The polling data leading up to the November 2 mid-term congressional elections clearly show a trend toward strong gains for the Republicans. The data also have implications for the presidential contest in 2012.
Granted, no clear Republican frontrunner exists for that contest. But the Republican primary elections across the nation this year make it easy to predict what type of candidate will win the Republican nomination in 2012. The strong showing by Tea Party endorsed candidates will embolden that movement to be even more involved in the Republican presidential primaries in two years. The Tea Party involvement will likely result in the nomination of a strong fiscal conservative who is opposed to ObamaCare, excessive government spending, bailouts, and increasing the federal debt.
President Obama has a major challenge ahead to restore his declining popularity with the voters in almost every state. He was elected in 2008 with 365 electoral votes to John McCain’s 173. It is highly doubtful that he could duplicate that result today—but he would only need 270 electoral votes to win. Even that total would be difficult to achieve at the moment.
It would be extremely hard for President Obama to win in the key states of Ohio and Pennsylvania if the election were held today. The recession has hit those states extremely hard. Polls for gubernatorial and congressional races in those two states show large leads for the GOP. Without Ohio and Pennsylvania, the president’s electoral vote count would go down to 324. Virginia is another former “red state” that President Obama captured in 2008. The Republicans captured the governorship there recently and are favored to pick up congressional seats on November 2. The loss of Virginia would drop Obama’s vote count down to 311. Other southern states captured by the president include Florida and North Carolina. His approval numbers have dropped significantly in those states and Republican gains are expected in both next month. If he loses Florida and North Carolina, his Electoral College count would drop to 269—one less than what is needed to win.
The president has problems in other states as well. He would be hard pressed to capture Indiana again at this juncture. That represents 11 more electoral votes. Colorado, Nevada, Michigan, and Wisconsin—all states won by Obama in 2008—would have to be considered in play at this juncture. That equates to 41 additional electoral votes that the president currently couldn’t count on. Iowa and New Hampshire and New Mexico would also have to be considered possibilities to leave the Obama column as well (16 more electoral votes).
If the election were held today, President Obama would likely begin with 197 electoral votes. The “left coast” states of California, Oregon, and Washington would give him 73 and Hawaii would bring the total to 76. Minnesota and his home state of Illinois would add 31 more. The president would likely carry every Northeastern state except New Hampshire. That would bring his total to 186. Maryland and the District of Columbia would add 13 more for a grand total of 199—71 short of a majority.
President Obama could certainly find those 71 electoral votes by winning in states he is currently behind in. But if his popularity continues to fall and the public’s confidence in him as a leader weakens further, states such as New Jersey, Minnesota, Maine, or even a west coast state could leave the fold. Two years is an eternity in politics, but right now President Obama might need an eternity to turn his electoral numbers around.