Mitt Romney will win North Carolina. In my analysis, NC is no longer a swing state. It is also increasingly likely that Romney will carry Florida and Ohio. Missouri and Indiana are also good bets, and Romney will be very competitive in Colorado and Iowa.

But the crucial state is the Old Dominion. The truth is, Romney could carry most of the “swing states” including FL, OH, NC, IA, MO, and CO, but still lose the election if Obama holds onto Virginia. That scenario breaks down to 271 electoral votes for Obama and 267 for Romney. It could be that close.

In 2008 candidate Obama broke through the southern Republican electoral stronghold by taking VA and NC, which really breaks the back of a Republican candidate. NC is out of reach for him this time, but not so in VA.

Culturally, Virginia is really two states, northern VA and southern VA. And of course, Northern VA is dominated by the metro Washington, D.C. area, home of federal government employees and federal contractors. It is also much more racially diverse than the rest of the state. And it’s population has grown over the last decade, relative to middle and southern VA.

Thus, candidate Romney has his work cut out for him. Virginia is not out of reach for him, just difficult. But things could get easier for Romney with more bad economic news this summer and fall and/or more missteps by the President. That’s the cold, hard reality facing the Obama reelection effort. If the economy worsens between now and November, it could all slip away no matter how good a campaign he runs or how much he attacks Romney.

In that scenario, Romney could carry VA and possibly Nevada, which would result in an electoral college total of 286 for Romney and 252 for Obama. Throw in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota (not likely, but possible in a down economy) and it looks like 322 to 216 for Romney.

But if the economy holds steady, and if Obama stays on message this fall and does well against Romney in the debates, he could win on the order of 280 electoral votes to 258 for Romney.

If you have friends or relatives in Virginia, you might want to call them, no matter which side of the fence you’re on.