by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Michael Barone applies his electoral number-crunching expertise to the Republicans’ prospects for winning the 2016 presidential election. The results appear in Barone’s latest column posted at National Review Online.
Democrats do have an advantage in the electoral vote, because heavily Democratic clusters clinch about 170 electoral votes for them, while Republicans have a lock on only about 105. But the blue-wall theory, like all political rules of thumb, is true only till it’s not. And this one could easily prove inoperative in a competitive 2016 race.
To see why, go back and put yourself in the shoes of a Democratic strategist after the 2004 presidential race. Assume that a stronger 2008 Democratic nominee will win all of John Kerry’s 252 electoral votes (which happened). Then take a look at the states in which Kerry won 43 percent or more of the popular vote.
The four states in which Kerry won 48 percent or more — Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio, Nevada — were obvious targets, seriously contested in three or four of the previous four elections. Add Florida (47 percent for Kerry and obviously closely contested) and you have 318 electoral votes easily accessible in a good Democratic year. …
… The lesson here is that in a favorable opinion climate, a party can successfully target previously unwinnable states containing voting blocs that it can move or just mobilize. It helps greatly if, like Obama, they increase their turnout in primaries.
Likewise, a Republican strategist looking ahead to 2016 sees twelve states in which Mitt Romney won 43 to 49 percent of the vote in 2012. Add some significant share of their 146 electoral votes to the 206 Romney won, and you get well above the 270 majority.
At the top of the list are perennial targets Florida and Ohio. Just below, at 47 percent in favor of Romney, are Virginia and — part of the supposedly immoveable blue wall — Pennsylvania. Republicans nearly beat a popular Democratic senator in Virginia last year and have been making steady gains in blue-collar Western Pennsylvania. Those four states added to Romney’s would give Republicans 286 electoral votes — George W. Bush’s winning total in 2004.