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Opinion: Rahm's Five States that Will Decide the White House

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Opinion: Rahm's Five States that Will Decide the White House

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel often has more important things to do than run the city of Chicago. Among them: handicapping the presidential race for CNN.

In an appearance on Sunday’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, Emanuel predicted the presidential race will come down to “a handful of states....It’s five states, 500 precincts. That's what I believe.”

Thinking in terms of states and precincts demonstrates that Emanuel is both a national and a Chicago politician. Unfortunately, Zakaria didn’t ask the mayor which five states he thinks will decide the election, and Emanuel didn’t volunteer.

It’s Ward Room’s job to interpret the mayor, so here are the five states we think will determine the election.

FLORIDA: Went for Obama in 2008 after going to Bush in 2004 and a Supreme Court tiebreaker in 2000. Florida adds two more electoral votes this year, bringing it to 29, behind only California, Texas and New York. The state elected a Republican governor in 2010. CNN and The Washington Post call Florida a toss-up, while FiveThirtyEight.com says Romney has a 62.5 chance of winning -- smaller than in any state where he’s favored.

OHIO: The New Republic called Ohio “scorched and exhausted political turf,” because it’s a battleground in every presidential election. In 2004, John Kerry conceded after losing Ohio by 20,000 votes. In 2008, Obama’s Grant Park election night crowd let out its loudest cheer when Ohio turned blue on CNN’s map, because that meant the election was over. No Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio. Ohio has a Republican governor, but his law to strip public sector unions of collective bargaining rights was overturned by a landslide in a referendum this year. Truly divided, Ohio has a 53 percent chance of giving its 20 electoral votes to Obama -- the closest state in the nation.
     
VIRGINIA: This used to be Old Virginny, the capital of the Confederacy, a stronghold of segregation, a keystone state of the Solid South. But in the past decade, Virginia has turned into a giant suburb of Washington, D.C. In the process, it’s become almost as liberal as Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Obama won Virginia in 2008, the first Democrat to do so since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Virginia has a Republican governor, but two Democratic senators. It has a 63.4 percent chance of voting for Obama.

COLORADO: Refusing to choose a side in the nation’s Red/Blue divided, Colorado voted twice for Bill Clinton, twice for George W. Bush and -- so far -- once for Obama. That’s the longest current winning streak of any state, which makes Colorado far more important than its nine electoral votes suggest. A candidate who can appeal to Colorado’s mix of urbanites, ranchers, environmentalists and Latinos can also appeal to the nation as a whole. Obama has a 55 percent chance of winning Colorado.

IOWA: This should be an easy state for Obama, if only because of geography. In 2008, the Obama campaign was able to dispatch Illinoisans to most of our neighboring states, one reason their candidate swept the Midwest. Iowa was one of the first states to allow same-sex marriage, but it was done so by a state Supreme Court decision. Republican efforts to put the question up to a referendum have failed, however. That’s to Obama’s advantage, because the gay marriage question usually brings out conservative voters. Obama has a 62.8 percent chance of carrying Iowa, according to FiveThirtyEight.com

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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