From the very beginning we have maintained that among the Battleground states, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin deserved inclusion. Gerald Seib in today’s Wall Street Journal tosses Minnesota into that group and accurately dubs these states “game changers” on the electoral landscape:
Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania are four reliably blue states where Mitt Romney’s campaign thinks it has a chance to pull off an upset. A Republican win in any one of these four would significantly change the calculus of what it takes to win in the electoral college, which is where a presidential race actually is decided. They are similarly large and diverse old-economy states. President Barack Obama carried each comfortably four years ago, and they have been colored Democratic blue in every presidential race in the last generation. Minnesota last went Republican in 1972, Wisconsin in 1984 and Michigan and Minnesota in 1988, so they represent varying degrees of a long shot for the GOP. The most plausible candidate of the four to produce a Republican upset is Wisconsin; the longest shot is Minnesota. Yet Republicans think, with some reason, that they have at least a chance at each of them.
Why these states have outsized importance
While the presidential race appears close nationally, President Barack Obama and the Democrats actually have a distinct advantage in the electoral-college map. Because the set of states that seem almost certain to fall their way carry more electoral votes than those locked in for Republicans, they start with more paths to accumulate the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. The game-changers could, well, change the way that map looks. The game-changer states are rich enough in electoral votes to alter that picture. Minnesota and Wisconsin each has 10 electoral votes, Michigan has 16 and Pennsylvania has 20.
The game changer states dramatically alter electoral college math
Let’s assume, for example, that, out of the states considered toss-ups, Mr. Romney were to win Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio, which would be a tall order all by itself. He’d still be at just 266 electoral votes, and a loser. Throw in any one of the game-changer states, though, and he’d be over the top. Similarly, if Mr. Romney fails to win Ohio but still carries the hotly contested states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire, in addition to his base states, he’d still be stuck at 252 and well short of victory. But throw in Pennsylvania alone and he’s a winner with 272 electoral votes.
Breaking down each state’s chances for Romney
- Wisconsin seems within reach for the simple reason that Republican Gov. Scott Walker just prevailed in a big and expensive recall election that brought so much attention from both parties that it seemed almost a trial run for the presidential election
- Michigan is intriguing because, while President Obama seems likely to get a lot of credit for helping rescue General Motors Co. and Chrysler Corp., recent polls suggest he’s running neck-and-neck with Mr. Romney in the state that’s home to the domestic auto industry. Michigan Republicans say the traditionally GOP parts of the state have turned much more Republican red, offsetting Democratic strength in urban areas
- Pennsylvania and Minnesota are longer shots, but Republicans will be trying. Democrats have a big voter-registration advantage in Pennsylvania, but the state elected a Republican governor and U.S. senator in 2010. It’s also home to many of those white working-class voters who have been a problem for Mr. Obama
- In Minnesota, Democrats barely held on to the governor’s office in 2010, while Republicans used a wave of pickups to take over both houses of the state legislature. The possibility of turning Minnesota is one reason former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is on the Romney vice presidential shortlist