It depends on many factors – message, morale at the base, candidates, the economy – but results of the November 4 election strongly suggest that Barack Obama might win the popular vote but lose the Presidency in the electoral college in 2012.
In 2008, Obama swept 28 states and the District of Columbia, winning 52.9 percent of the popular vote and a solid triumph in the Electoral College of 365-173.
Obama’s favorability ratings have dropped below 50 percent in the past year, and Democrats lost across the economically-ravaged Rust Belt. In addition, Democrats are in trouble in Virginia and North Carolina, where Obama won narrowly in 2008.
With higher participation, especially among young people, Obama could remain at 53 percent in 2010, in spite of significant disappointment among his core supporters. But with greater disillusionment all around, his majority could drop to 50% or below.
Eleven states representing 129 electoral votes could be up for grabs in 2012. Here are their Electoral College votes and current party registration numbers:
Colorado  D53.7-R44.7 [went Republican in 2004]
Florida  D51-R48.2
Indiana  D49.9-R48.9
Iowa  D53.9-R44.4 [Kerry lost in 2004 by 0.67%]
New Mexico  D56.9-R41.8 [Kerry lost in 2004 by 0.79%]
North Carolina  D49.7-R49.4
Ohio  D51.5-R46.9
Pennsylvania  D54.5-R44.2
Virginia [ D52.6-R46.3
Wisconsin  D56.2-R42.6 [Kerry won in 2004 by 0.38%]
The progressive turnout in 2012 will make difference in elevating Obama above 50 percent of the popular vote, and could well be a crucial difference in the Electoral College too. Exit polls in 2008 showed Obama with a 66-32% edge over John McCain. Since being elected, his job approval rating among young people has dropped from 75% to just over 50% [NYT, Sept. 3, 2010]. An October 2010 Harvard poll of young voters showed Obama’s approval ratings fell from 58% to 49% in one year [NYT, Oct. 21].
As Bob Woodward’s most recent book and numerous media reports demonstrate, White House timetables for Afghanistan are heavily influenced by the 2012 electoral timetable. So are the Republicans efforts to box him into a hopeless war. Surely the peace and justice bloc will vote for Obama over any foreseeable Republican candidate in 2012, but its disillusionment will be measured in a sharp decline in numbers of volunteers, phone banking, get-out-the-vote, and fundraising efforts.