This column originally appeared in THE DAILY BEAST.
In looking ahead toward the November election, Republican strategists should take proactive steps to avoid a damaging, dangerous conclusion to the presidential race and to prevent the very real chance that Mitt Romney will win the Electoral College even while losing the popular vote badly to Barack Obama.
The problem stems from the lopsided margins President Obama will surely pile up in a few uncontested states with big populations, including California, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts. Mr. Romney, meanwhile, will prevail by comparable margins in only relatively small states: Utah, Idaho, the Dakotas, Alabama and Alaska. The big states that offer Romney his most plausible path to Electoral College victory will be won by much smaller margins, leaving Obama with a clear popular vote advantage.
All credible scenarios for Romney victory with his “swing state” strategy begin with the GOP nominee holding all 22 states McCain carried, which are worth six additional electoral votes this time because of reapportionment. From this Republican base, Romney needs to implement a three/two/one trifecta: winning back the three traditionally Republican states (Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia) that Obama managed to carry last time; seizing the two perennial battlegrounds that elected George W. Bush twice (Ohio and Florida); and then winning one more state - even a very small state -- (New Hampshire is a likely candidate) to bring him the magic number of 270 electoral votes.