The Yahoo News election outlook: 100 electoral votes will decide contest

Economic growth may be stagnating, high-dollar donors may be harder to woo than they were four years ago, and Mitt Romney may be narrowing the gap in public-opinion polls, but President Barack Obama has one key thing going for him at the outset of this general election season: a significant advantage in the battle for 270 electoral votes.

According to a Yahoo! News analysis of the current electoral map, President Obama begins this race within grasp of the promised land. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia are either solidly in the Obama column or leaning that way, giving Obama a total of 247 electoral votes. Mitt Romney has 23 states either solidly in the fold or leaning in his direction, for a total of 191 electoral votes.

That leaves eight battleground states up for grabs: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire. An even 100 electoral votes are available between them.

We clearly aren't the only ones who see these states as the most important battlegrounds. Take a look at the Obama and Romney travel schedules this week. Mitt Romney chose New Hampshire as the locale for his big 'I'm all but the nominee' victory speech last night while President Obama spent two days this week traveling to North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa.

Yes, it is time for that quadrennial elementary school civics refresher course, wherein we remind ourselves that a presidential election is not a popular election but a series of 51 individual elections, in which each candidate seeks to amass the requisite 270 electoral votes needed to secure a majority of the 538 electoral votes. 

As Mitt Romney delivered a clean sweep of five Northeastern primaries and once again delivered a victory speech that framed his general election campaign against Barack Obama, a look at the current electoral landscape shows just how much work the Massachusetts Republican has ahead of him.

[Poll: Young people think Obama will win re-election]

By no means does the accompanying map intend to be predictive.  It is simply Yahoo! News' inaugural snapshot of the state of the race. Our outlook will most certainly change as the campaigns, the candidates, their surrogates, the outside groups, and, most important, the voters all become fully engaged in the months ahead.

In this analysis, Obama is just 23 electoral votes shy of the magic number. If he could put Florida's 29 electoral votes away early, he could lose all seven remaining toss-up states and still win a second term.

Of course, Florida is likely to remain a battleground all the way through November even if Mitt Romney puts Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio on the ticket as the Republican Party's vice-presidential nominee.

[Related: Romney kicks off fundraising push a day after big primary wins]

Put another way, if the president were to lose the four largest prizes among the toss-up states (Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia), he could still get to 270 by scoring victories in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Colorado.

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