The 2010 census changed the electoral college math. It's still 269 to tie and 270 to win. Republicans get a slight advantage over the 2004 and 2008 results, but not enough where it would have changed the 08 results.
2004 and 2008 actual - Bush 286 (50.73%), Kerry 251 (48.27%). Obama 365 (53.2%), McCain 173 (46.7%)
Under today's electoral college:
Bush 292, Kerry 246
Obama 359, McCain 179
The MAJOR difference with that is that it makes the 04 election less close than it was. Ohio had 20 electoral votes. If that 120,000 was closed, under 08's electoral votes, Kerry would have won the whole thing. Under today's numbers, that would have made it 264 for Kerry, needing another 6 votes. Nevada (21000 votes) or Iowa (11000) were also needed. Florida now has 29 electoral votes. It's even bigger than it was in 04 and 00.
Florida is now king.
What's telling here is that the 3-5% national vote swing is the difference between a so called landslide, and a close election. This is one of the reasons why so many politicians screw up when they crow about mandates. Mandates do not exist. Neither Bush, nor Obama had one.
I'm going to divide these states into five categories. The math is slightly skewed to the democrats' favor, because I'm counting a lot of competitive states as leaning democrat. (Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania have been close in 2000 and 2004)
Safe GOP - Not competitive in any of the last three elections
Lean GOP - Won by GOP last three elections, but can be competitive (5pts or less)
Safe Dem - Not competitive in any of the last three elections
Lean Dem - Won by Dems last three elections, but can be competitive (5pts or less)
If one party lose ANY of the lean or non competitive states in their area, it's likely over before it starts. It's going to be a wipeout. Demographics may make things interesting in Arizona or Georgia, but those are states that need to be kept in the fold. Elections are close at times in Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, but those are firewalls for the opposing party. Some of the previous "firewall" states won by Obama were upsets in Indiana, North Carolina, and Nebraska Congressional District 2. Those are all game over immediately losses. Yes, it's mathematically possible to lose these "lean" states and still win, but due to demographics, it's not likely. If a democrat loses Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania or Michigan, kiss Florida and Ohio goodbye. Those states have similar demographics and views to a large extent. If a Republican loses Indiana, kiss Ohio and Florida goodbye. If a Republican loses North Carolina, kiss Virginia goodbye. If a democrat loses Oregon, Colorado and Nevada are next. If a Republican loses Montana, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico are next.
Safe Republican - 166 votes - Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, both Dakotas, Nebraska outside District 2, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee (exception to 5% rule because Gore's home state), Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, and Alaska.
Lean Republican - 13 votes - Montana and Missouri, both won by McCain with 49%
That gives 179 votes for the GOP to start with.
Safe Democrat - 176 Votes - California, Washington, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, Maryland, DC, Delaware, Maine district 1.
Lean Democrat - 66 votes - Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maine overall and district 2. At times they are close, but haven't flipped for presidential races since at least 1988.
That gives the dems 242 votes to start with. Again, if any of these "lean" states flip in 2012 - very likely game over.
States/Districts Bush Won Twice:
Nebraska 2, Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio
States Bush Won once:
New Hampshire, Iowa, and New Mexico - 15 votes.
If Obama keeps all the states Bush only won once, he'll be up to 257 needing 13 to win. That would make Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia must wins for the GOP to survive.
Back to the leans. There is no scenario where if the democrats keep the Gore and Kerry states, the republicans can win without Florida. Florida alone would give the dems 271. Game over. That's why Florida is such a key must win state.
So how to the Republicans get from 179 to 270?
1. Florida. - Adding Florida gives the GOP 208. It's not the easiest state to win, but it is a must win under any scenario.
2. North Carolina, Indiana, Nebraska District 2 - These were 49% Obama states and a normally GOP congressional district. These 26 votes are a must for any realistic chance. That and Florida makes it 235 with 35 votes needed. They normally are lean or even solidly Republican in the case of Indiana.
How can the GOP candidate get the 35 remaining votes?
A. Virginia and Ohio - at least one of the two much be flipped. If both are flipped, the GOP needs any other state to win.
If Ohio (now 18 votes, not 20) only is flipped, 17 votes are needed:
A. Colorado and any two of Iowa/Nevada/New Hampshire/New Mexico
B. Nevada, Iowa, and New Mexico
If Virginia only is flipped (13 votes), 22 votes are needed. Colorado's 9 votes are a must win then, as well as three of Iowa/Nevada/New Hampshire/New Mexico
In short, Priority 1 is Florida, followed by getting back Indiana and North Carolina, Virginia, and Ohio. If that is done, only one other state is needed. Obama knows this. He's out campaigning heavily right now in Virginia. He was recently in Colorado as well.
Here's an electoral college calculator to check your own scenarios.