As the national polls in the presidential race have tightened so have the polls in the few battleground states that will decide the election. But of the battleground states it is becoming clearer who has the edge in many of them. In North Carolina, Florida, and to a slightly lesser extent Virginia, the Romney campaign is capitalizing on the states traditional GOP leaning tendencies. In Colorado and especially Nevada out West the Obama campaign is riding Hispanic support. That leaves one region to decide the election, the Rustbelt. And in the last few weeks it has become clear Obama has a growing problem in the region.
Every swing state in the region, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and stretchers Michigan and Pennsylvania, have seen the polls tighten. Three states in particular stand out, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and the must win state of Ohio. In each of these three states Obama has seen his commanding lead shrink. It is hard to pinpoint just exactly what has caused this. Most pundits have chalked it up to Obama’s weak first debate performance but digging deeper it becomes clear this weakness is nothing new to the president.
In 2008 President Obama ran extremely poorly in the primaries in key regions of each state that are traditionally Democratic. In Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton crushed him in the Southeast of the state. In Wisconsin, Obama struggled outside of Madison and Milwaukee. In Ohio, Obama struggled outside of the Columbus and Cleveland metro areas. Until recently it was believed Obama could off-set this weakness against Romney with his massive and continuous ad barrage on his time at Bain. Until three weeks ago the polls showed this was a reality.
Now the Rustbelt is up for grabs and the campaigns are in full swing trying to turn out their voters. In Ohio the absentee ballot requests in the largest counties are a virtual tie. In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Democrats have a nominal advantage in that regard. Romney’s campaign in particular has made a strong plea to blue-collar whites, the kind of voters who gave George Bush the states he needed in 2004, a second look. It appears to be working. Among Independents and Republicans, many who identify as blue-collar, Romney’s numbers have skyrocketed.
In Wisconsin this trend has been even clearer with polls from PPP (left leaning) and Rasmussen (right leaning) showing Romney’s numbers significantly increasing among more down-scale whites ($50-100K). Then we come to Pennsylvania. Democrats continue to enjoy a massive registration advantage and the Romney campaign appears to be poised to not contest the state and spend resources elsewhere. Yet a recent poll from Siena, weighting for partisan identification (unlike most others), shows Romney actually leading 50%-46%. The partisan and demographic breakdown put the electorate somewhere between 2004 and 2008 (which is probably what this year’s turnout will actually be). As in WI and OH, Romney’s gains have come among whites. In the case of Pennsylvania it has been among upper income suburban Philly voters.
All this points to a Obama campaign problem. For the President to enjoy such leads consistently in the region and see them disappear so quickly means his support in the region was always skin-deep. Even if the President won WI and PA yet lost Ohio he would have to completely run the table elsewhere to reach 270 electoral college votes. That means either winning the Romney leaning states of VA, FL, NC or one of them. So much for the electoral firewall the President has supposedly enjoyed.
Point 1: Disputes remain about the polling samples that have come out this cycle in many states showing Democratic turnout exceeding 2008 levels. In Ohio many samples show Romney well ahead among independents but Obama leads because of greater than 2008 Democratic turnout. The most recent example would be a Quinnipiac poll out of Ohio today that showed Obama up 5. Despite Romney leading among Independents 49%-42% the fact the sample has a significant Democratic edge puts Obama ahead.
Point 2: Some counter that Minnesota and Michigan are in play for Romney this cycle, example here (http://battlegroundwatch.com/2012/10/19/election-night-surprise-why-minnesota-will-turn-red-on-november-6/).