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An Election Night Cheat Sheet...Well, Close

Tuesday, 6 Nov 2012 | 5:40 PM ET

If you are anything like me, you find it incredibly hard to remember who has to win which state in order to win the presidential election.

What happens if Romney wins Pennsylvania but not Ohio? Does he need Virginia if he wins Florida? If Romney wins Ohio but Obama wins Virginia, who is winning overall?

After talking with my sources in Washington, DC and on Wall Street, I came up with a chart that I think realistically gives you a guide to the likely permutations. Please keep in mind that a lot of assumptions go into this chart and, theoretically, anything can happen. My chart, for instance, assumes that if Romney loses Florida he loses the election, which isn't strictly true. There are forty-nine other states and Romney could, in theory, win enough electoral votes without Florida. But I doubt that will happen.

So this is just my best bet, given what I think are likely outcomes and necessary electoral vote totals, for each candidate's path to victory.

Basically, the chart says that Romney needs to win Florida. If he loses Florida, Obama will likely win the race. If Romney wins Florida, he can afford to lose Virginia if he wins both Ohio and Pennsylvania. But then he must also win either Wisconsin, Colorado or Iowa.

Sound complex? That's why I made the chart.

Follow John on Twitter. (Market and financial news, adventures in New York City, plus whatever is on his mind.) You can email him at john.carney@nbcuni.com.

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