto industry bailout. This is one state where Romney needs to cut into Obama’s advantage among women.

Virginia: This state offers another gender gap challenge for Romney. Demographics in Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Richmond and even the military-heavy Tidewater region bode well for Obama. Romney needs former GOP Sen. George Allen to run a strong race on the undercard, but so far that isn’t happening. With Obama firing up black voters, purple Virginia is firmly out of the GOP’s “red state” column, but that doesn’t mean Romney can’t win in the Old Dominion.

Colorado: Romney can cause some problems for the Obama campaign's calculus with a win in Colorado. It's still close enough for the Republican to steal the nine electoral votes from Obama, but it will take some serious work. If Romney doesn't cut into the Hispanic vote, Obama stands to dominate in the contested Western states. Obama has a significant advantage with Hispanics but he needs to make sure they vote.

Iowa: In 2008, Obama won the state by 140,734 votes over Sen. John McCain of Arizona. If Romney doesn't get support from at least three-quarters of social values voters in Iowa, he can kiss these six electoral votes good-bye. Expect Romney to bring in a lot of help from conservative surrogate campaigners, including some of his primary opponents, who built strong campaign organizations in the state. The next round of polls will show the race in this state tightening, with Obama holding a slight lead but Romney in striking distance.

New Hampshire: Romney’s lone hope for a pickup in the Northeast borders his “home” state of Massachusetts. He’s hoping to tap into the “live free or die” libertarianism that helped George W. Bush carry New Hampshire in 2000. Romney’s problem is that New Hampshire isn’t the conservative stronghold it once was. Population centers along the Massachusetts border are swarming with Democrats. Bush lost the state to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts in 2004 and Obama won it four years ago by 68,288 votes.

It’s a very short list and, especially for Romney at this stage of the race, a challenging one.

Most Popular

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer
Coronavirus and Your Money

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer

The IRS updated its popular online tool so that you can track the status of your second stimulus check.
January 9, 2021
How a Third Stimulus Check Could Differ From Your First and Second Payments
Coronavirus and Your Money

How a Third Stimulus Check Could Differ From Your First and Second Payments

There's going to be a big push for a third round of stimulus payments. But the amount and eligibility rules for your third stimulus check could be dif…
January 12, 2021
Biden Calls for $1,400 Payments as Part of $1.9 Trillion Relief Package
Coronavirus and Your Money

Biden Calls for $1,400 Payments as Part of $1.9 Trillion Relief Package

Under Biden's plan for a third stimulus check, the $600 second-round stimulus checks would be increased to $2,000.
January 14, 2021

Recommended

Retirees' Guide to Do’s and Don’ts of Business Partnerships
Making Your Money Last

Retirees' Guide to Do’s and Don’ts of Business Partnerships

Know some of the business partnership pros and cons before diving in. A business partnership agreement is a good place to start.
January 11, 2021
Joe Biden's Tax Plans for the Next Few Years
Politics

Joe Biden's Tax Plans for the Next Few Years

With control of both the House and Senate in Democratic hands, Joe Biden will be able to get more of his tax agenda through Congress. Here's what coul…
January 7, 2021
A Second Round of PPP Loans is Coming (With Some Improvements)
Coronavirus and Your Money

A Second Round of PPP Loans is Coming (With Some Improvements)

PPP loans are getting a second life. There will be some helpful changes, like tax deductions for expenses paid with forgiven loan proceeds.
December 23, 2020
11 Superfoods to Boost Productivity at Work
business

11 Superfoods to Boost Productivity at Work

When you’re faced with a hectic workday, it can be all too easy to make some not-so-healthy food choices in between attending meetings, checking email…
December 9, 2020