Of the remaining states, victories in Virginia and Ohio, with 13 and 18 electoral votes, respectively, put him over the top, and if he loses one of those, it is unlikely he could win the election.

In Virginia and Ohio, unemployment is well below the national average, and important elements of Republicanism -- limited government, conservative family values and ambivalence toward unions -- don't resonate as well as in places like North Carolina or Iowa.

In Virginia, the numbers of African American and Hispanic voters have swelled in recent years, in part thanks to effective Democratic Party get-out-the vote campaigns. Virginia is the home of many federal employees, contractors and high-tech activities. And, so far Romney has proven no better than Senator McCain at framing a message attractive to the Old Dominion.

Although a strongly Republican state in congressional races, Ohio has sided with the winner in last 12 presidential elections. It has a well-diversified economy and is recovering better from the recession than most parts of the country. Romney's message that President Obama has failed does not sell quite as well as in other places.

More importantly, Ohio is still a strong manufacturing state, with substantial union membership. Many folks working in its successful service activities have parents, siblings or schoolmates with union affiliation.

Sympathy toward collective bargaining runs deep in Buckeye culture. That is why Governor John Kasich's bid to curb public employee unions backfired, and the legacy of that confrontation is a burden to Romney.

Running against President Obama's record on the economy will carry Romney only so far.

Republican baggage on women's issues, immigration and unions and a harsh view of government and regulation hurt him where it counts the most -- Virginia and Ohio, the states that will pick the next president. Romney better wake up and reassure voters on these issues or he simply can't win in November.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Professor Peter Morici, of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, is a recognized expert on economic policy and international economics. Prior to joining the university, he served as director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission. He is the author of 18 books and monographs and has published widely in leading public policy and business journals, including the Harvard Business Review and Foreign Policy. Morici has lectured and offered executive programs at more than 100 institutions, including Columbia University, the Harvard Business School and Oxford University. His views are frequently featured on CNN, CBS, BBC, FOX, ABC, CNBC, NPR, NPB and national broadcast networks around the world.

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