Let’s take a couple views of the electoral map as of Super Tuesday and see how the Republican hopefuls fare.
1. If we look at the AP Delegate Tracker Map and compare it to the 2008 Electoral College Map, one of the striking contrasts is how well Romney has done in states that Obama previously won and how poorly Santorum and Gingrich have done in those states. Considering that Obama’s job approval ratings are relatively low, it seems that the Republicans have a decent chance of holding onto the states that voted Republican in 2008 and, consequently, much of the electoral game in 2012 will depend on putting states into play that Obama won in 2008. Looking at the 13 states where Obama won in 2008 and where Republicans have held primaries in 2012, we have the following results:
If we look at the states that voted Republican last time, the race is much closer:
However, I think these states are unlikely to become battleground states in 2012 given that they already cast their vote in 2008 against a President who is currently suffering in popularity.
2. If you don’t fancy my view of where the crucial battles lie, we can turn to Gallup’s list of 12 key swing states: CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WS. All of these states went to Obama in 2008, so Gallup is basically taking a smaller slice of the same pie that I was looking at. Here’s how the candidates stack up on Gallup’s list of swing states:
Santorum has done best among the very conservative in the Republican primaries so far. Admittedly, he has also done well among the very liberal: in both Michigan and Ohio, he handily won the vote among Democrats who voted in the Repbulican primary, but it seems pretty clear that those voters won’t provide him a general election boost. Romney, on the other hand, seems to be doing best where a channel to victory could conceivably be opened.
It seems to me that the choice now facing Republicans is whether they want someone who can recapture the same states they won in 2008 or someone who has the best chance of bringing new states into play.