The Romney Campaign's 'Route to 270' Doesn't Get to 270

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A pollster's presentation aims at an electoral college victory strategy, but falls a bit short of the goal.

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If you're a politician who wants people to give money to your campaign -- but I repeat myself -- it helps to convince those well-off donors that you can win. To that end, Mitt Romney's pollster has prepared a strategy presentation that argues that Romney has a clear "route to 270," the number of electoral votes it takes to win the presidential election.

There's just one problem: The route to 270 doesn't arrive at its destination, at least not through the states cited alone. If Romney wins the seven states his pollster points to, he winds up with 260 electoral votes.

The seven must-win states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia, according to the memo by pollster Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies, which was reported Wednesday by Politico's James Hohmann. One of them, Arizona, was won by John McCain in 2008; the rest were Obama states.

So I did the math: If Romney flips those six states and no others, how many electoral votes would he end up with? Romney starts from a baseline of 179 electoral votes -- McCain actually won 173 electoral votes, but Census-based reapportionment has added electoral votes to red states and subtracted them from blue states. Add to that Colorado's 9 votes, Florida's 29 votes, Iowa's 6 votes, Nevada's 6 votes, Ohio's 18 votes and Virginia's 13 votes, and you get 260. (The website 270towin.com is a handy tool for such calculations.)

Now, this assumes no other 2008 Obama states flip, while most observers assume there's pretty much no way Obama will hold Indiana, and North Carolina also looks iffy. Indiana's 11 votes alone are enough to put Romney over the top, and Obama's campaign manager, in his own recent electoral-map briefing, agreed that the Hoosier state leans Republican. Jim Messina put Indiana in the same category as Arizona and Missouri, which Obama also lost, in that regard.

But still, if you're going to claim you have a route to 270, it should probably add up to 270.

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Molly Ball is a staff writer covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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