The mainstream media, including some well-respected political analysts, have begun running pieces arguing that Mitt Romney has a narrow path to the presidency because the number of states he can win is limited to an amount that would just barely put him over the top.
Romney, the reporting goes, will have to win traditionally GOP-leaning states that Obama took in 2008, including Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana, while seizing from the president Ohio and Florida and a couple of others while not ceding any of the states John McCain won. He has no room for error.
This flawed analysis results from political reporters spending too much time in the weed garden of polls and Electoral College math. It assumes that each state is a contest divorced from the others, suggesting Romney will have to pull off a kind of miracle akin to flipping a coin and having it land on his choice of heads every single time.
What this misses is that when it comes to a presidential contest, a rising tide will lift all boats. That is, a successful and appealing campaign run by Romney will put him in good stead everywhere, and make it more likely that he will sweep battleground states rather than win a few and lose a few. If the country starts to get the sense that Romney would be the better president and Obama has failed, he will not only take battleground states but move ahead in states politicos suggest are out of reach.
Who would ever have imagined in 1980 that Ronald Reagan, branded for years as right wing extremist who could never topple moderate Jimmy Carter, would win a landslide in 1980 and ante that up to a blowout of Walter Mondale in 1984. Reagan carried Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts both times.
The issue for Romney is not so much micro-strategizing key states. It’s presenting himself as someone who can lead the country and restore U.S. economic growth and world leadership, while convincing voters that Obama has proved himself incompetent.
If he can do that, he doesn’t have to worry about whether he can placate enough voters in Northern Virginia while maintaining the enthusiasm of conservatives in the southern part of the state. He just has to convince everyone his conservative agenda will make the country better.
So the next time you see someone talking about the gold Romney can strike if he picks up New Hampshire’s four electoral votes, don’t pay much attention. The country is going to decide to make a major shift in direction, or not. If Romney is persuasive, a few votes here or there isn’t going to be what determines where we are going.