President Barack Obama faces new warning signs in a once-promising Southern state and typically Democratic-voting Midwestern states roughly five months before the election even as he benefits nationally from encouraging economic news.
Obama’s new worries about North Carolina and Wisconsin offer opportunities for Republican Mitt Romney, who must peel off states Obama won in 2008 if he’s to cobble together the 270 electoral votes needed to oust the incumbent in November.
Iowa, which kicked off the campaign in January, is now expected to be tight to the finish, while New Mexico, thought early to be pivotal, seems to be drifting into Democratic territory.
If the election were today, Obama would likely win 247 electoral votes to Romney’s 206, according to an Associated Press analysis of polls, ad spending and key developments in states, along with interviews with more than a dozen Republican and Democratic strategists both inside and outside of the two campaigns.
Seven states, offering a combined 85 electoral votes, are viewed as too close to give either candidate a meaningful advantage: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia.
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“As of today, the advantage still lies with the president, but there is a long and hard road ahead in this election,” said Tad Devine, who was a top strategist to Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore and John Kerry but isn’t directly involved in this year’s race.
If Romney wins all the states Republican John McCain carried in 2008 plus North Carolina, as trends today suggest he would, he would still need 64 electoral votes to hit the magic number. That would require him to win a majority of the states that are up for grabs.
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