While moving toward the 2016 presidential election, Republican voters would do well to remember that the election is not a single election, but 50 state elections plus the final election in the Electoral College. When these individual state elections are taken into account, national polls are almost meaningless. What matters is the polling in the individual states.
To be more precise, what matters is the polling and the elections in a handful of swing states. In 2012, Mitt Romney needed to win several swing states to win the Electoral College election. These states included Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire and Iowa. Of these, Romney was only able to win North Carolina with President Obama winning all other swing states.
Below is the actual 2012 electoral map.
To win in 2016, the Republican candidate must hold onto every state won by Romney as well as adding several more states to the Republican column. The map below flips the swing states of Florida, Virginia and Ohio to the Republicans. It is worth noting that no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio.
In past elections, Republicans have hoped for victories in other blue states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Nevada. So far these hopes have not been realized and at this point there is no reason to expect that 2016 will be different.
Moving these three states to the Republican candidate moves a total of 60 electoral votes, but this is still not enough to secure a Republican victory. A fourth state needs to be flipped to send a Republican to the White House.
There are several candidates for the state to bring the Republicans to 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win the presidency. The two most likely would be Iowa and Colorado, commanding 6 and 9 electoral votes respectively. Both states seem to have shifted to the right since 2012. In the 2014 midterm elections, both states replaced a Democratic senator with a Republican one (Joni Ernst and Cory Gardner)
The final electoral map shows the effect of adding Iowa’s six electoral votes to the Republican column.
Iowa’s six electoral votes would allow the Republican candidate to eke out a win in the Electoral College. The slim two vote margin above the required 270 is one of the most likely routes to a Republican victory.
The question that Republican primary voters should be asking is which candidate can deliver Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Iowa. A candidate that cannot deliver those four states is not going to win, regardless of how conservative he or she is.
The conservative leader, William F. Buckley, famously said that conservative voters should vote for the most conservative candidate who can win. Conservative voters should bear the electoral map in mind when deciding which Republican candidates are viable… and which are not.