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Which states does Romney need to win the presidential election?

Oct. 22, 2012
Personal Finance
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11/5/12 Update: Visit NerdWallet’s election night viewing infographic to see what states Romney needs to win the election.  

11/6/12 Update:  Will there be another Florida Recount?

Though his current odds are 20%, there are a few key combinations of swing states that, if called for Romney, could win him the election.

With a 20% chance of winning the election, Mitt Romney is an underdog to incumbent Barack Obama in this election, but still has an almost one in three chance of pulling it off.  Just what states does Romney need to win to secure the presidency?

The Math

252 = Electoral Votes in States where Romney currently leads in the polls (including Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Missouri, and the “safe” Republican states)

270 = Electoral Votes Needed to Win the Election

270 – 252 = 18  = Electoral Votes Romney needs to win in states where he is currently polling behind


If Romney wins every state where he is currently ahead in the polls plus 18 electoral votes in states where he is currently polling behind, he will win the presidential election.

Where can Romney get those last 18 electoral votes?

Colorado (9 votes, 45% chance):  The latest poll has Romney behind 50-47, but Obama leads by only a fraction of a point across all the polls taken in the past two weeks (48 to 47.25).  We calculate that Romney has a 45% chance of winning the state.  Unfortunately, Colorado has only 9 electoral votes up for grabs, which is not enough on its own to win the election.

Ohio (18 votes, 41% chance): Ohio is clearly Romney’s best chance at picking up the 18 votes he needs to win the election.  The latest poll has Romney only down by one point (49-48) and the two week average has Obama ahead by only 1.6 points (47.2 to 45.6).  If Romney wins Ohio and all the states where he is currently polling ahead, he wins the election.

Iowa (6 votes, 35% chance): The latest poll has Romney ahead 49-48, but this poll is inconsistent with previous polls taken which suggest Obama is actually ahead by about 49-46.5.  We calculate that Romney has a 35% chance of carrying the state and picking up its 6 electoral votes.

Wisconsin (10 votes, 32% chance): Polls have shown Obama ahead fairly consistently in Wisconsin, most recently by 2 points, but also by as much as 6 points in the past two weeks.

Nevada (6 votes, 32% chance): Obama is currently winning the polls in Nevada by more than 3 points and has led in this state’s polls consistently over the past few months.


Pennsylvania (20 votes, 24% chance): The Romney campaign appears to have conceded defeat in Pennsylvania with minimal advertising or campaign stops.  The polls show Obama consistently ahead by 4 to 7 points over the past two weeks.

Michigan (16 votes, 17% chance): The polls show Obama ahead by 6 to 7 points.  We calculate Romney’s odds of carrying the state at only 17%.