Could the 2012 Election End with a Deadlocked Electoral College?

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A 269-269 tie might seem outlandish, but it's plausible on 2012's unusual map -- and would likely spell defeat for President Obama.

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President Obama's political advisers laid out various pathways to 270-or-more electoral votes at a briefing on Tuesday, some which seemed more realistic than others.

One optimistic scenario they didn't explore, but which seems quite plausible, is the possibility of a 269-269 electoral vote tie. That would happen if Obama carried all the Kerry states except New Hampshire (where he's struggling), and added New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia to his column. The Republican nominee would carry the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina.

It's not an unrealistic outcome, given the campaign's relative strength with white-collar, college-educated voters. Colorado and Virginia have a disproportionately high number of those voters and those states are pivotal to his re-election hopes. They're also performing relatively well economically: Virginia's unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country (6.4 percent) and Colorado's 8.1 percent rate is below the national average. Nevada (13.4 percent), Florida (10.3 percent) North Carolina (10.4 percent), and Ohio (9.0 percent) have among the highest unemployment rates in the country.

So combine demography with the economy and it's not that outlandish to see an electoral vote tie. What happens then? The election would be decided in the U.S. House of Representatives, currently controlled by the GOP. Sound like a long-shot? Yes. But lots of unexpected outcomes have already occurred in this unpredictable 2012 election.

Image: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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Josh Kraushaar is the political editor for National Journal.

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