by Paul Goldman
According to Howard Fineman and the Huffington Post, Virginia has become a must-win state for the Democrats in 2012. Fineman goes so far to compare the situation to the Civil War, when control of Virginia meant victory or defeat for the North.
AOL paid $315 million for that? I am sure Lowell wouldn’t put such amateur stuff on this website.
Fact: Virginia is not a must-win state for the Democrats in 2012. It is important for sure, but it isn’t even on a par with, say, how crucial North Carolina figures to be for the GOP.
In 2008, Obama won North Carolina by only 0.3 percent — 14,000 votes out more than 4 million cast. In 2012, if Republicans can’t win in North Carolina, then Virginia certainly seems safe for the Democrats. Pennsylvania also would be safe, which should clinch it for Obama unless the Democrats have collapsed in the Midwest and the Mountain West.
In 2008, Barack Obama got 365 electoral votes. We’ll get to redistricting later, but for now just point out that the states Obama won in 2008 are going to be net losers of about 6 electoral votes in 2012. Which means that if Obama wins the same states and nothing more in 2012, he would get 359 electoral votes.
So let’s do the math.
Back out Indiana’s 11 EV’s, as the Hoosiers almost always have gone GOP in the modern era. Obama won a surprise upset there by 1% in 2008.
That leaves Obama at 365-11 EVs = 354 EVs.
The three key states would almost surely be — unless something changes of a drastic nature —
Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Historically, no Republican has been elected without carrying Ohio.
Let’s back out the Buckeye State’s 20 EV’s. Obama won a close one there in 2008. That leaves Obama at 334 EVs.
Now, back out Florida, where either Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush are in the hunt for Veep. The Sunshine State’s 27 electoral votes are huge for the GOP. Obama won by less than 3% last time around.
This leaves Obama at 307 EVs.
Bottom line: This makes Pennsylvania the must-win Democratic state. If Democrats lose the Keystone state, the number of electoral votes remaining is 287. Obama won big in Pennsylvania in 2008. If he loses here in 2012, then it figures to be Game Over.
Now, let’s instead say Obama loses North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes.
307-15 = 292.
NOW let’s back out the redistricting loss of 6 EVs.
This leaves 286.
At this point, Obama could still lose Virginia and win the White House. But, when you get to the 286 EVs zone, you have a lot of possible ways to lose based on combinations of Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin. Of these states, Virginia has the most electoral votes.
BOTTOM LINE: AOL could have paid a lot less for Blue Virginia than it did for the Huffington Post and come out way ahead. Virginia was a big win for the Democrats in 2008 and it is an important state in 2008. But it isn’t a must-win, unless, as I have shown, other key states have fallen.
Truth is, the 2012 election is likely to be decided in the stretch of the Industrial Midwest contiguous zone, encompassing Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. With that bloc, plus the sui generis state of Florida, so goes the nation, all things being equal.
That 4-state zone in the Midwest had 68 electoral votes in 2008. Throw in Florida and you had 95. If you subtract 95 from 365, you get 270 electoral votes, the bare minimum needed to win the White House. But then, you also have to back out the redistricting. So, you’re at 270-6 EVs = 264 EVs. If the Republicans had a strong candidate from the Midwest who could run the table there, then Florida would decide the election, just as it did in the Gore-Bush race. Not Virginia.
TO RECAP: The Fineman/Huffington Post story is just silly and a disservice to readers. In fact, logic would suggest that if Virginia is at risk to the Democrats, then this means Indiana (11), Florida (27) and North Carolina (15) would be gone as well: 365 – 53 EVs = 312 EVs.
If Southern Ohio leaves the Democrats big time, then Ohio goes back to form. That leaves 292 EVs. Back out the redistricting and you got that 286 EVs.
Pennsylvania, not Virginia, is the Democratic must-win state. Florida, not Virginia, is the GOP must-win state.
The next key is Ohio. If Democrats win there, they are going to win. Virginia is probably next assuming the scenario above. That makes us important, but not a must-win until a lot of other dominoes have fallen.