Four years ago, President Obama won re-election with 332 electoral votes. When thinking about the 2016 race, it's important to keep that number in mind: if you want to know whether Donald Trump will be in the Oval Office next year, consider the fact that the New York Republican will need to win every state Mitt Romney carried in 2012, and then also win at least another 62 electoral votes that voted "blue" in the last election.
The test for Republicans -- or anyone else who wants Trump to succeed -- is simple: identify the states that will switch from backing Obama to backing Trump and do the arithmetic. If you can't find these 62 votes, then you don't believe the Republican ticket will prevail. (Quinnipiac polling out this morning showed Trump competitive in Ohio and Pennsylvania
, but even if he somehow won both, they would combine for 38 electoral votes.)
But it's actually slightly worse than that -- because there's no guarantee the GOP candidate will succeed in every state Romney won four years ago. Take this report
in the Salt Lake Tribune
, for example.
Concerned with polls showing Hillary Clinton has a chance to win in one of the most conservative states in the nation, Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans huddled with Donald Trump in Las Vegas on Saturday. They talked for half an hour shortly before Trump held a packed rally at the Treasure Island casino, and he vowed to campaign in Utah after the national convention in Cleveland in July.
Evans told the paper that Trump committed to campaigning in Utah after he secures the nomination. "He's definitely coming back out," Evans said.
And that, in and of itself, is a striking vow. Utah is one of the nation's most reliably red states, and as we discussed
last week, Utah has voted Republican in 15 of the last 16 presidential elections. And yet, recent polling suggests Hillary Clinton is competitive in the state, and the chairman of the Utah GOP is concerned enough to talk directly to Trump for a half-hour about the importance of the presumptive Republican nominee campaigning in the state -- which he's apparently agreed to do.
It's roughly the equivalent of the chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party telling Hillary Clinton to worry about the Aloha State in the fall.
And it's not just Utah. The Washington Post reported
over the weekend on Democrats feeling increasingly optimistic about their chances in Arizona -- which has also supported the Republican presidential ticket in 15 of the last 16 elections.
There is no recent reliable public polling in Arizona, but Democratic and Republican strategists said private research shows the presidential race as a toss-up. Asked whether presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has a path to victory here, GOP strategist Charles Coughlin conceded: "I believe it's there if she wanted to do it. Everybody always says, 'This is the election when Latinos turn out,' and it's never happened. But I can actually see that happening this time."
While Clinton has hired former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D) campaign manager to oversee her operation in Arizona, Trump has no dedicated director in the state. When a Washington Post reporter visited Trump's Arizona headquarters, there was little in the office to suggest an active campaign: "There was one worker eating lunch at his desk, a roomful of empty cubicles and, other than a small pile of plastic yard signs, no Trump paraphernalia, brochures or fliers."
GOP officials remain optimistic. Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham declared. "The progressive left should avoid the state of Arizona because it's a bad investment."
And if there's one thing the Arizona Republican Party chairman is concerned about, it's giving sound investment advice to the left.
The key, of course, is Arizona's growing Latino population, which tends to consider Trump offensive. State Rep. Jonathan Larkin, a Latino Democrat, told the Post, "Trump has given us a lot to work with, that's for sure."