As far as shock polls go, put this one somewhere between strong jolt and solid zap.
Rasmussen Reports’ daily tracking survey of the presidential race for Friday has President Obama losing to Mitt Romney, 50%-43% (4% would vote for a third-party candidate; 3% are undecided).
It’s the first time Romney’s reached 50% in Rasmussen’s polls. It also comes on the heels of statistical evidence of eroding consumer confidence and, of course, the big political news of the week – Obama not surprisingly but at long last coming out in favor of same-sex marriage.
A few words of caution about dancing around this May poll: it’s a long way to November.
Take the 2004 race, for example. As you’ll see here, George W. Bush and John Kerry swapped the lead until October, when Bush finally achieved separation.
As for his father, in May 1992 Gallup had the president race at George H.W. Bush 35%, Ross Perot 30%, and Bill Clinton at 29%. You probably know how that one turned out.
Still, the Rasmussen poll is worth noting given another survey that came out before the gay-marriage hullabaloo: a Gallup/USA Today swing-state poll that showed Obama’s lead in 12 “battleground” states eroding from 51%-42% to a more precarious 47%-45% (the poll has Romney doubling his advantage with blue-collar white males – 58%-31% – before the President’s “coming out” party on Wednesday).
And it was eerily foreshadowed by this Real Clear Politics analysis of how the fall contest may be friendlier terrain for Romney than appearances seem.
So how does the week’s big news further impact the swing states? Here’s a good rundown, courtesy of Politico, of Obama’s “seven states of grief over gay marriage” – campaign battlegrounds where the issue has proven to be politically radioactive.
In the meantime, don’t think of how President’s saying “I do” plays in Peoria. That city’s in Illinois, which is about as safe as a state can be for Obama these days.
Forget Peoria and think instead about Piqua (Ohio), Pensacola (Florida) and Poquoson (Virginia), not to mention Pahrump (Nevada), Pembroke (New Hampshire) and the aptly named Paradox (Colorado).
And with that in mind, it seems a good time to map out Romney’s quickest path to 270 electoral votes.
First, let’s start with a baseline. If the election were held tomorrow and the 50 states (and D.C.) divided the same as 2008, the final tally would read: Obama 358, Romney 180 (Obama losing 7 electoral votes to the new math of redistricting).
Now, pick up a red crayon and let the re-coloring begin.
Indiana and its 11 electorate votes return to the GOP column (Obama’s best-case scenario for repeating there is a very roundabout argument), as does North Carolina and its 15 e.v.’s (the Democrats’ decision to hold their national convention in Charlotte likely to be the same nothing-burger, in terms of winning over a southern state, as the party’s shin-dig in Atlanta back in 1988).
So subtract 26 electoral votes from Obama and add them to Romney.
New tally: Obama 332, Romney 206.
Now, add Virginia and its 13 electoral votes to the Republican camp (as Karl Rove does).
New tally: Obama 319, Romney 219.
The historic parallel: the 1960 presidential election, which featured a razor-thin popular vote (difference of 120,000 votes nationwide) by a wider electoral count (Kennedy 303, Nixon 219, Harry Byrd 15).
Back to 2012: here’s where the election does or doesn’t pivot for Romney: Ohio and Florida (a combined 47 electoral votes).
Give both “must-have’s” to Romney and he’s at 266 electoral votes. Which means: just one more state and the White House changes hands.
(Btw, a 269-all tie is entirely possible).
Now, a few other scenarios that hopefully won’t leave you too dizzy.
Let’s say Romney gets Florida and Ohio, but comes up short in Virginia. That leaves him at 253 electoral votes, 17 shy of the prize.
Michigan (16) or Wisconsin (10) alone wouldn’t do the job. However, Pennsylvania (20) would. As would a trifecta of Colorado (9), Nevada (6) and New Hampshire (4).
If Romney can carry Virginia and Florida, but not Ohio, he’s down to 248 electoral votes.
If he loses two of three, he’s looking at an electoral count of 235 (Virginia and Ohio going blue), 224 (Obama carrying Virginia and Florida) or 219 (Ohio and Florida going Democratic).
But that’s presuming Obama can sweep his way to victory through the Upper Midwest, where life just got complicated thanks to his gay marriage “conversion”. Although the issue’s been hotly debated in Ohio and Wisconsin, there is the question of which party’s base will find itself more energized come November (the impact of gay marriage on the crucial 2004 vote in Ohio a revisited subject these days).
Confused by all of this? Don’t be. American presidential math dictates that a dozen unsettled states outweigh three-dozen others that offer far more predictable outcomes.
They’re purple states, as they combine elements of political red and blue. Then again, purple is a color long associated with mystery and nobility.
And, at the moment, these purple states amount to a royal headache for the incumbent president.