Battleground State Strategizing

The Wall Street Journal has a good look at the state of play across the Battlegrounds and finds some interesting campaign maneuvering:

The presidential candidates are being forced to adjust assumptions about the path to victory as voter sentiments shift in some of the battleground states that are important to winning a majority in the Electoral College. In a heartening development for Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Wisconsin is now a tossup, recent polls show, forcing President Barack Obama to consider investing in a state that wasn’t considered to be in play.

At the same time, Republicans hold a lead in opinion polling in North Carolina, a state that Mr. Obama narrowly carried in 2008. That shift complicates one of a handful of routes to re-election the Obama campaign has laid out, relying on victories in the mid-Atlantic states of North Carolina and Virginia. Stronger showings by Mr. Romney in opinion polls of Colorado also suggest a narrowing of Mr. Obama’s prospects for another path to victory he had laid out, which entails winning the Western swing states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.

Benefiting Mr. Obama, several polls show the president retaining a lead in two voter-rich states, Ohio and Virginia. Should Mr. Obama carry those states, Mr. Romney would be hard pressed to win the White House without capturing one of two states that Democrats have consistently won since 1992: Pennsylvania and Michigan. Overall, polling shows that Mr. Obama continues to hold a lead in the Electoral College at this point.

Recent travel and ad buys show the candidates trying to expand the electoral map to the greatest extent possible for themselves, while closing off viable paths to the magic number of 270 electoral votes for their opponents. Mr. Romney on Thursday talked about his energy plan in New Mexico, a state that Mr. Obama won last time around and that figures into his Western strategy. Recent surveys show Mr. Obama with a significant lead there, suggesting that the state’s role as a battleground is receding. For his part, Mr. Obama is currently devoting a huge chunk of time to Iowa, where the race looks to be close. The president spent three days there last week on a bus trip and plans to return next week as part of a college tour.

For the Obama campaign, the focus on Iowa serves two purposes. One of the Obama campaign’s paths to an Electoral College win envisions victories in both Ohio and Iowa. But success in Iowa would also help to foil a strategy developed by the Romney campaign. Romney strategists call it the “Granite Hawkeye” path, envisioning wins in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire and Iowa.

“If you had said a year ago that Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Colorado would all in be play, that we would have a $60 million cash advantage on the president, and that we would be within the margin of error in every important state, that would have been as good as it gets,” Mr. Beeson said. “And that’s where we are.”

In assessing the landscape, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report said that Mr. Obama can count on winning 17 states, with 201 electoral votes, while Mr. Romney’s standing is solid in 23 states, with 191 votes. That leaves 11 battlegrounds where the campaign will be fought most intensely, with 146 votes at stake. To win, a candidate needs 270 electoral votes.

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