In 2011, the Obama campaign identified its battleground states and assumed that Mitt Romney was the most likely opponent. The ground machine was installed, the presidential visits began, and within weeks of Romney’s designation as the presumptive nominee, the air war was launched with massive attack advertising.
The strategy appears to be working. Barack Obama is leading in 8 of the 9 toss-up identified states. He could be heading to a narrow national victory (3 percentage points today), but a substantial electoral vote sweep due to the strategy (332 to 206, or 23 percentage point spread).
Out of nine states generally seen as the battlegrounds for the presidential election, using the Real Clear Politics averages, Romney is only ahead in one – North Carolina (5 points). Obama is ahead in the remaining eight states, with an average two-point lead. However, Iowa and several states with one-point differences are essentially toss-ups. And, in all nine states, local or national conditions could shift the momentum very quickly.
In three other states with substantial campaigning, Obama leads in two in current polling (Michigan: Obama 6 points, Pennsylvania: Obama 8 points, Missouri: Romney 7 points).
Looking at the electoral map, if Obama takes all the states Democrats regularly win (and current polls show substantial leads), he will have 237 electoral votes toward the needed 270. Romney will have 191 by that criterion. If Obama takes the nine toss-up states he currently leads, he would pick up 95 out of the 110 electoral votes in the toss-up list. Obama would win with 332 electoral votes – down from his 365 in 2008, but still a 33-vote cushion.
This is why when the story of the 2012 election is told, and if Obama wins, his strategy of putting the bulk of his campaign in the battleground states and starting the visits and air war early may be seen as the key to his victory.