These are my 2nd to last Electoral rankings. My last will be right before election day.
http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/2012/09/electoral-vote-rankings-2012.html has more detailed writeups on Safe and Likely states.
Also, I have eliminated the tossup category because I believe at this stage, states are either trending one way or the other.
Dark Blue = Safe Democratic
Blue = Likely Democratic
Lean = Light Blue
Tilt Democratic = very light blue
Tilt Republican = Light red
Lean Republican = Orange
Likely Republican = Red
Safe Republican = Very Red
Changes favoring Democrats
Connecticut Likely D-Safe D
Changes favoring Republicans
New Hampshire Lean D-Tilt D
Safe Democratic (179 electoral votes)
CA, CT DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA, NE, ND, OK,
Likely Democratic (22 electoral votes)
MN, NM, OR
Lean Democratic (52 electoral votes)
MI, NV, PA, WI
Tilt Democratic (52 electoral votes)
CO, IA, OH, VA
Tilt Republican (44 electoral votes)
Lean Republican (11 electoral votes)
Likely Republican (37 electoral votes)
GA, IN, MO, MT, NE-02
Safe Republican (129 electoral votes)
AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY
My projections for the lean and tilt states:
MI O 53-46
NV O 53-46
PA O 52-46
WI O 51-47
CO O 50-48
IA O 51-48
NH O 51-48
OH O 51-48
VA O 50-49
FL O 49-50
NC O 48-50
AZ O 45-53
More detailed writeups on the safe and likely states: http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/2012/09/electoral-vote-rankings-2012.html
Lean Democratic (56 electoral votes)
Michigan (16 electoral votes) On paper, Romney seems to have a real shot in Michigan. His family hails from Michigan and in 2010, Michigan took a sharp turn to the right as the Republicans won the Governorship, the State Senate and two U.S House seats. Obama is doing well here because he revived the auto industry after it seemed to be dead and Romney appeared out of touch with Michigan because he wrote an article titled, "Let Detroit go bankrupt." He also is famous for saying, "The trees are just the right height," when referring to how he remembered Michigan from his boyhood days. For Obama to win in Michigan, he needs a large African American turnout in Detroit and needs to perform well in the Detroit suburbs, especially Oakland and Macomb Counties. Romney needs a strong turnout in the western part of the state where the auto industry is less prevalent but the tea party is prevalent. Most recent polls show Obama leading in the high single digits but a shocker poll released recently shows Obama and Romney tied in Michigan. It is just one poll however so I do not trust it. If other polls however show a similar result, then I will be worried.
Nevada (6 electoral votes) Most polls show Obama with a small lead here. Nevada also has a history of having polls underestimate Democratic strength because of the Democrats' strong ground game and the large number of cellphone only voters. Also, many Hispanics who speak Spanish only are harder to poll and they vote strongly Democratic. For Democrats to win in Nevada, they have to win 55%+ in Clark County (Las Vegas) which has a large fast growing Hispanic population. They also must win Washoe County which is a bellwether. Romney's numbers with Hispanics are extremely low but he may make up some ground with the large Mormon population in the rural areas (known as the Cow Counties.) It will be hard for Romney to compete with the Democrats' organization and the changing demographics though. Also, the early voting numbers are strong for the Democrats being 47% Democratic and 37% Republican with 20% of Nevadans having early voted by 10/26/12. The Democrats' advantage in Clark County is showing itself too with the EV being 50% D and 31% R. Also, no poll in the last year has shown Romney ahead in NV, I am not worried about this state as long as the volunteers keep working. Even one of Gov. Brian Sandoval's (R) staff members says he thinks Obama will win Nevada. If I were Romney, I would pull out of here. His ground game cannot compete with the Democrats' ground game here.
Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) Earlier this year, Romney hoped to make Pennsylvania competitive by winning over disgruntled working class voters in western Pennsylvania. With the revival of the auto industry though, it seems that Obama will hold enough western Pennsylvania voters to win statewide. For Obama to win, he needs to do very well in the Philadelphia area, win its suburbs and win enough western Pennsylvania voters. Republicans generally win elections in Pennsylvania by doing well in the center of the state and winning the swing area which is the cities between Philadelphia and the Appalachian mountains. Those areas include Harrisburg, Reading and Allentown/Bethlehem. Obama in 2008 won those areas and those cities usually vote a few points more Republican than the rest of the state so if Obama wins them, he wins statewide. Recently though, the Democrats put an ad buy in the Pittsburgh area but that may be for Sen. Bob Casey (D) who is facing an unexpectedly tough race.
Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) Wisconsin has had a Republican surge recently with the election of Scott Walker (R) as Governor and the failed recall. The Republican trend may be explained by Democrats moving out of Wisconsin and other Midwestern/Northern States. Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan (R) also put Wisconsin in play because Ryan is from Wisconsin. For Democrats to win in Wisconsin, they not only need to increase turnout in Milwaukee and Madison, they have to win the rural counties in the western part of the state. They learned this in the Walker recall when Walker performed poorly in Madison and Milwaukee but won because he overperformed in the rural parts of the state. Romney's Ryan pick seems to have helped Romney in Wisconsin. Obama has had small leads although not a single poll this month has shown Romney leading Obama in Wisconsin. Therefore, I am keeping Wisconsin at Lean Democratic.
Tilt Democratic (37 electoral votes)
Colorado (9 electoral votes) Obama won here by nine points, more than his countrywide average and the demographics here favor Democrats so if Obama wins the Presidency, he's probably winning Colorado too. Colorado is divided between the liberal areas of Denver, Boulder and the Rocky Mountain ski areas and the conservative areas of Colorado Springs, west Colorado and the Plains. The important swing areas though are the suburban counties of Jefferson and Arahaphoe. Those areas are socially liberal but not fiscally liberal. 2010 Senatorial candidate Michael Bennett (D) won statewide by winning over socially liberal suburban women so Obama needs to do the same in order to win Colorado. Also, Obama needs to excite the youth vote in Boulder because they were an important part of his winning coalition. Polls have been showing a near tie in Colorado but this may actually be an advantage for the Democrats. The reason is that Colorado has many Democratic leaning young and Hispanic voters who are harder to poll because many of them do not use landlines or respond to polls (in the case of Hispanics, some polls do not have Spanish options so Hispanics who do not speak English well may not respond.) This underpolling showed up in the 2008 Presidential race where the RCP average showed Obama ahead by 5, he won by 9 and in the 2010 Senatorial race, the RCP average showed Ken Buck (R) +1, he lost by 2 points. Still, this state is very close and the Democrats should take absolutely nothing for granted.
Iowa (6 electoral votes) Iowa seems Republican at first. It is mostly rural and mostly white like the heavily Republican states of Kansas and Nebraska. The large number of universities, family farms and farms producing ethanol balance out the conservative evangelicals in the western part of the state. Obama won statewide by 9 points, thanks to strong support in the eastern part of the state but the Republican base in western Iowa seems more excited this year, making it harder for Obama. Iowa though is still trending toward Obama, with Nate Silver giving Obama a 66% chance of winning due to polls showing a small lead for Obama. Also, early voting numbers have been strong here. One important note is that in 2008, polls showed Obama with a double digit lead but he won by only 9 so Republicans can overperform in polls here.
New Hampshire (4 electoral votes) New Hampshire has a strong libertarian streak and Romney did very well here in the primary. The Republicans' views on social issues have gone too far to the right to win over enough New Hampshire voters. Romney needs to win New Hampshire by doing will in Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties but since the Republican party brand is unpopular in New Hampshire this year (Democrats are looking to regain both house seats,) Obama should have an advantage. Romney's moderation though is helping him personally because he pulled close in a few polls last week and even led in a few. The most recent ones suggest Obama is coming back and RCP has him leading by 2.0
Ohio (18 electoral votes) Ohio is a state where I first thought Obama would fare poorly because he is not too popular with the state's large working class population. Romney however seems more out of touch with them and his opposition to the bailout which resurrected the auto industry does not help either. Obama is benefiting from the auto industry's revival and Ohio's low unemployment rate. This could help him in the important swing areas in Ohio he needs to win. For Obama to win Ohio, he needs high turnout in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland,) Franklin County (Columbus,) Summit County (Akron,) and Lucas County (Toledo.) The swing areas include Hamilton County (Cincinnati,) the rural counties between Toledo and Cleveland and the rural counties along the Ohio River. Anyway, Obama was doing well here in late September but after the 1st debate, polls showed a closer race. Obama regained his lead though, only one poll conducted since October 17th has shown Romney in the lead out of 18 polls released since then. All polls do show a 20%+ lead for Obama among early voters though, suggesting his ground game is very strong in Ohio.
Virginia (13 electoral votes) Obama won Virginia by seven points in 2008, Obama won the Presidency by seven points in 2008. It seems that Virginia will be a tipping point state again this year with the RCP average showing Obama with a 1 point lead there. Virginia has done well under Obama though with a lower than average unemployment rate. The Obama Administration's Defense spending has helped create jobs here due to the military presence of the Pentagon and in the Hampton Roads area. For Obama to win here, he has to win big in Northern Virginia which has helped Virginia trend Democratic as immigrants and upper middle class families from DC (like my family,) moved out to the suburbs to raise their kids. Also, he needs to increase African American turnout in the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions which have large African American populations. Republicans need to rely on their base of rural southwest Virginia and win the exurban counties surrounding the urban Democratic areas in Northern Virginia and Richmond. The bellwether counties include Loudon and Henrico Counties. Loudon County is the nation's 4th fastest growing county and has a mix of rural conservatives with Asians, Hispanics and residents from the inner DC area. Loudon County was crucial for Jim Webb's (D) successful Senate election in 2006 as well as Tim Kaine's (D) successful Gubernatorial election in 2005 because Loudon County shows whether rural Virginia or suburban Virginia turned out stronger. Henrico County is a Richmond suburb which has a large African American population and if Obama wins there, it shows he has successfully increased African American turnout. Virginia looks to be decided by less than 1 point though. The southwest part of the state which delivered the 2004 election for Bush is turning out strongly but the African American community in the Hampton Roads is energized as are the Hispanics in Northern Virginia so it will be very close in Virginia. Polls seem to show Obama getting a small lead here.
Toss Up/Tilt Republican (15 electoral votes)
Florida (29 electoral votes) Florida was a pure tossup back in August but seems to be slightly tilting towards Romney. Demographically though, Florida is divided into three distinct regions. The Gold Coast, the I-4 Corridor and the rest of the state. The Gold Coast is southeast Florida (Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade Counties,) which is filled with Jewish retirees, African Americans and Cubans. The area usually votes Democratic but Cubans in Miami Dade County usually prevent Democrats from receiving more than 55% of the vote in that county. Broward and Palm Beach Counties have less Cubans though and usually vote 60%-65% Democratic but turnout in those areas is crucial. In 2010, Gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink (D) barely lost statewide because turnout in Palm Beach and Broward Counties was low. Obama though has been working on outreach to Hispanics, especially non Cuban Hispanics. The non Cuban Hispanics have a large presence on the I-4 Corridor and helped swing it strongly toward Obama. They have a large presence in Orlando and Tampa and are a fast growing segment of the population. Also, many of them are Puerto Rican which means they are citizens and can vote so Democrats have lots of voters to register. Obama has around 70 field offices in Florida compared to Romney's 30 so Democrats definitely have an advantage on the ground. The third part of the state is the rest of the state which consists of rural northern Florida, Jacksonville and conservative retirement communities along the southwest Florida coast. Romney is expected to do very well in this area but if Obama can win Duval County (Jacksonville) which has a large African American population, he will probably win Florida. Overall, the polls show the race within 1 point of each candidate. Political analyst Nate Silver made an interesting point though, "Romney has only a 0.3% chance of winning the election without Florida." Silver is right and it also means if Obama wins Florida + Kerry states, he hits 275 electoral votes so Romney has to win 6 electoral votes from the Kerry states and prevent Obama from winning any state that voted for Bush in 2004 (with New Mexico and Nevada leaning Democratic this year, that looks pretty unlikely.) So if Romney wants to be President, he has to win Florida. Polls are showing a slight Romney lead but early voting started last Sunday and the Secretary of State is reporting high numbers for the Democrats.
North Carolina (15 electoral votes) North Carolina is trending Democratic demographically but I do not believe the Democrats are winning here this time. The reason is that in 2008, Obama completely maxxed out the turnout in Durham (which may not be repeated because the large numbers of young voters are less excited this year than in 2008,) Charlotte, the heavily African American northeastern part of the state and Obama still won by only 14,000 votes. North Carolina is a base state where Democrats and Republicans have to bring out their bases in order to win (Republicans bring out the exurban and rural white conservatives, Democrats bring out the college students and the African Americans,) instead of a state such as Iowa and Ohio where Democrats win by persuading voters. In 2008, the Republican base was not very excited and the Republicans barely even targeted North Carolina. All the Republicans need to do is erase a 14,000 vote lead and that should be pretty easy for them. I predict the demographic changes will help the Democrats make it close but I still see a 2-3 point win for Republicans here. Also, the early voting numbers look good for the Democrats with a PPP poll showing a tied race but a 57%-42% lead for Obama in the early votes. Most polls though show a slight Romney lead. The Romney campaign shifted one staffer from NC to OH and spun it as "pulling out of NC" but NC is still being contested by both campaigns, even if Romney has an advantage.
Lean Republican (12 electoral votes)
Arizona (11 electoral votes) Earlier this year, the Obama campaign talked about putting Arizona in play. On paper, Arizona seems to be trending Democratic because it has a fast growing Hispanic population and lots of college students (Arizona State has 70,000 students, it is the largest public university in the country.) Also, Democrats are looking to gain two congressional seats too. Arizona though has a very conservative non persuadable base though in the Phoenix area who are strongly for Romney. Also, the state's Mormon population will boost him.
So where do these rankings leave Obama? Although his path to winning seems more rocky than it did before the debate, Obama still has an advantage. He has maintained leads in the Gore/Kerry states which total 242 electoral votes. He also is ahead in New Mexico so the safe Obama states have a total of 247 electoral votes. To win, Obama needs 23 more electoral votes from the tilt Democratic or tossup states. Obama has been leading in Nevada so I will give him Nevada, giving him 253 electoral votes. From here, all Obama needs to do is win 17 more electoral votes. He can win that by winning VA + NH, NH + IA +CO, or simply win OH. Obama has strong leads in OH and IA so I would expect him to win those states. If he wins Gore/Kerry states, NV, IA and OH, he has 277 electoral votes which is enough to win. He is also leading in NH so he should get 281. The true tossup states are VA and CO and if Obama won both, he should win 303. From the looks of it now, Obama should receive between 281 and 303 electoral votes, enough to win.