Faced with a demoralized national electorate, the 2012 presidential campaigns have abandoned inspirational messages and sweeping themes in favour of cold, hard maths.
President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney are locked in a brutal, expensive fight for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House — a battle that is almost exclusively contained to a handful of key states where independent voters are up for grabs.
Both campaigns have identified about 8 swing states that they need to win to get to 270. But ultimately, the race will almost certainly come down to just five states that have the potential to determine who wins and who loses:
- Ohio: A perennial swing state with 18 electoral college votes, Ohio has about even numbers of Democrats and Republicans, with a huge group of independent voters up for grabs. Obama won Ohio by 5 points in 2008 but the state got swept by the 2010 GOP wave, so it’s anyone’s guess which way it will go this time around. The two campaigns are already pouring money into Ohio, and both Obama and Romney will make big swings through the state this week.
- Virginia: Demographic shifts have turned this once reliable Republican safety into a toss-up, and Virginia’s 13 electoral votes make it one of the biggest swing state prizes of the 2012 election. Obama beat John McCain here by 6 points in 2008, and still leads in state polls, but Republicans are putting a lot of money and effort into getting Virginia back in their column.
- Colorado: Like Virginia, demographic changes turned Colorado from red to purple in 2008, when Barack Obama took the state’s 9 electoral college votes by nearly 9 points. The state’s growing Hispanic population could bode well for the President’s re-election efforts here, but lack of enthusiasm among Latino voters is a huge obstacle that Republicans are already trying to exploit.
- Iowa: If the race remains close elsewhere, Iowa’s six electoral college votes could be the difference between victory and defeat for the 2012 presidential candidates. Romney and Obama are neck-and-neck in Iowa, and both campaigns are making the state a priority.
- Nevada: The Obama campaign is banking on winning Nevada, another once-red state that has been trending blue over the past few election cycles. But Nevada has been hit hard by the economic downturn, giving Republicans an opening to win back the state’s six electoral votes.
With five months to go until November, the electoral map still has time to shift. But for now, these are the states where the real campaign battles are going down.