Obama Wants Ohio, But Romney Needs It

With five days to go before the election, all eyes are on Ohio. Can either candidate win without it?

With the election all of five days away, the focus is narrowing to just a few states. All eyes are on Ohio, the consensus pick for the most crucial swing state. Can either candidate win without it? Let’s take a look.

It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Right now, all but eight states are solidly on one side or the other, and not even an enormous hurricane running into a nor’easter is going to swing them. Adding those up gives Obama 253 electoral votes, tantalizingly close to the needed 270, and Romney 206.

So, can the president lose Ohio and still win reelection? Absolutely. While Ohio would more or less seal the deal, Obama has several other paths. Florida would do the trick by itself, but it has been leaning slightly toward Romney in recent polls. Without either of those, the president would have to pick up Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire or one of those plus Virginia. Not an ideal scenario, but the New York Times’ Nate Silver (whose model correctly predicted all but one state in 2008) has each of those states leaning toward Obama, with Colorado and Virginia just over 60% likely to select Obama, and New Hampshire and Iowa just over 75%.

For, Romney, of course, the reverse is true. He absolutely has to win both Ohio and Florida. If he loses Florida, he would have to somehow sweep the remaining swing states AND somehow steal back Nevada and Wisconsin. That’s the most credible scenario I can imagine, and, unless Florida is selectively won over by Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy, but Romney’s economic message suddenly breaks through and convinces the rest of the swingable public, it’s not happening.

So, step one for the former Governor of Massachusetts is to win Florida and Ohio. Unless he can make an unexpected steal of Wisconsin (88% chance for an Obama win, according to Silver) or Nevada (85% chance), his most credible path is to also nab Virginia. Are we there yet? Almost, in addition to those three must-wins, he also needs one out of Colorado, New Hampshire or Iowa. Possible. Which is to say, not impossible.

What Romney really needs is a national movement toward him. It won’t be enough to make a strong play in the Midwest or Appalachia. He needs to do all of that, and appeal to voters as far west as Colorado. With five days to go, this is a daunting task. However, the number he should be most worried about is this one:

Silver’s odds of Obama winning Ohio: 80%.  

Image source: Reuters

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