(Disclaimer: This one’s all about the horse race.)
I’ve been playing with political maps and the latest polling numbers and there is a new, fascinating scenario for the 2012 presidential race that looks more plausible today than it did a week ago.
I’m talking about the possibility that President Barack Obama might win a second term with a comfortable margin of Electoral College vote while actually losing the popular vote.
The mechanics of this are pretty simple. Most states assign electoral college votes on a ‘winner take all’ basis. So it doesn’t matter if you win, say, Ohio by a 1 point margin or a 10 point margin. You still claim the whole prize.
As things stand now, the latest polls show Obama in a dead heat with Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Some surveys actually show Romney taking a slight lead.
But in state-by-state match-ups, the president still holds a sizable advantage. Romney crushes Obama in a lot of the “red” states. But in most of the “purple” battleground states, Obama holds moderate to big leads.
I’ve mapped out several different “roads to victory” for Obama.
And one of those maps has the Democrat getting walloped in the South, losing Virginia, North Carolina, and the “fringe south” states of Florida and Missouri — and still winning re-election.
I point to this scenario in particular, because so much GOP support is now concentrated in the South, and bundled into fewer and fewer states.
In theory, we could see Romney winning by huge margins in those conservative states, building an overall popular vote advantage, but failing to eke out wins in more crucial states like Ohio, New Mexico and Wisconsin, where he now trails badly.
The political consequences for Obama of this kind of “ugly” win would be significant.
He already faces a low rumble of conservative challenges to his legitimacy. Imagine the mood if he were forced to govern a country where most voters chose the Republican alternative.
One silver lining of this painful scenario is that it might finally prompt a real effort at reforming an Electoral College system that has been dangerously broken for decades.