It isn’t the likeliest scenario, but even if Mitt Romney has an enormously good run in this election and wins the popular vote, there is a very good chance Obama will win where it counts: in the Electoral College.
This has happened four times before: John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000 all lost the popular vote but won the presidency gathered the 270+ votes they needed in the Electoral College.
Just starting out, the electoral map already favours Obama. The incumbent is likely to win the Northeast down to Washington D.C. and the West Coast. That’s fourteen states that carry 186 Electoral votes.
Romney will cruise in the South, in some of the larger western states like Utah and Montana, and in the Plains states. That’s 20 states with 156 Electoral College Votes. And turnout could be very high in Romney’s safe states as Republicans are excited about the possibility of defeating an incumbent.
Obama won nine states that Bush had carried in 2004. That’s a lot of territory that Mitt Romney has to recover.
But they key to a split between the popular vote and the electoral college coming to fruition are states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. They are populous states that lean toward Obama, but he could conceivable win them by very narrow margins. In 2010, the Tea Party made tremendous gains in the rust-belt. The same holds true for Ohio which may be the most important swing state again in this election.
In such an election, Romney could still win Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, states that went for Obama in 2012, and lose the electoral college vote.
We put together a map at 270towin.com of what it would look like if all of the above held true. This could add up to a solid and convincing Electoral College win for Obama and still result in a popular vote loss for him:
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