President Barack Obama turns 51 today, and is celebrating with a round of golf. When he hits the links today, he can do so with confidence that he is very likely to be holding the same job when he turns 55. In The Daily Beast today, Michael Tomasky writes something that I have long suspected (and have been keeping to myself): the polls say that voters are split damn close to even between Obama and Romney, but the mathematics of the Electoral College tilts decidedly in the president’s favor.

“There’s a secret lurking behind everything you’re reading about the upcoming election,” writes Tomasky, “a secret that all political insiders know—or should—but few are talking about, most likely because it takes the drama out of the whole business. The secret is the electoral college, and the fact is that the more you look at it, the more you come to conclude that Mitt Romney has to draw an inside straight like you’ve never ever seen in a movie to win this thing. This is especially true now that it seems as if Pennsylvania isn’t really up for grabs. Romney’s paths to 270 are few.” The reality is that there are only a dozen or so key swing states, and today Romney leads only in one of them, North Carolina, by three points.

In his blog in The New York Times, Nate Silver pegs Obama’s chances at reelection at 71.1%. Additionally, Silver has calculated the probability of Obaba receiving any given number of electoral votes. The probability that President Obama receives a given number of Electoral College votes, from none to all. The probability of most numbers falls between O and 2 percent. The probability of receiving 340 votes is around 7 percent. The probability of him receiving 330 votes is around 13 percent.

Don’t open the bubbly yet. A lot can happen. But as the unloved Mitt Romney stumbles home from Europe with his tin ear and his hidden tax returns and his CEO demeanor, it is hard to see how he begins moving big numbers of votes. Maybe this is one of those years, like 1980, where the election stays close all fall and then swings in the last weekend, but Obama is no Jimmy Carter. Right now, it says here that Romney has a better chance of wining the popular vote than the electoral college vote.

[Cross-posted at]

Jamie Malanowski

Jamie Malanowski is a writer and editor. He has been an editor at Time, Esquire and most recently Playboy, where he was Managing Editor.