With the most recent Quinnipiac poll showing that Mitt Romney trails President Obama by only seven points in the state, the absurd notion that a Republican presidential candidate could win Connecticut doesn’t seem quite so anymore. After reviewing the poll and putting aside my own skepticism, I built a presidential vote model to project a Romney win in the state. The path to victory is difficult but doable. Here’s how Mitt Romney can win Connecticut.
The model assumes that Connecticut’s voter turnout will mimic its 2008 level, with just over 78 percent of voters participating and 5 percent voter registration growth from October 2011 to November 2012. It projects slightly more than 1.6 million votes will be cast by Connecticut voters, making the slimmest possible win total about 810,000 votes.
The path to victory starts with rock-ribbed Republicans. Question #1 of the poll indicated that 93 percent of Republicans are planning to vote for Romney and question #13 showed they are far more enthusiastic about voting than anyone else. For Romney to win statewide, 90 percent of registered Republicans must vote and the 93 percent GOP support for Romney must hold to produce a block of 360,000 votes.
Even with sky high turnout and shoulder-to-shoulder unity, Republicans can produce only about half the number of votes necessary for their candidate’s victory. He will need 75 percent of unaffiliated voters to show up and he’ll need a majority of them to vote for him. That generates about 346,000 votes. Together, Republicans and unaffiliated voters would produce 706,000 votes, or about 76,000 more than John McCain received statewide from all voters in 2008 — but still not enough to win.
Unless Romney can win 61 percent of unaffiliated voters though, he will still be about 100,000 votes short of victory. This means that 20 percent of Democrats must break ranks and support the Republican in order to secure a narrow 50.5 percent victory statewide and seven precious, unexpected electoral votes.
Such a victory would produce a radically new statewide political map. In 2008, for example, John McCain won only 29 towns. The Romney victory model shows him winning 128 towns, including three towns (Stonington, Bristol, and East Lyme) where President Obama won more than 60 percent of the vote in 2008.
The town-by-town vote differentials would be huge, too. In percentages, McCain won Darien 54-45 but this model would increase the Romney vote share to 71 percent. In North Branford, Sen. McCain lost to Obama 51-47 but Romney would win 62 percent. Prospect, Wolcott, Watertown, Middlebury, and Oxford would each perform 17 percent better for Romney than they did for McCain. To put that in perspective, in Watertown the change translates to about 4,000 GOP and 9,400 unaffiliated votes for Romney. In Darien, it would mean 3,500 GOP and 8,400 unaffiliated Romney votes.
The numbers from the model make the “difficult” part of the path apparent. But the numerical needs dovetail fortuitously with the issues data from the poll. That’s the part that just might make it “doable.” Romney will need unaffiliated voters and dissatisfied Democrats to win Connecticut, and the poll shows that both groups exist in large enough numbers to do so.
The poll indicates that 53 percent of unaffiliated voters say Romney would do a better job on economy (Q poll question #34) and 61 percent say he would do better on the deficit (Q poll question #35). On top of these, 61 percent said that government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals (Q poll #40). If the message war is fought principally on those three issues, there are enough unaffiliated voters that agree with Romney to give him the the majority he needs.
Among Democrats polled, 37 percent of Democrats said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with the way things are going in Connecticut today (Q poll question #12). This third of Democrats is the target universe for potential Romney supporters. Mr. Romney needs about half of them to vote his way.
This path to victory is difficult but doable. Given the difficulty, it does not make sense for the Romney campaign itself to invest in Connecticut. The current political environment, however, offers another intriguing avenue to Pro-Romney forces in the state. A SuperPAC could fill this role in lieu of the official Romney campaign.
With its own Connecticut-specific mission and a targeted message, such a group could propel Mr. Romney down the path to victory and fundamentally remake American politics at the same time.
The implications of winning this way would be huge. No longer would any state be “safe” if small, dedicated groups of political investors could rally, organize, and invest to create competitive Presidential contests in every state. Imagine bringing Presidential politics to every American state, not just the 10 or so that are the perennial battlegrounds. It would mean more candidate visits, more Presidential visits, and more attention to Presidential politics in many more states.
It would, in short, make the process of electing a President much more small ‘d’ democratic — and a lot more exciting.
Heath W. Fahle is the Policy Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and a former Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com