Why 2012 presidential election will be harder for Obama
As the incumbent, Obama is burdened by three wars and the economy. He's taking nothing for granted for the 2012 presidential election, and is planning victory scenarios that don’t involve taking every state he won last time.
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Unemployment remains high at 8.8 percent, home foreclosures are expected to continue at a high rate this year, $4-a-gallon gas has bruised consumer confidence, and voters are increasingly worried about deficits and the national debt. Overseas, the nation is embroiled in multiple unpopular wars. Bottom line: Obama may well find 2012 a tougher race than 2008, when he beat John McCain 53 percent to 46 percent. His 2008 electoral vote total was even more lopsided, at 365 to 173.Skip to next paragraph
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Going forward, subtract six electoral votes from Obama's total right off the top, because of population declines in states he won in 2008. This means he's down to 359 electoral votes if he wins all the same states again; 270 are needed for victory.
Obama can afford to lose some tossup states (see map), but not too many. His campaign has put out word that it is eyeing Texas, Arizona, and Georgia, according to Politico, owing to those states' growing Hispanic populations – a demographic that Obama won two-thirds of in 2008. But that is probably an attempt to get the Republicans to play defense and spend money on their home turf.
More likely, it is Obama who will be playing defense in many of the states he won in 2008. On their updated 2012 electoral map, Larry Sabato and his team at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics have Obama starting with 182 electoral votes in the states they label "safe Democratic," versus only 105 "safe Republican" electoral votes. When the likely Democratic and Republican states are added, the score gets a bit closer: 196 for Obama, 170 for the Republican. Include the "leaners," and it's 247 for Obama, 180 for the Republican. The tossup states account for 111 electoral votes.
Obama will have a hard time holding onto at least two of those tossup states – Indiana and North Carolina. Even a state like Wisconsin, which went for Obama by 14 points in 2008, will require work to hold onto, after a 2010 cycle that swung heavily Republican.
Virginia also goes onto many political analysts' "hard to hold" lists – but it may be that Ohio is harder to keep. After all, Obama won Virginia last time with 53 percent of the vote, and Ohio with only 51 percent. Both states had big Republican years in their latest statewide elections, but Virginia's economy is stronger.