As everyone who followed the 2000 Bush-Gore election knows, American presidents are chosen not by direct votes but by electoral college votes allocated to each US state.
Which means that national “horse race” polls don’t always tell us that much about the state of a campaign. National polls generally show Barack Obama leading by fairly narrow margins, between 1 and 7 points.
So I’ve spent a few hours, poring over polls for big battleground states, the kind of “purple” territory that general defines presidential contests.
The takeaway? So far at least Barack Obama holds a much more commanding position across the map than national polls suggest.
Going back as far as polls conducted in late February, Mitt Romney is running strong in Georgia, holding a 7-point lead over Obama. He’s also dominating Arizona, leading by 11 points.
That’s crucial. If those states were slipping away (as some have suggested they might) Romney’s path to victory would be problematic indeed.
But the latest polls still hold plenty of sour news for Romney. A recent survey in Wisconsin has the President up 14 points over Romney. In Virginia, Obama is up 17 points. And in Ohio, Romney is losing to Obama by 12 points.
In Pennsylvania, Obama is up by 1 to 7 points, depending on the poll. (I’ve used Romney as his match-up because Obama polls even better against Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.)
And in Forida and North Carolina, the Democrat is up by 3 points.
If Obama holds those leads, or even a significant number of them, he wins re-election handily.
Indeed, if the election occurred today and the polls proved exactly right, Obama would capture at least 327 electoral votes.That’s a whopping 57 more than he needs to snag a second term.
Even more difficult for Republicans is the fact that Obama could also put some additional western states in serious play, including Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.
Whoever the Republican nominee is, I think it’s fair to say that he will have a much narrower path to victory than the one Obama must walk.
The GOP standard bearer will have to flip at least two or three important states, pulling them back into the GOP camp.
That’s a tough thing to do in any election against an incumbent president. If disarray persists in the Republican primary, opportunities for Romney (or the other GOP candidates) to reclaim the high ground will dwindle fast.