Monthly Archives: May 2012

Democrat Perspective: Why Obama Will Win Pennsylvania

In the second installment of “Democrat Perspective” we’re going to take a look at the Keystone State. I will readily admit that this is one of the least likely GOP wins among the Battleground states (Michigan is probably the least likely) but the state is still close enough to be a consensus Battleground. Evan McMurray, the political editor at Ology, had a reasoned essay explaining “Why Mitt Romney Will Lose Pennsylvania“:

Pennsylvania is getting further and further out of reach for Mitt Romney, putting additional pressure on him to win one of the eight so-called super swing states in November. But more important, the Pennsylvania’s movement away from its flirtation as a swing state shows how changing demographics—and some well-placed, anti-Bain Capital ads—put the state back in the blue.

Although I was immediately concerned that the argument would be overly-weighted to the suspect demographic arguments Democrats keep trumpeting, Mr. McMurray weighed in heavily on more data driven arguments:

Public Policy Polling has Obama up a solid 50/42 despite the president’s disapproval rating actually being one point underwater

Reconciling this disparity McMurray identifies the Obama campaign strategy:

How do voters elect a candidate they don’t particularly like? By hating his opponent: Keystoners have a real problem with Mitt Romney, who has an approval deficit of 14 points, 37/51. Voters may not be thrilled with Obama, but they’re more than happy to vote for him over Romney.

Now demographics:

  • PA has seen “strong growth in college graduates and skilled service industries and increased diversity due to a burgeoning Hispanic population” — all Obama groups
  • Eastern half of the state has been trending away from its rust belt roots — a demo with shrinking support for Obama but importantly a shrinking demo
  • Still central to the state’s vote results, though, are white working class voters who did not disproportionately turn on Obama in 2008 despite his “bitter clingers” comment — he won enough in 08 to carry the state

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Not a Battleground State but Definately Battleground Worthy

The Obama campaign tried a sneak attack in Romney’s home turf by sending campaign mouthpiece David Axelrod to Boston to lay out Obama’s critique of Romney’s record as Governor.  He thought he would be in friendly territory considering the state’s strong Democrat base.  He thought wrong:

A quickly mobilized cadre of Romney supporters readily reminded Mr. Axelrod of the main theses this campaign will be about with chants of “Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs?” and then later the mocking chant of the taxpayer-funded failed solar company “So-lyn-dra!, So-lyn-dra!”

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Demographic Watch: Romney Begins Hispanic Outreach

Although we have spent some time debunking the Obama campaign’s over-stating the impact of Hispanic votes in swing states like Colorado, the fact is any GOP candidate needs to make their campaign more expansive in its outreach and inclusive of a broader swath of the population.  George W. Bush aggressively attempted this to mixed results (still, he was elected President twice) and most successful candidates make concerted efforts in this regard. Mitt Romney was boxed in for much of the GOP primary by some tough rhetoric on immigration but it looks like the traditional tack to the middle in the general election will begin with an Hispanic voter outreach:

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney is launching a push to appeal to Hispanic voters. At a speech set for Wednesday (next week) to a Latino small business group in Washington, Romney is expected to stress his view that a healthy U.S. economy is the main issue for Hispanics in the November 6 election, as it is with all Americans – and that he has the ability to improve it. [W]hether this argument will be enough to peel away many Hispanics from Obama is unclear. The outcome of the election may be at stake, with Hispanics representing key voting blocs in several pivotal battleground states [and also] the largest minority overall in the United States.

This is obviously a good start and consistent with the ideology of the Right where, in the opinion of conservatives, pandering to different groups alienates as many voters as it gains. That said, only a fool would think a “one size fits all” message would appeal to voters in every demographic.As such, the Romney campaign is beginning to play on Obama’s side of the ad wars with targeted Spanish-language ads:

[Romney] is just now out with his first Spanish-language television ad for the general election campaign, coming in after the Democratic incumbent has been on the airwaves in Colorado, Nevada and Florida since April 17, both on television and radio. The Obama team has already spent an estimated $1 million on Spanish-language ads.

But Spanish-language ads are nothing new from either side of the aisle.  If the Romney campaign is going to make meaningful in-roads with the Hispanic population he will have to articulate a clear, thoughtful and respectful plan on immigration.  Enter potential Vice President, Florida Senator Marco Rubio:

Romney has yet to embrace a proposal from a Republican backer, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, for an alternative to the proposed Dream Act supported by Democrats to grant a path to citizenship to law-abiding young people who as children were brought into the country as illegal immigrants. Rubio’s plan would grant visas to the children but not a direct path to citizenship.

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The Trend is Your Friend — Romney Leads in Ohio

For the first time in this election cycle, Mitt Romney has taken a lead over President Obama in Ohio according to the polling from Scott Rasmussen.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Ohio Voters shows Romney with 46 percent support to Obama’s 44 percent. Six percent like some other candidate and 5 percent remain undecided.

While this is very good news, it is even better news within the context that Rasmussen has been running these polls monthly and Obama has polled no worse than 4 points ahead previously and today’s results are consistent with the three-month trend towards Romney:
Last month, Obama was ahead of the GOP presidential candidate by 4 percentage points, at 46 percent. In Late March, he was ahead of Romney 48 percent to 40 percent. And in early February, it was Obama 45 percent, Romney 41 percent.
This is only one poll (and I can’t find the party ID breakdown yet) but as we say in finance: “the trend is your friend” and the last three monthly polls have seen Romney go from -8 to -4 to +2 in the head to head match-up with Obama.

NBC-Marist Polls Shows Iowa, Colorado and Nevada are Dead Heats

New NBC-Marist polls released this morning show the Mountain West swath of Battleground states are anybody’s to win:

These three states are all battlegrounds that Obama carried in 2008, but George W. Bush won in 2004. “These are very, very competitive states,” says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted these polls. “Everything is close.”

Bottom line: Fairly consistent results confirming most everyone’s suspicions, right now this race is wide open.

Normally I would have an issue with the party ID of the sampling like in the previous Ohio (D +9) and Florida (D +8) polls that oversampled Democrats.  But these polls are fairly balanced (D +2 in Nevada and R +1 in Iowa) with a slight oversampling of Republicans in Colorado (R +4).  Overall a fairly good sampling of registered voters.

Update: Great comment by Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun on MSNBC. he points out that the Nevada poll was comprised of 19% Hispanics. Ralston thinks that is a meaningsul over-sampling of a Pro-Obama group meaning Obama is likely behind in that state. It is important to remember Ralston is a big ol’ lefty but also a good reporter. He was all over the hidden strength of Harry Reid during a difficult re-election in 2010 when outsiders had that race called wrong from start to finish.

Update II: The National Journal identifies some intriguing takeaways from these results:

  • Iowa: Obama’s 46% approval rating is little different than the 45% in January. 70% of voters say the economy is the #1 issue and favor Romney 46 – 41 in this area.
  • Colorado: In the all important “likely voter” category, Romney flips the one point deficit in Colorado and takes a one point advantage.
  • Nevada: Obama lags his 2008 performance in every race sub-category. In 2008 Obama won 43% of whites vs 38% today, 94% of blacks vs 89% today, and 76% of Hispanics vs 67% today.

Lastly, in the Colorado discussion, this observation stood out:

Just 45 percent of Colorado voters approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 49 percent disapprove. A majority, 56 percent, say the country is on the wrong track, compared to only 38 percent who say the nation is headed in the right direction.

Those are horrible numbers for the President. If those figures don’t materially change by November, Barack Obama will lose the Presidency by a large margin.

How Much Does the Wisconsin Recall Matter for November?

I’ve discussed this previously and it’s unquestionably the most intriguing question remaining in this Pickett’s Charge of a recall effort — Walker is going to win easily as are likely his down-ticket allies — But what of any implications are there in November for the Presidential contest? I’ve thought from the beginning that this recall would be a bellwether for the national campaign. Unfortunately, naggingly persistent split polling argues otherwise. Today brings two such pieces of evidence.

First, CBS News discusses “Why Wisconsin’s recall election matters to Obama and Romney” with smart quotes from non-partisans:

“The Wisconsin recall is what the Spanish Civil War was to World War II,” Mordecai Lee, a governmental affairs professor at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, told Hotsheet. Lee said the state is “a warm up, a testing ground” for the presidential race. “This state is up for grabs in the recall election and it’s up for grabs this fall,” said Mike McCabe, Executive Director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political spending in elections.

Each side then argues why the recall will help them in November:

  • Republican Party officials believe that a win by Walker would leave Democrats deflated, making it difficult for them to get excited for the general election.
  • [DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz argues the recall] has given the Obama for America operation an opportunity to do… the dry run that we need of our massive, significant, dynamic grassroots presidential campaign, which can’t really be matched by the Romney campaign

So far so good, but:

Most recent polls suggest that Walker enters the final week of the race with a slight lead. While the polls in the state also suggest that Mr. Obama has a small advantage over Mitt Romney.

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Romney Campaign Focuses on Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia

The Romney campaign’s spending has been a unique contrast to Obama’s.  As a challenger theoretically they have an uphill climb attempting to flip states the President won in the prior election.  This is unquestionably true but at the same time the incumbent has to spend money defending a lot of turf in the states he won previously.  This is why you see the President with ads up in 9 states: CO, FL, IA, NC, NH, NV, OH, PA, VA while Romney is only going into four key states: IA, NC, OH, VA.

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign bought one week’s worth of TV ad time for $2 million Tuesday, marking its largest seven-day commercial time buy since it began its general election campaign. For spots beginning Wednesday, the campaign purchased:

  • $317,205 in Iowa
  • $550,570 in North Carolina
  • $810,640 in Ohio
  • $377,325 in Virginia

[A]ll considered key battleground states in the general election. These are the same four states the campaign has been advertising in for two weeks.

Ground zero in this battle is unquestionably Ohio and Virginia — whomever wins those states almost certainly wins the Presidency, it’s that simple. After that, the Romney campaign needs one more state and in this case they are targeting Iowa.  I’ll address the North Carolina spending in a full post later, but this is precautionary spending, not necessarily toss-up or Battleground worthy spending.

Political Hit Pieces I Hope are True

Politico.com writes a hard hitting piece warning of the “scary” amounts of money being raised and spent by GOP-friendly, non-campaign groups to sway voters in the coming election. In addition to the headline grabbing fundraising numbers, I love their phrasing throughout the article which reads like a war correspondent in a losing battle (as if there was a question which side Politico is on in this race). Here is one of their hard-hitting “scoops”:

POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections – twice what they had been expected to commit.

And what will those dastardly Kochs spend this money on?

[F]unding to build sophisticated, county-by-county operations in key states…In targeted states, the groups’ activities will include TV, radio and digital advertising; voter-turnout work; mail and phone appeals; and absentee- and early-ballot drives.

Ummmmm, yes please!

Now, some of this is news and Politico does some very helpful reporting on the focus areas of the different groups:

  • American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS) — two-thirds of their spending on advocacy related to the presidential race, and the rest relating to House and Senate races.
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce — congressional races, with the House as the top priority – what organizers call “the first insurance policy” if Obama were to get reelected.
  • YG Action Fund — started by aides of Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy. No focus area identified. Notably this PAC backed Indiana Senator Richard Lugar’s losing primary.
  • American Action Network — congressional races but also backed Lugar in the primary.
  • Congressional Leadership Fund — Speaker John Boehner’s group. No focus area mentioned.
  • Restore Our Future — Presidential general election solely for Mitt Romney
  • FreedomWorks — backed challengers in GOP congressional primaries with a focus on issue advocacy, campaign ads and organizing
  • Republican Jewish Coalition — largest, most expensive, most sophisticated outreach effort ever undertaken in the Jewish community
  • Club for Growth — congressional races

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

No matter the campaign rhetoric where either side claims they will fight for votes, the “tell” in any Battleground is where a campaign actually spends its money. The guys over at First Read have great data on the top 10 markets for campaign ad spending between the two camps (and surrogates):

Hottest Markets for the week 5/28-6/4

1. Norfolk-Portsmouth, VA (Obama/1500, Romney/1400, Crossroads/730, Priorities/450)
2. Roanoke-Lynchburg, VA (Obama/1500, Romney/1500, Crossroads/750)
3. Greensboro-High Point, NC (Romney/1400, Obama/1100, Crossroads/780)
4. Columbus, OH (Romney/1400, Obama/1000, Crossroads/525, Priorities/365)
5. Raleigh-Durham, NC (Obama/1200, Romney/1100, Crossroads/840)
6. Richmond-Petersburg, VA (Obama/1100, Romney/1100, Crossroads/340, Priorities/315)
7. Cedar Rapids, IA (Obama/1300, Romney/1100, Crossroads/340)
8. Charlotte, NC (Romney/1200, Obama/1000, Crossroads/515)
9. Cincinnati, OH (Romney/1200, Obama/1000, Crossroads/460)
10. Colorado Springs, CO (Obama/1400, Crossroads/630, Priorities/420)

*** Where everyone is advertising: Here’s also a snapshot of where everyone is advertising this week:
Obama ($7.3 million): CO, FL, IA, NC, NH, NV, OH, PA, VA,
Romney ($2 million): IA, NC, OH, VA
Crossroads ($5 million): CO, FL, IA, MI, NC, NH, NV, OH, PA, VA
Priorities ($1.1 million): CO, FL, OH, PA, VA

Note: I love the First Read headline spin that the campaigns are fighting on “GOP turf.” Every single one of these states was Blue in the last election.  How in hell is that “GOP turf”? Don’t they know Obama won in 2008?

Beware Funny Polling #s — Party ID Usually Tells the Story

Two polls out from admitted Democrat leaning polling groups tell more good news for the Obama campaign.

First is the Project New America poll giving Barack Obama a 48 – 44 lead in Colorado (this is the organization run by the son of Obama campaign chief David Axelrod). Highlighted in the release is the 27 point lead Obama has with “Unaffiliated” voters in this survey.  27 points with “Independents”?  Something seems seriously amiss considering a 27 point lead among Independents should give the President an overwhelming lead in just about any state except the deepest of red states.  Yet in this Battleground state this 27 point advantage only translates to a 4 point lead in a survey with a margin of error of +/-4 points.  Unfortunately no party ID was provided so we are only left to speculate how such an overwhelming performance by the president with the swing vote in Colorado does not translate into a runaway lead. Hmmmm.

Next we have the respected though left-leaning Public Policy Polling results from a Michigan survey giving Obama a commanding lead of 53 – 39 (negligibly tighter than previous polls).  Thankfully they provide the party ID so observers can glean insights into potential oversampling.  As we’ve discussed previously, pollsters try to replicate the expected party ID on election day so the survey comes as close as possible to portraying actual results.  In 2004 the national party ID was perfectly split between the parties (34 – 34) with the equivalent number of Republicans voting as Democrats. In 2008, a Democrat wave year, a disparity of 8 more Democrats than Republicans (36 – 28) developed or D +8.  This PPP poll, much like the oversampled D +8 NBC-Marist polls previously discussed, has a party ID as follows: Democrats 38 Republicans 28 Independent 34 or D + 10. This poll would be credible if you expect another Democrat wave election in 2012 and one in Michigan even greater than the 2008 national average of D + 8.  I, and any fair reader of the current political climate, do not expect 2012 to have anywhere near the favorable Democrat momentum witnessed in 2008 which dramatically diminishes any credence we would lend to these results.

The devil is always in the details but the media will never tell you that … unless the GOP candidate is leading.

Nevada Opportunity for Romney

With fundraising stops in Nevada generating plenty of news for Romney (both good and bad), the Wall Street journal looks at the opportunities and challenges to flip this state from Blue to Red.

Opportunities/Strengths for Romney:

  • Economically damaged state = opportunity. The Romney message that Mr. Obama’s economic policies have failed may be ideally suited to a state with 11.7% unemployment—the highest in the nation—along with widespread mortgage foreclosures and personal bankruptcies
  • Romney easily won Nevada’s caucuses, with 50% of the vote. Mormon voters make up 11% of the population and reliably turn out to vote (5.6% of the adult population is Mormon according to Gallup)
  • Crossroads GPS has launched a $25 million television-ad blitz with spots attacking the president in states including Nevada. Americans for Prosperity, another independent conservative group, has picked up the ground-game side, identifying and registering voters.

Challenges for Romney:

  • Romney has only a shell of an organization in Nevada. Rep. Paul’s supporters have snapped up Republican Party leadership positions at the state and county levels. The tension came to a head this month when Paul supporters took over the state’s GOP convention, electing 22 national convention delegates for Mr. Paul and only three for Mr. Romney.
  • The RNC, which coordinates with the Romney campaign, skirted the state party when it opened its first office in Nevada. Top officials in the Clark County GOP resigned to join the Romney effort, dubbed Team Nevada. Even donors have grown irritated with the situation. One demanded that the Clark County GOP return donated desks, tables and chairs.
  • Statewide, there are about 20% more registered Democrats than Republicans.
  • One of the RNC’s first hires was a Latino-outreach director, but Mr. Romney’s immigration policies could hurt his chances.

Opportunities/Strengths for Obama:

  • Obama recently stopped in the state to tout housing policies aimed at preventing foreclosures — a hot-button topic in the real estate damaged state
  • Hispanics make up more than a quarter of the state’s population and accounted for 13% of its electorate in 2010
  • The Obama campaign, parts of which remain from 2008, has expanded with help from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s grass-roots organization, set up ahead of the 2010 midterm elections amid fiery anti-incumbent sentiment.
  • Both candidates are looking to Latino voters for an edge. Polls show that Hispanics prefer Mr. Obama by a wide margin, but the president faces hurdles in making sure they are registered and motivated to vote.

Although specific challenges for Obama were not outlined in the piece, they were implicit in the Opportunities section for Romney.  Obama must overcome one of the worst economies in the nation and heal deep wounds from early in his presidency when he publicly castigated businesses for holding conferences in Las Vegas — a main area of employment in the economically torn state.

Ohio Demographic Watch — White Working Class

Each Battleground state presents its own unique constituency with fears and hopes often unique to that state.  To make sweeping generalizations across large swaths of the country is usually foolhardy and will often lead to poor strategic analysis of any state’s pressing issues.  Thankfully a few news outlets are drilling down within these battleground states and attempting to glean some insights into what are the most pressing issues of the day and what we can expect to ultimately sway these voters in November.

Reuters is taking yearlong polling that focuses on the diverse group of voters in play across the Battleground states and reporting their findings. Today they discuss white working class voters — men and women without college degrees who earn middle-income wages — who make up more than half of the electorate in Ohio. This is much the same demographic making noises in uncontested Democrat primaries by voting in large percentages for “protest” candidates or actually checking the box for “Nobody.” But while this demographic is not a natural voting bloc for Obama, they have plenty of reservations about Mitt Romney also:

As of this week, white working-class voters across the Rust Belt leaned toward Romney, with 44 percent of respondents in a Reuters/Ipsos poll saying they would vote for the Republican if the election were held today, versus 30 percent for Obama. (For purposes of the poll, the Rust Belt includes Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and parts of New York and Pennsylvania.)

In Ohio specifically,

Obama carried the state by five percentage points in 2008 [but] the wobbly economy offers Romney a powerful opening. [Romney however] has struggled to relate to blue-collar voters.

Within this context important themes emerge:

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Who Gets Credit for Battleground State Economic Turnarounds?

In every poll, no matter the source, one theme remains constant across the entire country — the #1 issue this election year, and there is no close #2, is the economy.  Since the election outcome will be determined by only a handful of states, the economic conditions in those states is of paramount importance.  This has created an odd paradox in today’s politics — Battleground state economies are rebounding where there is a newly elected Republican governor. So who gets credit: the Democrat in the White House or the Republican in the State House?  The answer to that question (which can only be answered by the electorate in November) will determine the winner of this year’s Presidential contest.

Michael Crowley in Time magazine takes a crack at this topic but frames it as Romney’s campaign rhetoric running down Obama’s economic performance versus GOP governors touting their reforms that have reversed state fortunes.  It’s a different spin (and a negative Romney spin at that) on the same paradox. First up is Ohio:

The great recession has left the state of Ohio battered and bruised–and Mitt Romney would have you believe it’s Barack Obama’s fault.  Romney advised Ohioans that the President has delivered them “paltry results,” and that their state is in need of “a fundamental change in direction.”

Which contrasts with Republican Governor John  Kasich’s assessment:
“I’m very comfortable with the [economic] trend we have in our state,” Kasich said. “Our unemployment has dropped I think more than most other states.” (He thinks right.) “We’re [moving] in the right direction,” Kasich said. At 7.4%, Ohio’s unemployment rate is more about a half-point better than the national average of 8.1 percent; more importantly, it’s improving about twice as fast as the national number.

Romney Vice-President Talk and The Battlegrounds

Speculation on the short-list for Vice-President on Mitt Romney’s ticket is plenty of fun for TV talking heads and newspapers looking for stories beyond the oft-repeated campaign stump rhetoric.  For those reasons I understand the excitement that often associates “any” news a presumptive short-lister makes. I don’t expect to spend much time on this parlor game but today seems to be rife with VP “news” with battleground state implications so take a took:

Mitt Romney Stumps on Coal & Small Business in Colorado

Sticking to his campaign themes of the economy, jobs and how Obama makes them worse, Mitt Romney is visiting a small mining town thanks to the industriousness of its residents:

Romney is to appear today at 9 a.m. in Craig, CO — a northwest Colorado town and the site of one of the largest coal-fueled power plants in the country–where he is expected to talk about the impact that Obama administration EPA regulations have had on energy production, and the effect on American communities and small businesses such as the Moes’ Best Western Deer Park Inn and Suites.

Craig, with a population of about 10,000 that  leans Republican by about a 3-to-1 margin, is an unusual campaign stop for a presidential candidate.
A campaign stop in this tiny, out-of-the-way town came about thanks to a video created to draw attention to the plight of mining towns nationwide:
Changes in regulations over coal plants are enormously important because the U.S. gets about 40 percent of its electricity from coal, and coal-fired energy production is an issue of particular importance to voters in Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania that are home to several coal-fired power plants.

Conservatives Launch Group to Target Hispanics in Nevada

With Nevada on my mind I poked around the state news and found this interesting tidbit:

A new group designed to cut into the Democratic domination of the burgeoning Hispanic vote in Nevada will launch next week in Las Vegas. powered by national conservative groups and designed to have an impact in November.

The organization, called Nevada Hispanics, kicks-off one week from today at the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and features local Americans for Prosperity boss Adam Stryker.

A solicitation that went out this week told recipients: “This is an opportunity to learn about Nevada Hispanics, and our mission of garnering greater Latino support for Conservative causes and candidates in our state.”

This could be a big development because, as outlined below, Obama’s appeal to Hispanics is at the center of his strategy to carry Nevada in November.  Stay tuned.

Democrat Perspective: Why Obama Will Win Nevada

Despite my strong political leanings, I challenge myself to find thoughtful opposing views on important issues rather than fall into group-think by only viewing facts, figures, and reasoning that support my position.  With this in mind I hope to regularly feature a liberal view or two arguing against Romney or for Obama in a given Battleground state. With Mitt Romney fundraising in Nevada right now I figure that state is as good as any to kick-off this feature. Tom Kludt at Talking Points Memo took an extensive look at the problems in Nevada and why it should be fertile ground for Romney yet still favors Obama.

From a distance, the state should favor Romney based on 3 factors:

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The Secret to Michigan’s Economic Revival

GOP prospects in Michigan are rarely very good due to large minority and strong union voting blocs. However, following Jennifer Granholm’s driving of the state into the ground, the bankruptcy of the auto companies and Mitt Romney’s family ties to the states, the GOP began re-evaluating its chances. The state, however, has polled stubbornly well in favor of the Democrats and the lapdog media regularly sites President Obama’s bailout of the auto companies (complete with one of the worst abrogations of justice in the country’s history) as well as the “success” of General Motors specifically for the improving climate in Michigan. Considering bailouts are still fairly unpopular and General Motor’s “success” since becoming publicly traded again makes the Facebook IPO look like a winner, something else must clearly be at play. Enter a revival of the mining industry in the state’s upper peninsula:

This remote area of Michigan, long ago left for dead, is rediscovering its mining roots — raising hopes here and across much of the Lake Superior region that a mining revival is in the making. With copper and other metals trading on commodities markets at consistently high prices, companies are digging into long-neglected deposits for metals that could be worth billions of dollars. Rio Tinto, the world’s largest mining company after BHP Billiton, is working on a $469 million mine that will produce nickel and copper. Hudbay Minerals, a public mining company, is leading an expected $225 million project to mine precious and heavy metals, including gold, silver, zinc and copper. Orvana has received approval to mine chalcocite, a mineral that is primarily copper, in a project here that the company says will create $2 billion in economic activity over 20 years. Smaller exploration firms are joining the rush too, searching for new ore deposits and studying known ones. One of them, Highland Resources of Vancouver, British Columbia, is spending $11.5 million to explore and develop potential mines, including two copper mines near Calumet, Mich.

Evidence of the new mining activity is already visible. East of here, in Marquette County, towns like Big Bay have seen an increase in construction and temporary workers renting hotel rooms and homes. In Marquette — the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, with 21,000 residents — the Border Grill restaurant owner Dan Torres estimates that the Rio Tinto mine is increasing monthly sales by $500 to $1,000. Rio Tinto will make its first tax payment this July and is expected to pay $4.3 million to local authorities.

Marquette County, in addition to the Rio Tinto mine, is buoyed by Northern Michigan University and two surviving iron ore mines, among other things, so it does not share the unemployment problems of Gogebic County. But other erstwhile mining counties are in even worse shape. In April, the unemployment rate in Ontonagon County was 13.9 percent, in Keweenaw 12.9 percent and in Baraga 16.3 percent. By comparison, the statewide rate was 8.3 percent.

Economic revival through private enterprise, not government sponsored bail-outs — that’s why Michigan is experiencing a change (however slight) to its financial fortunes. And Wisconsin’s loss is Michigan’s gain:

Just over the state line in Wisconsin, Gogebic Taconite dropped a proposed $1.5 billion, open-pit iron ore project after lawmakers failed to adopt a bill that critics say would have relaxed environmental regulations and limited public input in the permitting process. Gogebic Taconite is now drilling for iron in Michigan.

Obama Losing Another Demographic — Veterans

In a Gallup poll showing the Presidential Race a dead heat (46-46 with a margin of error +/- 1%), The Hill reports on Mitt Romney meaningfully outpacing Barack Obama 58 – 34 among veterans — a whopping 24 point advantage.

The presumptive GOP nominee receives support from 58 percent of all veteran registered voters surveyed to Obama’s 34 percent. Among non-veterans though, Obama holds a four point edge, with 48 percent to Romney’s 44.

The breakdown of the veteran vote also mirrors the gender gap seen among all voters and male voters are seen giving Romney a solid block of support. Romney has the backing of 60 percent of male veterans to Obama’s 32. Among female veterans Obama holds a five-point edge, with 47 percent to 42. [Note: Men make up 89% of veterans]

The important takeaway is the shift in sentiment within the demographic group (veterans) from the 2008 results.  Despite Obama campaign rhetoric to the contrary, where the President really won the 2008 contest was in his ability to co-opt groups of malleable 2004 GOP voters — typically the white middle class.  Claims of expanding the democratic base through voter registration of Hispanics (or similar) is routinely debunked but that does not stop them from peddling such nonsense.

What we see in this poll is a reversion of Veterans voting preference away from Obama and back to the GOP.  In 2004 George Bush carried the veteran vote by 16 points while in 2008 Obama was able to shrink that deficit to 10 points.  Today’s 24 point advantage speaks volumes to the disaffected former Obama supporter “coming home” to the GOP.  Although the poll expresses an inability to fully explain the stark split between veteran and non-veteran support for Romney, a nugget at the bottom of ABC 2008 recap provides the likely reason:

-A last nugget: Veteran voters were 20 points more apt than non-vets to be gun owners.

Democrats Losing One Advantage in Florida — Illegal Voters

Correcting voter rolls and ensuring ballot integrity has long been a priority for Republicans despite the protests of voter disenfranchisement from Democrats. Democrats aggressively attempt to minimize the amount of illegal voting that occurs despite volumes of evidence to the contrary (North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, etc).  Following substantial successes at the state level for the GOP in 2010 that flipped numerous state legislatures into GOP hands, we’re beginning to see the impact of such legislative control changeover.

This is a long-simmering, “back-burner” story with enormous implications that is slowly gaining national attention. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed numerous changes to Florida voting laws the most important of which is the effort to purge illegal or ineligible (felons and dead people) voters from the rolls. With massive population inflows into the state over the last few decades, much of it illegal immigration, Florida is making a concerted effort to clean up its lists of registered voters — much to the apoplectic cries of Democrats:

In an attempt to clear the voter rolls of noncitizens, a move that had set off criticism and a threatened lawsuit, Florida election officials decided on Thursday to use information from a federal database to check a list of 182,000 voters who they suspect are not citizens, officials said.

The state’s attempt to scrub registration rolls of illegal voters had come under fire because of the timing — less than seven months before a presidential election — and because the state itself could not guarantee the accuracy of its rolls. The move comes amid other efforts by Florida’s Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to tighten voter registration and reduce the number of early voting days, to combat potential voter fraud. Those measures, which were approved in 2011, have been challenged in court. Florida has more than 11 million registered voters.

The Division of Elections began the review of voters in April 2011 when it learned it had access to the driver’s license database and its citizenship information, Mr. Cate said. Since 2010, Floridians have been required to provide proof of citizenship or legal status when they apply for a driver’s license.

Democrats are beside themselves as years of efforts from nefarious groups like ACORN may now be undone and are trying every smear tactic imaginable to stop the cleaning up of ballot rolls. Apparently the idea that the ballot cleanup was started by the Governor (oh my!) is newsworthy as is the “controversy” that lists of the illegal voters are predominantly Hispanic/Latino (that also just so happen to vote Democrat) is part and parcel of the effort to discredit and stop these ballot integrity measures.

DNC Chair Declares Wisconsin Recall “Dry Run” for Presidential Race

Over at Time magazine’s ‘The Page” Debbie Wasserman-Schultz confirms what many Democrats hope isn’t true — The Wisconsin recall next week is a proxy for November’s Presidential contest:

On “State of the Union,” Wasserman Schultz labels the Wisconsin recall a gauge of Chicago’s ground operation.

DNC chair: “Ultimately, I think Tom Barrett will pull this out, but regardless, it’s given the Obama for America operation an opportunity to do a dry run that we need.”

Apparently Debbie didn’t get the memo that national Dems want nothing to do with the now-toxic recall:
One sign that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is likely to win the election on June 5 is the sudden disappearance of national media attention to the race. The networks and newspapers that gave wall-to-wall coverage to protests in the streets of Madison in the spring of 2011 and excitedly reported on the drive to collect signatures to force a recall have gone relatively quiet as a succession of polls show Walker leading by 5 points or more. State Democrats are complaining that national Democrats aren’t devoting the time and resources necessary to defeat Walker; national Democrats are whispering to reporters that they’d warned their Wisconsin counterparts against a costly recall effort. David Axelrod has made comments in recent days downplaying the significance of the recall beyond Wisconsin. Obama himself, who once promised to walk the picket lines with his union backers when their interests were threatened, seems to want no part of the recall—or at least not a high-profile part.
However, regarding DWS’ comments: It’s one thing to back your guy, as a national party chair should do, but it’s a whole other ball of wax to tie your sitting President to a race that ever increasingly looks to be a blowout.

A State-by-State Look at the Road to 270 — Associated Press

The Associated Press published a nifty guide to the electoral probabilities of all 50 states yesterday and narrowed the Battlegrounds down to 7 key states:  Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia. Within my designated Battleground states, the AP smartly pushes Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin into the Democrat column.  I view Michigan and Pennsylvania as the two least likely states to flip to the GOP among the Battlegrounds so I can accept their arguments there.  I’d take issue with Wisconsin’s designation but fully expect the conventional wisdom to change the Badger state  to toss-up after Governor Scott Walker’s victory next week which I expect to be sizable. This would result in an electoral count of Obama leading 247 – Romney 206, leaving 85 electoral votes among the remaining Battlegrounds (electoral votes in parentheses):

Colorado (9) _ Long a reliable GOP state, but Colorado’s conservative profile is changing. Young professionals and Hispanic voters were central to Obama’s victory in 2008, but the sluggish economy has hurt his standing. Female voters in Denver’s suburbs could play a big role.

Florida (29) _ Florida is the prime target for both campaigns. Obama won in 2008, but the housing crisis, high unemployment and gas prices are dogging him. Romney won the primary in January and has picked up the endorsement of GOP Sen. Marco Rubio. Obama’s organization has a large advantage.

Iowa (6) _ An important Bush-state pick-up for Obama in 2008. Iowa has been a national popular-vote bellwether for 20 years. Obama’s attention in the state where his caucus victory launched him in 2008 is countered by Romney’s two caucus campaigns. Conservatives are wary of Romney’s Mormon faith and social issues profile, but he’s got GOP Gov. Terry Branstad on his side.

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40 States Don’t Matter

The LA Times writes on the electoral college and discusses how much of the country simply does not matter in determining the outcome of this election.  The Times includes North Carolina and New Mexico among their Battlegrounds, but as I discussed in my lead-off post, I view them as superfluous to the actual Battleground states. At the same time I include Michigan and Wisconsin which the Times excludes.

From now until November, expect  to hear a lot  about Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa and Colorado, the states that could determine whether Barack Obama gets a second term. The Los Angeles Times is publishing a series of stories labeled “The Battlegrounds.” The Wall Street Journal has dubbed similar coverage “Swing Nation.”

Obama, Mitt Romney and their surrogates will be slugging it out in these battlegrounds, kissing babies and eating rubber chicken in places such as Ames, Iowa and Dayton, Ohio. Much of Obama’s travels as president has been to these swing states. Air Force One’s flight plans have included Ohio at least 20 times since Obama entered the White House.

Paul West [of the LA Times] reported that Romney has to win Virginia and Ohio to have any realistic chance at securing victory.  Obama is almost certain to be reelected, West says, if he wins either one. He won both in 2008. If he loses Ohio or Virginia, Obama will need to win Pennsylvania and smaller battleground states — Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada — to get to 270.

While we disagree with the LA Times over their expanded Battleground we can’t blame them for wanting to have a couple more states to cover during what will be an incredibly focused campaign for the next five months.

Who Are These Indepedents That Will Decide the Battleground States?

With an unusually narrow slice of the country determining the outcome of this Presidential election, it is curious that an even narrower slice of the electorate in each state will swing the outcome — the Independents. Linda Killian, author of “The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents,” takes a look at Five myths about independent voters:

1. Independent voters aren’t really independent.

  • About half of independents are closet partisans or “leaners” who are independent in name only but regularly vote with one party. The other half are truly independent; their allegiance swings from election to election. They are persuadable, not polarized partisans. A recent Pew Research Center poll puts the number of swing voters this year at 23percent — almost a quarter of the electorate.

2. Independent voters are less engaged.

  • About two-thirds of them say they are independent because “both parties care more about special interests than about average Americans.” Independents are more turned off than partisan voters by negative campaign ads and are more likely to say they want more substantive discussions from the candidates and the media.  They care more about the deficit than Democratic voters do, more about the environment than Republicans do and less about social issues, such as same-sex marriage and abortion, than do voters from either party.

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November Implications of the Wisconsin Recall

Consistent with a theme many of us have run with since the bruhaha began, Dan Balz of the Washington Post takes a look at the Wisconsin recall’s impact on the Presidential race. A flip of the state for Romney would be enormous for the GOP but is not without its challenges:

The state has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan three decades ago [and] Barack Obama coasted to victory here by a margin of 14 points . [B]ut George W. Bush nearly won the state in 2000 and 2004 [a]nd Republicans scored major victories in 2010, taking over the governor’s office and a Senate seat.

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that the recall results will reflect which Wisconsin will show up in November:

Karl Rove…argues the results of Walker’s recall election and the margin of the vote will offer the first genuine clues as to whether Wisconsin’s political environment is similar to four years ago or has reverted to the nail-biter status of 2000 and 2004. Mike Tate, the Wisconsin Democratic chairman: “I think this is Kerry-Bush Wisconsin ’04”…that ended up with Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) winning the state by just two-tenths of a percentage point — 11,000 votes out of 3 million cast. “This electorate was never as blue as it was in ’08 and never as red as it was in ’10,” Tate added.

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Pennsylvania State Party a Drag on Romney

One of the main reasons I do not consider North Carolina worth covering as a Battleground despite Obama winning it in 2008 and the nominating convention being in Charlotte is due to the internal circular firing squad the state party has formed through its unpopular governor and numerous state-wide scandals — basically Democrats reputations are not the best in North Carolina. We have seen this any number of times where local officials so damage a party “brand” that the national office holder suffers the consequences.

Pennsylvania is a state Republicans have worked doggedly to flip to their column in Presidential elections ever since Bill Clinton carried it in 1992. They have come close many times but always seem to fall a few % short of breaking through. To make such a transition, a successful popular Governor and state party would really help. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be happening for the GOP in the Keystone State:

The top staff aide to [Pennsylvania ] Gov. [Tom] Corbett is leaving the administration for a new job. Corbett said Thursday he would nominate his chief of staff, William F. Ward, to fill a vacancy on Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. The governor made his announcement in a prepared statement that gave no hint of the political turmoil that was said to have preceded the moves. Ward’s departure…comes as Corbett has faced increasing pressure to address what some in top state Republican circles believe is the governor’s growing image problem…Corbett’s top political advisers, supporters, and fund-raisers had been agitating for him to make changes to his senior staff. Next week, a small group of Republican Party heavyweights, known as the governor’s “kitchen cabinet,” is to meet with Corbett in Harrisburg…[F]our people familiar with plans for the meeting said the “kitchen” group wants to air concerns – such as a feeling that the administration had not effectively sold Corbett’s agenda to the public, and that the governor had paid a price in popularity.

I think Pennsylvania is one of the lesser likely GOP flips among my designated Battleground states due to some entrenched political beliefs, lack of comparable ground game and absence of a compelling targeted message to the state. Each of these can easily change as entrenched beliefs get disabused (like in West Virginia since 2000), the national campaign makes a commitment to the state (like W did, albeit unsuccessfully) or the candidate makes personal appeals (like Romney’s visit to West Philadelphia this week). All of the ingredients are there for the GOP to finally break through in PA on its own but it would certainly be nice if the campaign had some statewide party assistance on the ground.

Battleground States? How About Battleground Counties

Amy Walter at ABC News’ The Note drills down even further into the very topic of this blog — the limited nature of Battlegrounds in this year’s election:

We all know there are just a handful of states that will ultimately decide the election. But  it’s really just a handful of counties in a handful of states that actually matter. The two states I think will determine the outcome of the election are Colorado and Virginia.

Colorado: Jefferson and Arapahoe Counties in suburban Denver are the swing counties in the state. In 2008, those two counties contributed 565,000 votes – or 25 percent of the 2.2M cast.

Virginia: Five key counties determine the winner of the state: Henrico (Richmond suburbs), Loudoun and Prince William (suburban Washington, D.C.), Virginia Beach and Chesapeake City. Total votes cast by these five counties in 2008: 764,000 (20 percent of total votes cast in the state).

I’ve never lived in a Battleground state or even a loosely contested state, but I can imagine by election day residents in each of the above counties will loathe both campaigns due to what can be an inundation of campaign ads littering their televisions over the come five months.

Obama in Iowa Supporting Private Equity

Matt Lewis at The Daily Caller points out the rich irony of the President visiting a wind turbine plant to tout promote clean energy tax credits — and laud himself for pushing public funds to help get these companies get off the ground:

It turns out that the bulk of financing ($68 million) for TPI (like most non-Obama affiliated companies in America) has come from private equity.
In comparison, the nine million in stimulus funds they received is just a small chunk of the pie.

And even more delicious, in his actual remarks at the plant the President stated the following:

First up on the list – It makes absolutely no sense that we actually give tax breaks to companies that ship jobs and factories overseas. No sense at all. It’s time for Congress to end the tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and use that money to cover moving expenses for companies that bring jobs back to America.

This all at and about a company with factories in Mexico, China and Turkey. Keep it real Barry!

Obama Nervous in Pennsylvania

The blogfather directs us to an important anecdote in campaign jockeying and the actions of a less than confident campaign:

Wow!… Obama Campaign Holds Protest Outside Romney Stop in Philly

When all else fails, stalk your opponent.
Mitt Romney visited an inner school in Philadelphia today to discuss his education agenda. The Obama Campaign met him at the school and protested his visit outside.
Mayor Michael Nutter led the protest complete with Obama 2012 signs.

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Latinos Swung Colorado for Obama in 08? Apparently Not

The always invaluable Jay Cost picks up on The Hill piece I blogged about earlier and brings to light an important mis-characterization in the discussion of the Colorado voting landscape:

[C]ontrary to conventional wisdom, Latinos did not swing the state from red to blue in 2008. According to exit polls, John McCain managed 38 percent of the Latino vote. In 2004, George W. Bush pulled in 30 percent. The real action was with white voters, who gave McCain just 48 percent of the vote compared to 57 percent for Bush.

Cost goes on to identify a reason why Colorado could be a rebound state for the GOP after flipping Democrat in 2008 (by reason of a healthier performance in 2010 by a state party that has often sabotaged itself).  But with all of the hullabaloo around the Democrats capitalizing on the admittedly changing demographics in states like North Carolina and purportedly Colorado in such a manner to achieve a “permanent majority” it is more than curious to see Jay Cost easily debunk that notion in the Rocky Mountain state.