Obama’s swing state blues
While we’re still a little less than a year out form the 2012 presidential election, there are some disturbing signs for the incumbent. While President Obama seems fine in those traditionally blue states that make up the Democratic base, he isn’t faring as well in the all important swing states which we the difference between defeat and victory in 2008.
It is those states which are likely to determine the winner. Each side starts with a base of over 190 electoral votes (196 for Obama, 191 for the GOP nominee). It is from there they wage campaign war and the final outcome will be determined in 12 states that could go either way.
However, the signs aren’t particularly favorable for Obama and the Democrats in those states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin). Obama took them all last time around and has to take at least half to repeat.
However, per a USA Today poll, that’s not going to be easy:
In swing states, Obama trails former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among registered voters by 5 points, 43% vs. 48%, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich by 3, 45% vs. 48%.
In the swing states, the number of self-identified Democrats (not including those who lean Democratic) fell from 35% to 30% since 2008. The number of independents rose 7 points, 35% to 42%.
But the nation’s ideological makeup creates more stress for Democrats than Republicans. In the 12 swing states identified by USA TODAY, 44% of those surveyed are conservatives, more than double the 21% who call themselves liberal.
And of course that makes independents the most sought after group by both sides. And as many polls have indicated over the last three years, independent voters have been deserting the Democrats in droves.
As mentioned they’re critical to both sides, but Democrats have to capture more of their vote to win than do Republicans:
To win a majority, the GOP needs to attract the lion’s share of conservatives plus only a fraction of the 35% who call themselves moderates.
In contrast, the Democratic candidate has to claim the solid support not only of liberals but also most of the moderates.
The problem with that mix, of course, is that moderates or independents have been deserting the Democrats because of their turn to the liberal side of issues. It is for this reason that the old class warfare meme has been revived. Obviously Obama thinks that’s the bridge that will work.
Two factors I continue to point too are key to the election outcome: enthusiasm and independents. In both areas Democrats are hurting. Ed Morrissey makes another important point:
There’s more bad news for Team Obama as well, which is the nature of head-to-head comparisons while only one party has a contested primary. The GOP has not united behind a single candidate, and the passions of the primary fight will act to depress the results for those candidates. The key here is that Obama can’t get above 45% in these swing states against either candidate, which indicates that the actual general-election results could be significantly worse — perhaps a 10-point loss. After all, Obama himself told CBS that he will be judged against the alternative, and that low polling figure at this stage in swing states bodes ill for Obama in that comparison.
It is still either/or for GOP voters while there’s only one choice for Democrats – and even with the split, Obama trails in those key states. Morrissey is right and the possibility that the real difference in the swing states could be significantly higher once a GOP nominee is decided upon makes sense. Again, bad news for the Obama campaign.
Finally, that critical enthusiasm gap I’ve mentioned before:
And the "enthusiasm gap" that helped fuel a Democratic victory last time has turned into a Republican asset. Sixty-one percent of Republicans say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president next year, compared with 47% of Democrats.
As for the mix:
Among the most enthusiastic are some of the GOP’s core voters: conservatives, middle-aged men and those 50 to 64 years old. Those who are least enthused include core Democratic groups that were critical to Obama’s election in 2008, including minorities and younger voters.
Why are the Democrats key groups turned off? Here’s a clue:
While the nation’s overall unemployment rate dropped to 8.6% in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that African-American unemployment actually rose from October to 15.5%. For those 20-24, it was up to 14.2%. The jobless rate for Hispanics was unchanged at 11.4%.
Discouraged voters aren’t likely voters. And the key groups noted can’t be happy with the results of 3 years of Obama – especially with the inflated expectations he created and has been unable to deliver upon.
And, he now has to actually run on a record – that record.
Keep an eye on the swing states in the coming months. And pay particular attention to the polls in those states when the GOP finally decides on a nominee. They will most likely tell the tale of the election well before it is ever held.