Let’s do some math (are you hooked yet?). The CNN electoral map gives Obama 196 completely safe delegates. Romney has 159. Advantage Barack Obama – by 40 delegates – more than the state of Texas is worth. The leaning states also advantage Obama. 41 delegates lean for Obama, 32 for Romney. Advantage Obama – by 9 delegates – the state of Colorado in other words. That leaves 110 delegates up for grabs.
Romney has two possible overarching strategies to 270 delegates and one seems a whole lot better than the other. The first strategy would be to use all of that money to make big leaning states for Barack Obama like Pennsylvania and Michigan competitive while he still has some time, giving Romney multiple routes to 270. The other strategy is to retreat into a shell, give up in Michigan and Pennsylvania, blast just the tossup states with so many ads that returns on them diminish to nothing, and make a $10,000 bet that you can somehow win a whopping 72% of the tossup delegates. And, yet, that is exactly what he is trying to do (he likes those $10,000 bets). Romney has not been spending any money on television advertisements in Michigan and Pennsylvania for a while and his Super Pacs just announced they are suspending advertisement spending in those two states as well, according to multiple news sources. MSNBC has broken down Romney and Obama campaign ad buys by state.
Let’s put this decision and what it means for the Romney camp in perspective. Mitt Romney could win Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia and still lose to Barack Obama if the president just won Florida (where Paul Ryan is a real liability for Romney) and the puny state of New Hampshire. Barack Obama could lose all of the tossups besides Ohio and North Carolina, and still win the election. He could lose everything but the Midwest – Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa and still win the election. I could go on and on with the routes to victory for Obama and the only route to victory for Romney is to virtually run the table of all the states he hasn’t decided to give up on quite yet.
As you can see, Karl Rove’s map has Michigan in play as of two days ago. Romney and his Super PACS had given up on it by then. http://www.rove.com/election. The CNN map, and some others, count Michigan as leaning for Obama.
It’s not like Romney has a solid lead in the tossup states (I mean, of course not, they are tossup states). Almost all of the polls are within the margin of error but if the presidential election was tomorrow (it isn’t) and the statewide polls were exactly accurate (they aren’t), Obama would end up surpassing 270 delegates very easily. This has been the situation all summer, but the media didn’t want to tell anybody because they want a close election and of course the Obama campaign didn’t want to say anything – they want their base to think it’s going to be close so it gives money, volunteers, and votes.
While Romney’s campaign recedes and takes all the pressure off of the Obama camp to defend its ground, the Obama camp is aggressively working to broaden the map and put Romney on the defensive. Though they have also not committed much money to the airwaves, the campaign is working hard to bring Arizona into the mix and at least make Mitt Romney pay attention to the state, which has a surging Hispanic population peeved at the show-me-your-papers law and Romney’s support of it. Obama also won Indiana last time around and is working, though not stressing, to put it in the fold as well.
So is conventional wisdom wrong or do Mitt Romney and Barack Obama just not have a clue? Shouldn’t the guy with the advantage in money but the disadvantage on safe and leaning states be working on a broader effort to open up multiple avenues to 270 at this point while the candidate with less money and a better electoral map advantage should be just hanging on for dear life (by money, I mean cash on hand – the only money stat that matters)? Yes. Broadening the map is exactly opposite what Obama should be doing right now; Obama needs to narrow the map. Before the campaigns completely hone in on the big battleground states (Florida, Ohio and North Carolina and Virginia to a lesser extent) Obama needs to launch a massive offensive in smaller battleground states such as Iowa, Colorado, and Wisconsin to see if he can get one of them to lean his way and get Romney to give up on it (which doesn’t seem too hard to do). If Obama can narrow the map, he’ll really force Romney to win everything else. Romney, on the other hand, needs to stop giving up on states he has a chance of winning. Spending all of your money in a couple of states is not as effective as spreading the money – and your message – out and you know, having at least two routes to 270.
Mitt Romney’s Hail Marry electoral strategy does not complement his conservative, cautious, undetailed messaging strategy but rather clashes with it. The Hail Marry electoral strategy or the conservative messaging strategy by themselves would not be an insurmountable obstacle to his election, but the combination of both – a cautious campaign that is not going to suddenly inspire the mass tide of undecided voters or soft Obama supporters needed to win practically every tossup state combined with an electoral strategy that requires him to win practically every tossup state– does present a serious obstacle that his campaign may well not be able to overcome.
Electoral Maps and Associated Statewide Polling:
CNN Electoral Map: http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/ecalculator#?battleground
Huffington Post Electoral Map: http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map
MSNBC Electoral Map: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032553/#.UFAhC42PVIE