If the presidential election were held in June, who would win — President Barack Obama or Republican Mitt Romney?
While any doubt was long gone, Romney officially surpassed the number of delegates needed to become the Republican nominee when he won the Texas primary at the end of May. So, let’s see where the states stand at this early juncture, understanding that 270 Electoral College votes are needed to be elected.
Fifteen states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — and the District of Columbia appear solid for Obama. Toss in Pennsylvania, which seems to be leaning his way, and that brings Obama to 214 in the Electoral College.
Meanwhile, 21 states look good for Romney: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. Add in South Carolina, which should go Republican, and Romney’s Electoral College tally hits 181.
That leaves 12 battleground states. Let’s take a quick look at each.
Colorado – (9 Electoral College votes) The state went to Obama in 2008 by 54 percent to 45 percent, after going to George W. Bush in 2004 by 52 percent to 47 percent. Before Obama, the last time Colorado went for a Democrat was in 1992. Obama and Romney appear to be in a dead heat.
Florida – (29 Electoral College votes) The big enchilada in recent elections, Florida went to Obama in 2008 by 51 percent to 48 percent, and for Bush in 2004 by 52 percent to 47 percent. Of course, it decided the entire election in 2000. The Florida polls have gone back and forth, with Obama and Romney basically tied.
Iowa – (6 Electoral College votes) Obama won last time around by 54 percent to 44 percent. But Bush took it in 2004 by 50 percent to 49 percent. Before 2004, the previous time Iowa went Republican was for Ronald Reagan in 1984. This is another dead heat.
Michigan – (16 Electoral College votes) Obama won by a healthy 57 percent to 41 percent in 2008, with John Kerry winning in 2004 by 51 percent to 48 percent. In fact, the last time Michigan went Republican was in 1988 for George H.W. Bush. But things are different this year. Not only does Romney have family and political roots, but the state is open to change after a long-suffering economy. For example, it voted for a Republican governor last time around. In recent polling, Obama carries the edge.
Missouri – (10 Electoral College votes) Missouri also seems to be a statistical tie. The state went for John McCain in 2008 by fewer than 4,000 votes. Bush won by 53 percent to 46 percent in 2004, and took the state in 2000, with Bill Clinton winning in 1996 and 1992. It’s a true swing state.
Nevada – (6 Electoral College votes) Nevada tightened up in the latest poll. In 1992 and 1996, the state went narrowly for Clinton, followed by Bush winning tight races in 2000 and 2004. But in 2008, Nevada swung to Obama by a margin of 55 percent to 43 percent.
New Hampshire – (4 Electoral College votes) The state leans to Obama, but it’s in play. Obama took the state 54 percent to 45 percent in 2008, and Kerry won in 2004 by 50 percent to 49 percent. The state did go for Bush in 2000, and Clinton in 1996 and 1992.
North Carolina – (15 Electoral College votes) North Carolina went for Obama in a 2008 surprise, by 50 percent to 49 percent . Bush won by 56 percent to 44 percent in 2004. In fact, before Obama, the last time North Carolina went for a Democrat was in 1976.
Ohio – (30 Electoral College votes) Going back to 1964, Ohio always has picked the eventual presidential winner (the state went for Richard Nixon in 1960). Obama won 52 percent to 47 percent in 2008, and Bush took the state in 2004 by 51 percent to 49 percent. Obama and Romney are in an effective tie.
Oregon – (7 Electoral College votes) The polls lean to Obama in Oregon, but the closeness is rather amazing given that Obama won last time by 57 percent to 40 percent, and Kerry took the state in 2004 by 51 percent to 47 percent. The last time Oregon went Republican was in the Reagan landslide of 1984.
Virginia – (13 Electoral College votes) Virginia went for Obama in 2008 by 53 percent to 46 percent, and for Bush in 2004 by 54 percent to 45 percent. Before 2008, Virginia had not voted for a Democrat since President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. An early June survey of likely voters put both candidates at 47 percent.
Wisconsin – (10 Electoral College votes) And finally, especially after Gov. Scott Walker won the June 5 recall election, Wisconsin is in play. In 2008, Obama won by 56 percent to 42 percent, and Kerry was victorious by 50 percent to 49 percent in 2004. In fact, the last time Wisconsin voted for a GOP presidential candidate was in 1984.
From this point — more than four-and-a-half months from Election Day — Romney faces the challenge of finding at least 89 Electoral College votes to get elected, versus Obama’s task of winning a minimum of 56.
But in a down economy, Obama faces the curse of incumbency. For good measure, tracking polls in early June showed the president only at 46 percent. When an incumbent fails to hit 50 percent in polling — that spells big trouble.
Of course, this is only June, and much can and will affect the race. The only thing that could be said with confidence is that Nov. 6 promises to be a late night.
— Raymond J. Keating is the chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.