The short version is that you need 270 out of 538 Electoral College votes in order to become the president of the United States, and the Democrats:
1. Haven’t done worse than 251 votes (2004) since 1988.
2. Have averaged 327 votes over the last six elections.
3. Have won eighteen states and the District of Columbia (totaling 242 electoral votes) in each of the last six elections.
While the Republicans:
1. Haven’t done better than 286 votes (2004) since 1988.
2. Have averaged 211 votes over the last six elections.
3. Have won thirteen states (totaling 102 electoral votes, most of them from Texas) in each of the last six elections.
You can look at this as a structural problem for the Republicans, where the floor for their opponents appears to be 251, which is just 19 votes shy of the number required. If Ohio had flipped to Kerry’s column, he would have still have lost the popular vote, but he would have become president anyway.
Of course, Kerry did lose, but it appears that the 2004 election could be a real ceiling for any Republican candidate up against a competent Democrat. Roll the clock forward twelve years, and demographic changes make even a repeat of 2004 a very challenging task.
On the other hand, the situation is reversed in Congress, where districts are drawn in ways that make it difficult for the Democrats. But in a country that is rapidly embracing gay equality and beginning to legalize marijuana, a traditionally conservative party doesn’t seem to have any future in presidential elections. And I think pollsters will discover that the demographic that despises President Obama is significantly more open-minded about Hillary Clinton. If there are states that are going to flip colors in 2016, I’d bet more money on Georgia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arkansas than I would on Michigan or Wisconsin or Iowa.
I think Chris Christie was supposed to upend this map. Now they’ll need a Plan B.