Romney's Road to 270 Relies on 'Hawkeye Granite' or 'Southern Sweep'

Image Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

Eager to debunk the conventional wisdom that suggests that the Obama campaign has an easier path to an electoral college victory than they do, Romney campaign officials briefed reporters today on the many ways they can reach the magic 270 number.

With names like the "3-2-1? plan, the "Southern Sweep" and "Hawkeye Granite," the Romney campaign argues that it can lose some traditionally "red" states and still win the White House.

In the "4 + 1? plan, for example, Romney would need to carry four states - Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio, but just one of these former "red" states: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico or Iowa. A win in Pennsylvania or New Hampshire - both of which went "blue" in 2004 - plus the original four would also work.

The "3-2-1? map requires Romney to win three traditionally Republican states - Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana; pick up two states carried by George W. Bush in 2000/2004 - Florida and Ohio; and then pick up just one of eight states, many of which were considered Republican before 2008 - New Hampshire, New Mexico, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The path that, in my estimation, looked the most realistic was dubbed the I-80 scenario. In it, Romney would need to hold onto to all the states carried by John McCain, carry the states along Interstate 80 - Nevada, Indiana, Colorado, Iowa and Ohio, and then North Carolina and Florida. Colorado is probably the toughest of those states for Romney to carry (and, technically, the interstate doesn't go through there, it snakes along its northern border). If he lost Colorado, he'd need to carry Virginia.

The Romney campaign continues to be optimistic about its chances in traditionally blue states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In Wisconsin, for example, it was heartened by the impressive GOP turnout in Tuesday's primary. And, in Pennsylvania, Romney officials argue, Obama polarizes voters in traditionally red Western Pennsylvania and the "T" (the middle part of the state between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh). There is also a scenario that has Romney winning Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which looks like a stretch at this point.

For now, however, the campaign map can really be distilled down to eight states, all of which were carried by Obama in 2008 and seven of which were carried by George W. Bush in 2004: Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, Ohio, Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire. No candidate has to win all of these states. But, at the end of the day, Obama just needs to win one of these, while Romney needs to win at least five.