It would be an astonishing feat. A man who was, by some measures, the most unpopular Republican standard bearer in his party’s history could pull off an upset that literally no other Republican presidential candidate has achieved.
Let’s do the math. Mitt Romney is currently running slightly ahead of Obama in the national horse race poll, with the latest Gallup poll putting Romney up 6 points — his biggest lead ever.
But in Ohio, Romney still trails by roughly 3 points and with early voting now underway, the Obama team is scrambling to lock in that advantage.
Given all the factors, election guru Nate Silver at the New York Times gives Obama a 69% chance of winning Ohio. Not a lock, but that’s an infinitely more solid advantage than the Democrat now holds nationwide.
So what happens if Obama wins Ohio? Let’s assume for the moment that the Democrat will also hold Michigan and Pennsylvania, where he now leads in various polls by 5 to 7 points.
That gives Team Obama 255 electoral college votes — 15 shy of a second term. Sounds like a lock, right? Not so fast.
Politico’s poll averages now give Romney the edge in Colorado (less than a 1% lead), Florida (2.5% advantage) and North Carolina (4.7%), states that give the Republican an increasingly solid foundation of 244 electoral college votes. That’s just 25 EC votes shy of a win.
To surge from behind and claim the White House – again, without Ohio – Romney just needs to hold the states where he’s now leading and win Virginia, Wisconsin and either Iowa or Nevada. That would give him 273 electoral college votes.
A squeaker, with no room for error — but a win nonetheless.
So where do things stand now in those states?
Virginia is a statistical tie, with Obama up by just .8%. Wisconsin, where Romney trails by 2%, is tougher, but that’s hardly an insurmountable gap and he has favorite son Paul Ryan to campaign for him there down the stretch.
(Nate Silver only gives Romney a 25% chance of winning Wisconsin, but for what it’s worth my gut tells me that his odds there are significantly better than that…)
Polls in Iowa and Nevada also give Obama a 2-3 point lead.
Obviously, Romney is hoping to win it more handily than this, claiming Ohio and perhaps even tipping another blue state or two into his column. If Obama doesn’t shift the momentum, that may be possible.
But the new map has to have Democrats worried. Even if they pull off a narrow win in the battle for Ohio, they could lose the bigger political war in dramatic and historic fashion.