Karen Tumulty in the Washington Post has an article questioning whether it's time for Democrats to panic. Based on my analysis of the 2008 voting map, I think it is.
My overarching premise is that Obama, after four years of a real record will inevitably be less popular than he was when he could run simply as an attractive ideal... the man of "hope and change." This is regardless of whether you think that record is good (but who really does?) or bad (which it is). So I believe that two things will inevitably happen:
1. Romney will hold all of the states that McCain won. Obama isn't going to win over people who didn't vote for him in the first instance. McCain won 173 electoral votes, but with reapportionment after the 2010 census, this gets Romney to 179.
2. Romney will win every state that was close, defined as states where Obama got less than 52% of the vote. These include Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio, as well as the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska. This gets Romney all the way to 253 electoral votes, very close to the 270 he needs to become President.
But if the inevitable wearing-off of the glow of Obamamania from 2008 -- the realization by so many Americans that, even if they still prefer Democratic policies, they were bamboozled and made to look foolish by the rhetoric of "hope" and Obama's vaunted "coolness" -- gets you almost all the way there, the reality of Obama's dismal record of high unemployment, extraordinary deficits, weakness abroad, and scandals (Fast and Furious, Solyndra, national security leaks), together with the bloom-is-off-the-rose fact that the media now appears to notice his gaffes ("the private sector is doing just fine"), means that a significant number of other states that were in the 52-55% range for Obama in 2008 will now flip. Those states range from Virginia (52.6%) to Nevada (55.1%), with Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado in between. If those states flip, here's what the map looks like:
And that's before you consider other states with popular Republican governors, including Wisconsin (10 electoral votes), New Jersey (14 votes), and New Mexico (5 electoral votes). Just today Rasmussen has Romney ahead in Wisconsin, 47-44, with 9% undecided. Does anyone really believe that undecideds will break toward Obama in this election? And Romney may have a real chance in his original home state of Michigan (16 electoral votes), where his father was governor, and where the economy is particularly terrible.
Time to panic, indeed.