Unless the economy is in total crisis as it was just before the 2008 election and President Obama is well below 40% approval, the battle in the Electoral College will be very tight-as the administration has admitted, and is why they have stepped on the fund raising gas pedal so early.
For the GOP the analysis is crystal clear-if on election night 2012 the early returns show they have lost Florida, then Republicans might as well turn off the television and go to bed-there is no realistic combination of states that can give victory if Florida is lost.
If however the GOP wins Pennsylvania, then for the Democrats the election is well and truly over but that, as is Wisconsin (which if removed from the calculations, along with the tied results, leaves only 4 GOP winning possibilities) in the scenarios below, is a long shot.The first four maps give the most likely minimal winning scenario.
The GOP then has to work its way up the map, recovering North Carolina and then, the absolutely crucial state of Virginia (which is why I suggest that Virginia's Governor McDonnell be selected as the VP candidate). The election can be won without Virginia, but it is an hard row to hoe, and depends on Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada being won-basically the task which narrowly eluded John Kerry in 2004. as James Carville said on that election night "drawing an inside straight".
Even with Virginia and Ohio being won Iowa or Colorado or Nevada has to be won to give the GOP their majority on the Electoral College which shows what a fine line to victory and what a challenge lies ahead- for both the GOP and Dem's.The maps below are, of course, minimal winning paths-if there is a landslide then the analysis is redundant.
Below are 8 possible winning electoral combinations for the Republicans. Note that some are a 269-269 tie,which leaves 6 winning combo's at 270 and above, which means that, as per the constitution, a majority of states with Republican delegations with one vote per state in the House of Representatives, would decide the outcome-presuming the GOP had such a majority,as they do now, when the electoral votes were counted.