This weekend’s news in the 2012 presidential contest was Rep. Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Iowa straw poll, Tim Pawlenty’s exit from the race, and the official entry of Gov. Rick Perry (likes Israel! kind of theocratic!) and his quick rise to the top tier. But more relevant long-term—and, for math and politics geeks, more fun—is the electoral college math already taking shape. Ronald Brownstein—he is a genius at this stuff; he predicted the entire Obama-Clinton narrative in March 2007—reports that Obama’s ebbing popularity and political-demographic shifts have given the incumbent fewer routes to victory than he had on the eve of the 2008 race.
Last time around, Obama contested racially diverse battleground states, particularly ones with large black populations—think Virginia and North Carolina, two states which had voted Republican in the recent past but which he won—as well as whiter, blue-collar ones—such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and even Indiana, all of which he also won. In ’12, according to Brownstein, Obama will need to double-down on states in the former category while not counting on states in the latter. The shifts are not without opportunities for Obama—his advisers insist that fire-truck-Red Georgia is in play, and the polls back them up—but he can likely kiss Indiana goodbye and may be forced to play defense in Pennsylvania (which was once futilely cited as Sen. John McCain’s last, best hope) and elsewhere. For Brownstein, it boils down to this: “most Democratic strategists now consider Florida a much better bet for the president in 2012 than Ohio.”
Florida! You again! The keystone of the super-close 2000 election may re-take center stage. And what does Florida have lots of? Jews! Of all swing states, Florida has the largest proportion of Jews, at 3.7 percent. (Second place? Nevada, at 2.9.) And Florida’s specialty is older Jews who may be more amenable than other Jews to arguments that Obama is bad for Israel and should not be re-elected. Expect a Great Schlep II, wherein young liberal Jews flood south Florida, take their grandparents to Flakowitz for a nosh, and try to persuade them to send the maybe-Muslim back for four more years. A tip: Republicans should attempt the same. A second tip: at Flakowitz, get the corned beef hash.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.