No question about it: Mitt Romney struck gold with his commanding performance in Wednesday’s first presidential debate. The Rasmussen polling firm reported Friday the results of new polls in the crucial swing states of Florida and Virginia, and in each of them Romney got a boost.
Romney now leads by 49 percent to 47 percent in Florida, while in the previous Florida poll, taken slightly more than three weeks earlier, it was Obama who led by 2 percentage points. In Virginia, Romney leads by one point, 49 to 48, while in the previous poll, also taken a bit more than three weeks ago, President Obama had led by one point.
In neither state does the total for the two major-party candidates add up to 100 percent. That is because a small number of voters remain undecided, or plan to vote for splinter-party candidates.
Today’s news was not entirely cheery for Romney. In Ohio, where Obama led by 47 to 46 three weeks ago, he still leads by one point — 50 to 49. The remaining 1 percent say they are voting for splinter candidates. I have written before that the presence of splinter candidates on the ballot could doom Romney’s candidacy, and it might be specifically in Ohio where this happens.
Ohio hasn’t cast its electoral votes for the losing candidate in a presidential election since it chose Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy in 1960. It is a populous state, with 18 electoral votes – the seventh highest total in the nation.
Without Ohio, Romney almost certainly will lose, and if I were in his shoes I would be hanging out there practically the entire month of October. On a personal note, I was born in Ohio, and I sure wish I lived there now.
In addition to Ohio, the states that appear to have this year’s election in their hands include Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina and, as I have already mentioned, Florida and Virginia. All of them are states that Obama won in 2008 against GOP candidate John McCain, but where he got less than 55 percent of the major-party vote.
There are eight swing states in all, and together they boast a total of 105 electoral votes. In 2008 McCain won states that now hold a total of 180 electoral votes, and either candidate needs 270 to win the election, or 269 to tie.
So let’s assume that Romney won’t lose any states that McCain won. Then he must pick up 90 or more out of the 105 electoral votes that appear to be up for grabs. There are various combinations of victories and losses that would allow him to do that, but none of them include losing Ohio. It is a must state, and so, for that matter, is Florida, with 29 electoral votes.
But if Wednesday’s debate teaches us anything, it is that it ain’t over till it’s over. A couple more lopsided debating victories could put Mitt comfortably over the top. I don’t know how much the vice presidential debate will count among voters, but I am going to assume that the brilliant Paul Ryan, the GOP VP candidate, will trump goofy Joe Biden and his silly slogans.