Mitt Romney, having setback the president’s reelection bid with impressive debate performances, is in a position to win. As the economy creeps along at a sluggish pace, millions of Americans remain unemployed.  Political indicators and prominent polling data conclude that Romney-Ryan have the momentum heading into the final stretch.

But which states hold the keys to victory this fall? The top five include:

5. North Carolina  

Electoral Votes: 15

Previous Outcome: Obama +0.3%

Current Prediction: Romney +5.6%*

Status: Likely Romney

Although North Carolina and states of similar political taste traditionally support Republican presidential hopefuls, they went for Barack Obama. However, it seems as though the last cycle was an exception to the rule. In 2010, Republicans swept across the Tar Heel State – taking control of the legislature for the first time since the late 1800s. Team Romney really wants to secure  this original colony. Caution: This pick-up is not guaranteed.

4. Colorado

Electoral Votes: 9

Previous Outcome: Obama +9.0%

Current Prediction: Romney +0.2%*

Status: Toss-up

GOP candidates vying for the presidency have typically done well in the Mile High, having won eight of Colorado’s last ten contests. Bill Clinton (1992) and the incumbent (2008) both clinched this purple outlier the initial time around; the former lost it during his reelection bid. The final tally might depend upon turnout in Democratic Party stronghold: Denver,  the most populous city stationed in the Mountain West time zone. Consider also the significance of Jefferson and Arapahoe Counties, suburban areas which are viewed by trusted politicos as a bellwether for the country. Romney’s chances increase tremendously with a positive outcome here.

3. Virginia

Electoral Votes: 13

Previous Outcome: Obama +6.3%

Current Prediction: Tie*

Status: Toss-up

George W. Bush carried the Commonwealth twice, but it tilted toward the Democrats last time.    High turnout in Arlington and Fairfax Counties and Alexandria – three affluent suburbs near Washington, D. C. – could determine the outcome. Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA), who entered office amidst the Tea Party tidal wave, doubles as a Romney campaign surrogate. To boot, there is an incredibly competitive contest brewing for an open U. S. Senate seat between George Allen and Tim Kaine. The races atop the ballot look to remain close throughout.

2. Florida

Electoral Votes: 29

Previous Outcome: Obama +2.8%

Current Prediction: Romney +2.1%*

Status: Toss-up

The Sunshine State is a must-win for Mitt; a loss here would benefit Obama immensely. Of course the 2000 general election was decided by less than six-hundred Floridian votes. Republicans held their annual convention, headlined by former Governor Jeb Bush, in Tampa this summer. Fears that Paul Ryan’s selection as the vice presidential nominee would hamper the GOP are unsubstantiated. Polls show that a tight race is anticipated.

1. Ohio  

Electoral Votes: 18

Previous Outcome: Obama +4.6%

Current Prediction: Obama +2.1%*

Status: Toss-up

Another extremely crucial battleground, Buckeye Land can make or break either side’s November 6 celebration. Both men have visited early and often. The Obama campaign recently decided to invest extra resources in specific Midwestern locales. Evidently, Romney’s debate performances signify an edge. Of note without a majority of Ohioan voters on board, no Republican has ever been elected president.

Are We Better Off?

Statistics are one thing, reality is another. All five of these states were won by Barrack Obama four years ago. In order to succeed, the Republican ticket must turn the tide. If Mitt Romney carries North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio – in addition to Indiana and reliably red territory – he will become the forty-fifth White House occupant.** On to Election Day!


*The “Current Prediction” is based on the latest Real Clear Politics polling average.

**Romney would defeat the president, 275 to 263, if he were to carry the aforementioned states alone. Please refer to the photo.


Nick Kowalski | Michigan State University | @NKowalski