TOPICS > Politics

The Morning Line: Obama’s Election Map Might Need an Update

BY David Chalian and Terence Burlij  June 9, 2011 at 9:25 AM EST

Buttons for sale at President Obama's 2009 inauguration. Photo by Aileen Humphreys/PBS NewsHour.

Don’t let these two headlines fool you:

 

The Washington Post: “Obama has his work cut out for him on the political map”

POLITICO: “President Obama’s campaign expands its 2012 map”

At first glance they appear to tell two different stories. One indicates a more complicated path to the 270 electoral votes President Obama needs to win re-election. The other suggests a wider playing field with myriad options.

Both may be true.

The Obama campaign is spending much of this 2011 preseason trying to reactivate its grassroots network of supporters and organizers across the country, specifically in the targeted battleground states.

Any analysis of President Obama’s path to re-election must begin with his 2008 map. Campaign advisers already acknowledge that Indiana isn’t likely to repeat as a blue state this time around, which leaves eight states that flipped from red to blue in 2008: Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Virginia and North Carolina.

Mapping an electoral path 18 months before an election is a bit of a fool’s errand since the political dynamic will almost certainly be changed come November 2012, but it’s not an entirely unworthy exercise.

With an eye toward economic indicators in those states and the president’s current approval ratings, we place those eight states in order from most likely to stay in President Obama’s column to least likely from today’s vantage point: New Mexico, Nevada, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.

President Obama can lose the bottom four on that list (Iowa, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina) and still win re-election with 10 electoral votes to spare.

But this presupposes that economically battered Midwestern states that have been reliably Democratic in recent presidential elections — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin — are not at risk.

It’s precisely because the Obama team anticipates a hard slog in some of those reliably blue states that they’re looking to expand their reach to places like Arizona, where they didn’t compete in 2008 because of John McCain’s favorite son status.

President Obama’s victory in 2008 was deep and broad enough to give the re-election campaign several different paths to 270, but the notion that the map is going to be dramatically expanded into new battleground territory is entirely uncertain.

What seems more likely is that if President Obama does win re-election, he may have to do so with fewer electoral votes than the 365 he banked in 2008.

ROMNEY GOES HOME

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is visiting Detroit, the city of his birth and home to the rebirth of the domestic auto industry following the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.

Romney has a pair of events scheduled Thursday morning where he’s expected to highlight the economic message that’s the central focus of his 2012 campaign. He greets potential voters at a restaurant in nearby Livonia at 8 a.m. EDT and then an hour later does a tour and roundtable at Bizdom U, a business development center in Detroit.

The Associated Press’ Kathy Barks Hoffman reports, “In his Michigan appearances, Romney is expected to argue that his background as a business consultant and venture capitalist give him the skills to help reverse the job loss that has given the state a 10.2 percent unemployment rate.”

Democrats, however, do not intend to let Romney pass through without reminding Michigan voters about his opposition to the federal government’s decision to step in and rescue the car manufacturers.

The Democratic National Committee released a video Thursday morning highlighting Romney’s criticism of the bailout, most notably the New York Times op-ed he wrote in November 2008 titled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

On Wednesday, Romney held a series of fund-raisers in Detroit, a move former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm blasted during an appearance on MSNBC a day earlier.

“I think that people who want to donate should be looking at, when the auto industry was asking for a donation, what he was saying. I think they should give him the same answer,” Granholm said.

Romney won the Michigan GOP primary in 2008, aided by his family connection to the state. Romney’s late father, George, was head of American Motors before becoming governor of Michigan.

Whether Romney can repeat his electoral success in Michigan this time around will depend on how well he’s able to answer skeptics uneasy with his recent approach to the auto industry.

WILSON FOR T-PAW

The lawmaker who yelled “You lie!” during President Obama’s 2009 health care address to Congress has endorsed the Republican presidential candidate whose campaign slogan is “Time for Truth.”

CNN’s Peter Hamby reports that Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., announced his support for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and will serve as co-chair of his campaign in South Carolina.

“Governor Pawlenty is the best man to get our nation back on the right track,” Rep. Wilson said in a statement. “As South Carolinians get to know Governor Pawlenty, as I have, they will see someone with a remarkable record of conservative accomplishments in a politically tough state for Republicans, and someone who has the kind of bold vision for America’s future that we need to defeat Barack Obama.”

Pawlenty returned the favor in a statement of his own. “Congressman Wilson has been a strong conservative voice for the people of South Carolina over the past decade,” he said. “I am honored to receive his support in this campaign to restore America.”

Although very few endorsements translate into votes, picking up Rep. Wilson’s support will certainly get some free media attention in the “First in the South” primary state. Since 1980, the winner of the Palmetto State’s Republican presidential primary has gone on to win every nomination.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.