Don’t believe the hype about the supposedly narrow path to 270 electoral votes that Mitt Romney faces. The idea, advanced in a Washington Post story today, is that the presumptive GOP nominee faces an extra burden this fall in the specific swing states that will ultimately decide the presidency.
The claim has been made by others recently, and there’s really nothing to it. At its core, it reflects a very simple fact: Barack Obama won the 2008 election. Just consider the opening line of today’s Post story:
Mitt Romney faces a narrow path to the presidency, one that requires winning back states that President Obama took from Republicans in 2008 and that has few apparent opportunities for Romney to steal away traditionally Democratic states.
The first part of that sentence, as Nick Baumann pointed out, is “literally true of every nominee for the party that lost the previous election.”
This speaks to the political world’s very human tendency to treat the patterns that defined the most recent election as more fixed than they are – which inevitably leads to wild overreactions when those patters are obliterated by the next election. Remember the “permanent Republican majority” that Bush and Rove put together in 2004? And how just two years later Democrats won back the House and the Senate? Or how Barack Obama put together a 40-year majority in 2008, only to watch Republicans score one of history’s most thorough midterm landslides in 2010?Simply put, any candidate who wins more than 51 percent of the popular vote is extremely likely to win the electoral vote, and by a disproportionate margin. As Al Gore learned, however, things get a lot trickier when the popular vote winner is ahead by less than a percentage point.