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What Romney Needs To Reach 270 Electoral Votes

Danny Lee |
November 6, 2012 | 8:33 a.m. PST

Senior Staff Reporter

Mitt Romney has little room for error if he is to reach the magic number of 270 electoral votes. (Dawn Megli/Neon Tommy)
Mitt Romney has little room for error if he is to reach the magic number of 270 electoral votes. (Dawn Megli/Neon Tommy)
Grab a calculator, or try on your best John King impersonation here at 270ToWin.com.

While national polls suggest the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is a dead heat, it is the candidate who attains 270 electoral votes that will carry the keys to the White House. Adding up delegates from the states both candidates are expected to win, Obama has 237 electoral votes locked up in his column (including Michigan and Pennsylvania, the latter of which some Republicans feel is in play), while Romney has 191 in the GOP ledger. 

Obama's path to 270 lends itself to more flexibility in terms of electoral math. Romney is in a precarious situation where one or two losses in delegate-rich swing states could turn out the lights on his presidential bid. Here is a look at 10 battleground states and how each could unlock a path to that magic number for the former Massachusetts governor.

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio (18 electoral votes)

It's been stated on numerous occasions how important the Buckeye State is for Romney's election hopes, as no Republican presidential candidate has ever lost here and went on to capture the election. Obama is up 2.9 percent in the most recent RealClearPolitics projection, and has held a lead in Ohio for months.

SEE ALSO: Final Election Projections: Obama To Win Presidency, Dems To Hold Senate

Obama's 2009 bailout of car companies and Romney's stance against it could factor heavily in a state where one in eight jobs is related to the auto industry. Working-class white voters will likely swing the result in this state. Romney will need an energized turnout in the Republican-leaning western suburbs to have a chance at grabbing the state's 18 crucial electoral votes. An election victory without winning Ohio is possible, but likely? Maybe not.

Rest of the Midwest: Wisconsin (10 EVs), Iowa (6 EVs)

Without Ohio, the wheels would quickly start coming off Romney's presidential campaign, but he wouldn't be out completely. Romney trailed by as many as eight points in Wisconsin, according to a Marquette University Law School survey, and no Republican presidential candidate has won Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984. It could take some serious home-state advantage from running mate Paul Ryan to steal the Badger State's 10 votes.

The good news for Romney regarding Iowa? The state's Des Moines Register endorsed a Republican presidential candidate for the first time since Richard Nixon in 1972. The bad news? That same newspaper has him down five points in the final tracking poll before the election, although 11 percent remain undecided. Like Wisconsin, a setback in Iowa would turn Ohio into a do-or-die state for Romney if it isn't already.

Florida (29 EVs)

Romney needs the Sunshine State more than Obama. Whichever side walks away with Florida's electoral votes will depend on the demographic best-represented at the polling places. Voters over age 50 prefer Romney 55 to 43 percent, and if this age group produces better turnout than the young voters who lifted Obama to victory in 2008, then things are looking up for Romney. The former businessman appears to have the edge in this state and must hang on to it once the votes are counted to ensure that his campaign will keep fighting into the night.

SEE ALSO: Nevada Unions Make Final Push To Mobilize Voters

 Mid-Atlantic Coast: North Carolina (15 EVs), Virginia (13 EVs)

As close as the presidential race is expected to shape up in the popular vote, the country might find out within an hour after the first polls close whether or not Romney has a shot at the White House. Virginia's polls close at 4 p.m. PST, while North Carolinians have until 4:30 p.m. PST to cast a ballot.

In Virginia, Obama's support will come mainly from the densely-populated Washington, D.C. suburbs and Romney's backing is expected arrive from the state's rural areas.

Obama edged John McCain by a mere 14,177 votes in North Carolina during the 2008 race to turn that state blue for the first time in more than 30 years. A Romney spokesperson claimed that the campaign has trimmed enough into Obama's advantage in early voting from four years ago to pull out a win the Tar Heel State.

If Romney loses both -- or even just one -- of the new states, it would not be realistic to see him declared the winner by the end of the night...unless, an upset in the following Rust Belt state falls his way.

Pennsylvania (20 EVs)

If Pennsylvania is a long-shot to end up in the GOP electoral vote tally, the Romney camp probably didn't take heed to the projections.

Romney will be campaigning in the Pittsburgh area on Election Day during what is his second visit to the Keystone State in three days. On the night before the election, RealClearPolitics pegged Obama's lead at just 3.8 percent, giving Team Romney hope -- as slim as they may be -- of a backdoor path to the presidency should Obama swipe the majority of battleground states on Tuesday.

If he somehow triumphs in a state where Democrats hold a one million-voter registration advantage, Romney only has to capture four battleground states to reach 270 if he also emerges victorious in states with a larger electoral haul like Florida and Ohio. He could then lose either North Carolina or Virginia (but not both) and still win the election.

SEE ALSO: Nevada Unions Make Final Push To Mobilize Voters

The Southwest: Colorado (9 EVs), Nevada (6 EVs)

Romney's struggles to narrow Obama's lead among the growing Latino electorate could make mining for electoral votes a daunting challenge out west. Latinos account for 14 percent of eligible voters in Colorado and 15 percent of eligible voters in Nevada, according to Pew Hispanic.

Three quarters of Latinos in Nevada voted for Obama in 2008 and 70 percent backed Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in his race against Republican Sharron Angle. If those patterns hold true again in 2012, Nevada is likely off the table for Romney.

Meanwhile, Colorado is where Romney rejuvenated his campaign by outclassing the president in a debate on domestic policy. It might not be a must-win state, but it certainly would help in padding Romney's electoral count toward 270.

Last, but certainly not least…New Hampshire (4 EVs)

Don't sleep on the Granite State. Those four electoral votes don't amount to much in the tally, but they could tilt the election if Tuesday produces an extremely close battle in the electoral race.

If Obama cleans up the midwestern and southwestern battleground states, Romney could sweep Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, but still fall four votes shy of 270, so it's no surprise the GOP candidate made Manchester, N.H. the site of his final campaign rally before polls open Tuesday.


Read more Neon Tommy stories on the 2012 election.

Reach Senior Staff Reporter Danny Lee here; follow him on Twitter here.



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