Here’s about half of what you need to know to understand the manoeuvrings in the upcoming Presidential election (most of the other half is where the money is coming from, and unless the courts do something unexpected, that’s going to be kept secret from you):
It takes 270 electoral votes to get elected. (The system overweights small states, since every state gets at least three electoral votes regardless of population as does DC.) For the large majority of the country, the election is already nearly over. Most states are either safe for one candidate or the other, or leaning hard enough in one direction that, assuming no horrible surprises or scandals and assuming a competent ground game, we can predict the result.
Add it up and President Obama has 185 in the bag and 32 leaners. He needs 53 more to win.
Mitt Romney has 158 electoral votes in the bag, and 48 leaners. He needs 64 more to win.
Thus, unless the money available to the Romney campaign is so great that they can peel off some Obama leaners, the real fight will be over the 115 electoral votes in the so-called swing states. That’s where the biggest expenditures — the giant ad barrages and more — will be. Those are the places where the candidates will go most often, and towards which they will craft their messages. And those are the places where, if you happen to live there, your vote will count the most.
And, naturally, Florida leads the list (numbers are electoral votes):
New Hampshire 4
I think Obama loses Florida and Iowa, and I don’t feel great about Wisconsin.
I think Romney loses Ohio and Nevada and is looking weak in New Hampshire.
So if Obama can win Pennsylvania and Colorado, does that put him over the top?
Alternately, I think if Obama wins either Florida or Virginia, he gets re-elected. Conversely, if Romney wins Pennsylvania or Ohio, his chances have to look good.
Data Source: NY Times, The Electoral Map – Presidential Race Ratings and Swing States – Election 2012