Counting chickens before they hatch?

Last modified: 12/15/2011 12:00:00 AM
If President Obama is to win re-election next year, he has to earn 270 electoral votes - and all paths lead through New Hampshire.

That's under the analysis done by the president's team, which met with reporters Tuesday and outlined five ways Obama could win the votes he needs in 2012. According to The Washington Post, each strategy assumes the president starts with the 246 votes Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry won in 2004, a tally that includes four votes from New Hampshire.

How likely is that scenario? USA Today on Tuesday named New Hampshire one of a dozen battleground states up for grabs in the current election, and "New Hampshire is going to be hard for the president this time around," said pollster Andy Smith of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

While the state has voted Democratic in four of the five last presidential elections - 2000 being the exception - "it's not the kind of thing that you would say, 'This is in our column,' " Smith said yesterday. He noted that Kerry "barely" won in 2004, and "that had a lot to do with Democratic anger at the Bush administration," he said. "It wasn't because this is a solidly Democratic state."

Beyond the assumed baseline, each of the paths outlined by Obama's team requires he win different states, or groups of states: The first requires just Florida; the second, a sweep of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada; the third, Ohio and Iowa; the fourth, the South; and lastly, expanding into Arizona.

Those paths are ranked in the order of most to least likely, according to The Washington Post, which said the political popularity of the anti-immigration bill passed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer may make an Obama win in the state "an impossibility."

But while the Post listed Florida and its 29 electoral votes as the likeliest route to an Obama victory, the state would be lost if the Republican candidate picks a running mate in Sen. Marco Rubio, who "basically will deliver Florida for whoever the nominee is," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

Rubio would likely also sway states with higher Hispanic populations, including Nevada, New Mexico and possibly Colorado, Paleologos said. Assuming the Florida senator becomes the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Paleologos envisions a scenario in which Obama loses the previously mentioned states as well as those with a "historical predisposition" to flip Republican: Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia.

In that case, if Obama wins the Great Lakes states - which Paleologos thinks he will - that leaves Ohio and New Hampshire. Given its high percentage of independents who have been exposed for months to Republican messages, New Hampshire wouldn't be an easy win for Obama - and particularly if Romney, "with his incredible strength in New Hampshire," were the Republican nominee, Paleologos said.

"If it becomes one of those small little important states in November, it could pose a bigger problem than one would think," he said.

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