The Herald Bulletin

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September 25, 2012

Can Romney replicate Bush's 2004 path to victory?

There's little question that come Nov. 6 President Barack Obama won't equal the 365 electoral votes that the then-candidate Obama won in the 2008 election.

But the bigger and more important question when it comes to the electoral college conversation is whether former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney can come close to replicating the path to victory that then-President George W. Bush took during his 2004 reelection race. At the moment that looks like a dicey proposition, and that should make Republicans very nervous.

Let's start with the Bush map that delivered him 286 electoral votes and a second term. Bush won 31 states - a sum that included victories in the following swing states: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio and Florida. Those five wins gave Bush 73 electoral votes and the presidency.

If Romney was able to exactly follow Bush's 2004 winning map, he would wind up with 292 electoral votes - due to population changes reflected in the decennial reapportionment of congressional seats in 2011 - but that scenario seems unlikely.

New Mexico and its five electoral votes will go for Obama. In Iowa, a state the Romney team had real hopes of winning, those hopes have faded somewhat with a new NBC/Marist/Wall Street Journal poll showing Obama up eight points, and even GOP operatives privately conceding the state is not moving in their direction.

Subtract New Mexico and Iowa from Romney's total and he drops to 281 electoral votes - still enough for him to win. But that's not the full picture. Poll after poll shows Romney steadily behind - in mid-single-digits - in Ohio. Subtract Ohio (as well as New Mexico and Iowa) from Romney's attempt to re-create the Bush map and he drops to 263 electoral votes and loses.

And that's not even considering the fact that the three other swing states Bush won in 2004 - Colorado, Florida and Nevada - are, at best, toss-up races right now for Romney. (A new independent poll in Florida released over the weekend showed Obama at 48 percent among likely voters to Romney's 47 percent.)

Or the fact that some states that President Bush never worried about - Virginia and North Carolina in particular - are quite competitive; a new Washington Post poll shows Obama with a statistically significant lead over Romney in Virginia. (Democrats insist they have data that shows Arizona to be a low single-digit race, but we remain unconvinced Obama can win there after losing it in 2008.)

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