A few caveats up front about this entry. First, we are a year away from the 2012 general election, so a lot can and will change between now and then. We have not had a head-to-head debate between candidates let alone a Republican nominee. Second, we can surmise and hope and pray all sorts of things about who we wish the candidate should be for the GOP, but it would appear that Mitt Romney will be the eventual nominee. Is he my dream choice? As a long time Republican, my first choice would have been Mitch Daniels, but there is no use crying over spilled milk, would've, could've and should'ves. Additionally, in a few precious cases, Romney polls the best in hypothetical match ups with Obama, even in states where Republicans have no chance of winning. Third, I do not wish to be a spoil sport nor am I trying to write some controversial entry, but I have to look at the objective facts (which could change) at the time to create an analysis based on the electoral math.
So with that in mind, based on the most recent polls (and some of them are not all that recent), this is what we have thus far. Needing 270 electoral votes to win, the current polls indicate Obama with 291 to Romney's 194 with another 53 outstanding because the polling is so close (or absent). Even if Romney was to win these 53 votes, he would still lose. That then means that Romney would have to retain certain states that McCain won in 2008 (but current indications are that Obama could win in 2012), plus win a couple of states in which Obama is currently leading (but the margins are on the cusp).
Currently, the only state that McCain won in 2008 that looks like Obama would win in 2012 is Georgia. Additionally, Arizona and Missouri are states that McCain won in 2008 but are so close that they are in the "outstanding" column now (although I believe they will vote for the GOP). However, if Romney were to lose these two states, the rest of the math makes little difference. If Romney takes the 53 outstanding votes, he still loses 291-247. Therefore, the task comes down to flipping two of the three states that Obama won in 2008 that are currently in the Obama column. Note that Virginia is currently in the outstanding column, but was won by Obama in 2008, so it is assumed that Romney wins all these outstanding states also, thus flipping Virginia.
Flipping Pennsylvania would not win Romney the contest as the final tally would give Obama a 271-267 margin of victory. Hence, it would come down to winning Florida AND Pennsylvania while retaining Georgia. Put another way, if Romney loses Georgia, he definitely needs both Pennsylvania and Florida. Conversely, if he keeps Georgia, then all he would need is a win in Pennsylvania OR Florida to eek out a victory. And that assumes that Romney takes all the outstanding states also which are Arizona, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Hampshire. Of those five states, two would be GOP retentions while he would have to flip the other three states just to get to the Georgia/Florida/Pennsylvania scenario.
Clearly the task is more daunting for Romney than it is for Obama. Make no mistake, Obama will have to play defense to keep Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida in his fold (along with Pennsylvania). It would appear that Ohio will play a lesser role this time around than it did in 2008 and especially 2004. It would also appear that Obama is set to lose Nevada this outing, but those losses merely figure into the smaller margin of victory for Obama in 2012. Obviously, the goal is victory, not a narrow loss.
However, take heart in this analysis. First, assuming this plays out with an Obama victory, the Republicans are on target to retain the House (albeit with a smaller margin on the order of 5-10 seats) and win the Senate. This would make Obama's final four years that much more difficult. In addition, his signature piece of legislation- Obamacare- may be retained, but without the individual mandate thus rendering it toothless. But that is a big "IF," and we should not pin our hopes on a Supreme Court decision. The hope is that if the GOP wins the Senate and retains the House, it will force Obama to move more towards the center and advance an agenda not beholden to his liberal backers. Well....we can dream. Regardless, it is incumbent upon us all, that despite who the eventual GOP nominee is, we rally around them and support them despite our differences or preferences today. That is the real bottom line. While Democrats sit back and laugh at the GOP candidates fighting one another, they are ignorant of the fact that four short years ago, their messiah and Hillary Clinton were locked in a bitter battle that lasted into July which was way more nastier than this GOP nomination process.