With two weeks to go, it looks like the presidential race is effectively down to six states. While we will continue to hear about Florida, North Carolina and Nevada, my analysis is that President Barack Obama would need everything to go perfectly to win Florida or North Carolina, and Mitt Romney would need everything to go perfectly to win Nevada. Of the three, the state that is in the most doubt is Florida, but make no mistake, Florida will be a heavy lift for the president, and I expect he will only win it if there is a decisive break in his direction between now and November 6th.
If we look at the states that are clearly decided, it is almost an absolute certainty that Obama comes away with at least 200 electoral votes, and that Romney wins at least 180. Barring a decisive turn in Romney’s direction, there is almost no plausible scenario under which Romney wins Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, or Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which puts the president at 243. Barring an absolute collapse by Romney, it is extremely unlikely he wins fewer than 235 electoral votes.
So let’s look at what’s left, in order of likeliest wins for Obama to likeliest wins for Romney:
Ohio (18 electoral votes)
New Hampshire (4)
For President Obama, two states stand out in importance over all others: Ohio and Wisconsin. By all accounts, he continues to maintain small leads in both states. If he wins both of these states, and holds what he is expected to hold, he will take at least 271 electoral votes and win reelection.
It also appears clear that Ohio and Wisconsin are the two likeliest states of these six to stick with the president. In short, if Romney wins either Ohio or Wisconsin, he is likely taking Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire as well. Iowa and New Hampshire are probably complete toss-ups at this point, with the trends indicating Colorado and Virginia may be headed toward Romney.
The bottom line: if Romney wins either Ohio or Wisconsin, he will be the next president of the United States. Conversely, if Obama hangs on to either Virginia or Colorado, he will win reelection. Iowa and New Hampshire, right in the middle, will probably end up with the winner, but neither state is likely to be decisive.