Conventional wisdom has suggested that President Obama has an easier path to victory in the 2012 election than Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Because of his comfortable Electoral College margin in 2008, the president can afford to lose some states — such as North Carolina — without sacrificing the ultimate prize.

But Barron’s “D.C. Current” columnist Jim McTague writes in the latest issue that former GOP demographer John Morgan paints a much different picture. Morgsn’s electoral map assigns 249 electoral votes (including North Carolina’s) to Romney, with another 40 votes leaning Republican. (A candidate needs 270 to win.) Morgan considers the 38 electoral votes of Virginia, Minnesota, Colorado, and Nevada as up for grabs.

Morgan’s favorite map shows the number of congressional delegations dominated by one or the other party. The GOP has 33 delegations, versus 16 for the Democrats and one tie state. Weak spots for the Republicans are in the Northeast and West Coast — places where Republicans have never been exceptionally strong. Morgan says the party’s 2-1 lead in delegations is a strong indicator of party strength. Prior to 2010, the Democrats had the 2-1 lead.

Morgan argues that in light of 2010’s dramatic results, Romney’s path to victory is less difficult than it has been portrayed throughout the campaign. In the remaining weeks, Obama will have to visit states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio — states that he won in 2008 — because he’s not as popular as he used to be. Otherwise, he could focus on swing states. Obama is down in part because the economy is much less robust than he promised it would be back in 2009. But the growth of Republican-leaning suburbs and counties is another major factor.