While 2012 predictions are premature, the danger ahead lies once again in the Electoral College. Al Gore was elected president by a popular majority in 2000, only to lose the electoral vote to George Bush. Similarly, President Obama seems likely to win a majority of votes but is in peril because of the undemocratic Electoral College system.
"I very much agree with the electoral college risk," says John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation. "A lot has shifted with the 2010 census numbers, moving numbers south and west. Also, there are real state-based threats with regard to the distribution of the votes."
Chicago political consultant Marilyn Katz "totally agrees" on the electoral college threat, and said, "what concerns me most – voter restrictions." Katz predicts that restrictions on youth and minority voters "could backfire on the Republicans, and a perception that it’s a wholesale racist and anti-youth attack could become a mobilizing issue and make those voters pissed off enough to defy expectations."
In Pennsylvania, Carl Davidson notes, the GOP "is working to redistribute electoral votes by congressional district rather than the state as a whole. Thus is Obama squeaks through with a simple majority, he sill wouldn’t get all the electoral votes." Democrats are putting up resistance, Davidson goes on, "and some Republicans are shamefaced about the tactics, but they have a majority in the state government. I never thought I’d be in a position of defending the old Electoral College!"
In the Bulletin's analysis, Obama can win up to 316 electoral votes next year. At this early point, at least ten states potentially winnable for Obama are at various degrees of risk: Michigan (17), Ohio (20), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Florida (27), New Jersey (15), Pennsylvania (21), New Hampshire (4), and Maine (4). He is likely to lose certain close races: Indiana (11) and Missouri (11).
Assuming a hypothetical Romney-Christie GOP ticket, the risk of an Obama defeat increases in places like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, with a combined electoral vote of 56. Obama has to keep normally-blue but contested states like Wisconsin, Colorado and New Mexico in his column.
"Thinking like a presidential candidate" is a discipline different than any other in politics, and is important for movement activists to follow. For example, to ensure his popular majority Obama must build enthusiasm and turnout in liberal constituencies like labor, African-Americans, Latinos, women, LGBT, environmentalists and youth/students, where his numbers and enthusiasm levels have fallen since 2008. To ensure his electoral majority, he has to draw sharp contrasts on immigration and economic issues to strengthen his Latino base in close races in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. He needs organized labor to turn out heavily in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. He needs his African-American base especially in North Carolina, where the Democrats are holding their national convention. Obama needs the Jewish and elderly vote to squeak out a Florida win. In each of these states, he can count on favorable demographic trends (eg, more Latinos than 2008) if his organization can register, mobilize, and turn out the base.
Obama needs to win back the 2008 peace vote, but at this point the election will turn on populist economic issues and relative voter fear of a Republican takeover of all branches of the state. One opportunity for the peace movement is to keep connecting the costs of war to the domestic economic crisis, emphasizing, for example, that spending trillions of dollars we don’t have on Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Long War will only widen the budget deficit and siphon away dollars that could be invested in schools, construction and green jobs here at home.