Tag Archives: Scott County

8 Battleground Counties to Decide the Election

Addendum:  This is a re-post from September 20 that I think has held up pretty well.  The biggest difference I’d say is Florida is almost certainly out of reach for Obama so look at Scott County, Iowa as a good one tonight.  You can also scroll through the numerous posts on various Battleground Counties across the county.

[Begin Original Post] That headline is a bit of a stretch but reader Roland Tilden sends a link to a story by Smart Media Group’s Chris Palko who breaks down 10 counties he believes Romney must win to carry the election.   And since we love Battleground Counties almost as much as we love Battleground States, this was right up our alley. What is consistent about the counties selected is each is a big population center so that understandably impacts election outcomes and each was a Bush 2004 and an Obama 2008 county. Not coincidentally Mitt Romney’s original bus tour in June hit a great many of these counties and will almost certainly do so again this time.

The only thing I don’t like about the list is 2 counties are in North Carolina which is not a Battleground in my opinion. In Palko’s defense, this story was originally published in April so his choices are really excellent so far out. As for North Carolina, it’s a state Romney will win by 5-10%. And until President Obama actually campaigns in the state (he hasn’t in all of 2012 outside of his Convention), it’s very likely a GOP pickup with minimal effort from this point forward and not worthy of much attention beyond that acknowledgement.

We have profiled a number of these counties whose links I provide below.  Where there is a battlegroundwatch.com post specifically on one of the cities he mentions, I provided the link as well in addition to my “Battle for [State]” series for each state. With that said, here are the eight Battleground Counties (in reverse order of impact according to Palko) that will go a long way to deciding the election: Hillsborough County, N.H. , Prince William County, Va., Chester County, Pa., Jefferson County, Colo., Arapahoe County, Colo., Hamilton County, Ohio, Pinellas County, Fla., Hillsborough County, Fla.

#8: Hillsborough County  New Hampshire
2004: Bush 51 – 48 2008: Obama 51 – 48
Population: 400,721 Largest city: Manchester

Palko: Most of New Hampshire’s population is close to the Massachusetts state line, which Hillsborough County straddles. It contains a vital grouping of towns and cities including Manchester and Nashua, the two largest cities in the state. Both are swing communities, in the electoral sense.

Battlegroundwatch: This is the location of Mitt Romney’s summer home, the place where he launched his Presidential bid and where he kicked off his June bus tour. They have spent money on the air, these voters are Mitt Romney kind of Republicans and the state has had a Republican resurregence.  Ripe for the plucking but it will be a battle to the end.

#7: Prince William County Virginia
2004: Bush 53 – 47 2008: Obama 58-42
Population: 402,002 Largest community: Dale City

Palko: Prince William County is an exurban county about 25 miles southwest of Washington D.C. It’s on the edge between the traditional, conservative Virginia, and the more progressive suburbs outside the capital. Prince William has become very diverse in recent years, particularly in the I-95 corridor. A hard swing towards Obama was key for him winning Virginia.

Battlegroundwatch: I would have ranked this much higher and definitely in the top 3. This is Obama’s bread-basket: upwardly mobile suburban moderates who trended strongly for Obama in 2008 but whose support has softened in the difficult economic environment. This is where Romney will need to make his mark if he is going to stem the tide of Northern Virginia dominance by Democrats.

  #6 Chester County Pennsylvania
2004: Bush 52 – 47.5 2008: Obama 54 – 45
Population: 498,886 Largest city: West Chester

Palko: Of the four suburban Philly counties, Chester was the only one that Bush won in 2004. The tail end of the prestigious Main Line is in the county, but so is the disadvantaged city of Coatesville. In between, there are plenty of middle-class suburbs, and even still some farmland. This is one of the few counties in Pennsylvania showing substantial population growth, so its importance is increasing.

Battlegroundwatch: It was no accident that the “youthful” Paul Ryan (early-40s is still youthful, right?) and the Romney sons have hit this area hard .  Similar to the suburban growth outside of DC in Virginia, this area outside Pennsylvania is full of persuadable Romney voters.  To win the state, Republicans must begin performing well here and in neighboring counties and they’ll never crack this nut.

#5 Jefferson County Colorado 
2004: Bush 52 – 47 2008: Obama 54 – 45
Population: 534,543 Largest city: Lakewood

Palko: Colorado is a heavily polarized state divided between very liberal Dems in Denver and Boulder, and very conservative Reps in Colorado Springs and the rural areas. The balance of power is held by the handful of counties in suburban Denver. Jefferson County to the west of the city is truly a purple county closely mirroring Colorado’s overall results in the last two presidential contests.

Battlegroundwatch: Filled with one of my favorite stories this cycle about battleground Precinct 7202330176 in Lakewood, a neighborhood who has called all but one statewide race correct since 2000. The swingiest of swing voters, Jefferson has been a regular stop for both sides all election season. Crowd sizes have been huge for Romney and flipping suburban white voters will be the key like they were in 2008 when they flipped for Obama.

#4  Arapahoe County Colorado
2004: Bush 51 – 48 2008: Obama 56 – 43
Population: 572,003 Largest city: Aurora

Palko: Arapahoe County is to the southeast of Denver and, like Jefferson, it’s a purple county that determines which party wins CO. It contains most of Aurora, the second biggest city in the Denver area. The county, and Aurora in particular, has seen a major increase in its Hispanic population in the past decade. This development has made the county a bit more Democratic than its neighbors.

Battlegroundwatch: The key here are the unaffiliated voters who much like Jefferson County swung for Obama in 2008.  Economy is the key.  These are upper middle income workers who often commute to Denver but fall into the pure suburban stereo-type.  Issues like taxes and jobs resonate strongly with this crowd who has unfortunately seen its fair share of recent tragedies.

#3 Hamilton County Ohio
2004: Bush 52.5 – 47 2008: Obama 53 – 46
Population: 802,374 Largest city: Cincinnati

Palko: Cincinnati is one of the most Republican metro areas outside of the South, but the central city county of Hamilton is a swing county. Hamilton County is worth watching, in part, because African-American turnout will be crucial. Sustaining high African-American turnout can make or break Obama’s reelection hopes. [Obama was] the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to carry the county.

Battlegroundwatch: A great boon for Obama in 2008 in a state where he underperformed national margins, his win in Hamilton was a shocker.  This is Rob Portman country so look for the debate prep partner and VP short-lister to be featured prominently in efforts to flip this back. This once reliable GOP region must flip if Romney is to have any chance in Ohio.

#2 Pinellas County Florida
2004: Bush 49.6 – 49.5 2008: Obama 54 – 45
Population: 916,542 Largest city: St. Petersburg

Palko: The top counties are both part of Florida’s I-4 Corridor, which runs through the Daytona Beach, Orlando and Tampa areas. The I-4 is the most important region in this presidential election. In Pinellas County, St. Petersburg has some neighborhoods that are solidly Democratic, but most of the territory is split 50/50. Every precinct could make the difference between winning and losing.

Battlegroundwatch: I would have inserted Henrico Couty, VA here (bigger Battleground, Florida trending GOP). But Pinellas is an interesting county w/a lot of conflicting politics.  It was a strong Romney county in the primaries where he doubled his nearest competitor. Unsurprisingly Ann Romney has been featured prominently in this county next door to the Republican Convention.

#1 Hillsborough County Florida
2004: Bush 53 – 46 2008: Obama 53 – 46
Population: 1,229,226 Largest city: Tampa

Palko: The most crucial county this fall is on the other side of Tampa Bay from Pinellas, the runner-up. Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa and its immediate suburbs, is the only county listed with more than one million residents. Still, it’s a fairly accurate small-scale version of America. It has a solidly Democratic central city that includes large African-American and Hispanic populations, and some outlying areas that are heavily Republican. The immediate suburbs are closely split. Whoever wins Hillsborough County in November is most likely the next occupant of the White House.

Battlegroundwatch: If Mitt Romney doesn’t win Florida, he probably doesn’t win the election.  And if he doesn’t win Hillsborough County, he probably doesn’t win Florida. Home of the Republican Convention and probably more campaign attention than any in the state.  This target rich county at the base of the I-4 corridor, this county is as closely contested as any in the country.  Of the 1.95 million votes cast in presidential elections since 1992, Republican nominees won only about 14,000 more than Democratic nominees. The outcome in the Tampa Bay market has run within 2 percentage points of the statewide result in every presidential election since 1992.

Romney Path to Victory in Iowa

When media outlets like NBC moved Iowa to lean Obama in mid-September I was beyond dubious.  The race in the Hawkeye state looked air tight to me and I expected it to remain that way through election day.  This intriguing piece indicates Iowa was slipping out of reach for Romney until the first debate. Plenty of interesting nuggets in this great Scott Conroy piece over at Real Clear Politics:

A month ago, as Mitt Romney’s campaign appeared to be foundering on just about every front, even allies of the Republican nominee believed his hopes for recovery to be particularly grim here in Iowa. At the time, he was failing to generate much enthusiasm in his western Iowa stronghold, and President Obama’s vaunted ground game in the state — which had launched him toward the Oval Office in 2008 — was humming along with an efficiency that threatened to put the state out of reach.

Failing to mind the gap

Particularly concerning for the Romney camp was the extent to which its internal polling showed the challenger getting blown out in Obama’s eastern Iowa strongholds of Black Hawk and Linn counties, which encompass the population hubs of Waterloo-Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids, respectively. Romney did not have to come close to winning in either of those counties, his team had calculated, but in order to have a shot at the Hawkeye State’s six electoral votes, he needed a respectable showing in each.

The debate that changed everything

Just when many Republicans here were about to give up hope, the former Massachusetts governor squared off against Obama in the Oct. 3 debate. Overnight, this traditionally Democratic-leaning swing state became one of his most inviting targets. “A month ago, I could hear the sounds of the Obama train steaming up and leaving the station. He was poised to pull away, which would have had impact up and down the ballot,” said longtime Iowa Republican strategist Bob Haus. “Then, a debate happened and the race was recast in 90 minutes. It’s hard to tell you what an impact it had.”

Minding the gap and then some

Since his commanding performance in Denver, Romney has not only closed the gap somewhat in Black Hawk and Linn counties, he has seen a significant boost in the intensity of support in the dark-red, soon-to-be liquidated 5th Congressional District represented by Steve King. In the 2012 caucuses, Rick Santorum dominated that deeply conservative western section of the state, while Romney struggled to connect with the heavily evangelical and rural population (just as he did in his 2008 caucuses loss to Mike Huckabee). But the Republican nominee now appears to have built a comfortable, double-digit lead over Obama in most of those counties, and his campaign expects turnout there to be sky-high on Nov. 6.

Expanding the Iowa map

Perhaps even more important for Romney, internal polls have shown him closing Obama’s narrow advantage in swing voter-heavy Scott County, where the GOP standard-bearer held a rally Monday in Davenport. In his remarks introducing Romney at that event, Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad noted that he had won the county in each of his five gubernatorial campaigns and suggested that the candidate’s economic message would produce similar results on Tuesday.

Driving the base

Additionally, the Romney campaign believes that it is outperforming its goal in the heavily white, blue-collar counties that dot southeastern Iowa, an encouraging sign for any statewide Republican candidate. “Our state Senate tracking polls are moving [Romney’s] way in swing districts, and the sweep of endorsements over the weekend gives him a sense of momentum,” said Iowa GOP operative Steve Grubbs. “I predict he wins Iowa.”

Reaching new voters

Indeed, The Des Moines Register’s backing of Romney this past weekend came as a surprise to just about everyone in Iowa politics. In spite of the kerfuffle that resulted from the Obama campaign’s original stipulation that the paper’s editorial board interview the president off the record, there was little reason to believe that the state’s most widely circulated newspaper would back a Republican presidential candidate for the first time since 1972. The endorsement came as a pleasant shock to Iowa Republicans…[D]espite the Register’s reach and the high regard with which its political coverage continues to earn, there is little question that its influence has waned. But taken in combination with endorsements by Iowa’s three other major dailies — The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Quad Cities Times, and Sioux City Journal — Romney’s ability to win over top opinion-makers in the state is emblematic of a remarkable turnaround, especially given the tsunami of positive media coverage Obama enjoyed here four years ago.

Polk County FTW?

Perhaps the area of the state that each campaign will pay closest attention to heading toward Election Day is Polk County — the most populous of Iowa’s 99 counties and home of the capital, Des Moines. Romney strategists believe that the Republican can lose Polk County and still carry the state, but they must keep Obama’s margins down in the capital region. That’s one reason they dispatched Ann Romney to Des Moines on Tuesday evening, where the former first lady of Massachusetts hosted the first Romney rally since the campaign suspended all of its overtly political events in light of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy in the mid-Atlantic area. Vice President Joe Biden will be close on her heels when he arrives in Iowa on Thursday for rallies in Muscatine and Fort Dodge.

The Battle for Iowa: Battleground Counties — Today’s Must Read

Normally in any given state we like to focus on a handful of the key populous counties that will swing this year’s election.  The Des Moines Register lays out all 12 counties in Iowa that are Battlegrounds this year including this super-cool interactive map with voting results of every county in Iowa:

 The Des Moines Register examined a dozen swing counties that have seesawed from Republican to Democratic, home to ticket-splitting voters that both presidential campaigns desperately want to win over this fall. Polling data for Iowa is scarce, but a rolling average shows a stubborn tie between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney. Such a tight race means a cache of votes here or there will save or kill a campaign. Both sides see opportunity in Iowa’s rural counties this cycle — Democrats in independent female voters and Republicans in white men without college degrees. The unemployment rate in Iowa’s 12 hottest swing counties ranges from 3.7 percent (Carroll) to 7.5 percent (Hamilton). Across the board, county leaders agree, the shaky state of the national economy is Obama’s biggest vulnerability.

And as Iowa looks at a stunted crop this fall, if not crop failure, voters will be focused on the drought’s impact on their local economies, and the government’s response.
This cycle, the GOP feels confident Mitt Romney will win many 2008 Obama counties — such as those he won by 1 point or less, including Warren, Hamilton, Iowa, Hardin and Franklin. Democratic strategists see gold in Muscatine, Wapello, Clinton and Des Moines counties — all fervently Democratic. The Democrats have opened offices there this cycle, as well as in all the bigger urban counties, where Obama will need to pile up huge surpluses to offset less favorable counties. Not every county in purple Iowa is competitive. Some could be called right now: Johnson, Des Moines and Lee will be safely in Obama’s column on Nov. 6, and Sioux, Lyon and Osceola will be safely in Romney’s. But some, like the dozen key “swingers” featured here, shift from D to R depending on the candidate, pet issues, hot local races and attention from the campaigns.

Although each county listed is hotly contested, not everyone would be considered a Battleground county under the auspices by which I refer to them.  Battleground counties, for our purposes, are both hotly contested counties and are heavily populated enough to swing the electoral balance in the state. For example, Scott County alone had nearly the same aggregate vote total in 2008 (85,292 votes cast for both Obama and McCain) as the bottom 9 counties combined (84,904 votes cast). So Scott County is clearly a Battleground County for our purposes while Greene County (4,720 votes cast) would not be. But even though not every county fits my definition, in this closely contested election, each is clearly a 2012 battleground as Jennifer Jacobs tremendously demonstrates. Here is the county by county breakdown reordered by aggregate vote total:

Scott — 85,292 total votes for Obama/McCain in 2008

  • Trend in last four presidential races: Dem by 9 points, Dem by 4 points, Dem by 3 points, Dem by 15 points.
  • Scott is a Democratic county and a big union county. But Branstad has never lost here, and Romney beat his GOP rivals here in the caucuses.
  • Iowa’s east coast counties — Scott, Muscatine, Clinton and Jackson among them — figured prominently in the Bush-Gore contest. Scott is an expensive battleground, where campaigns are forced by the border-state TV market to spend money advertising to already-decided Illinois.
  • Obama is amassing a battalion here, made up of neighborhood team leaders and support volunteers, who are called “core team members.”
  • Scott is more competitive than Democratic strategists might like to admit. The county government has a GOP lean. Four of the five countywide supervisors are Republicans, and so are two of the three state senators.
  • Scott is also GOP congressional challenger John Archer’s best bet for a strong showing. And Romney’s state chairman lives in Scott, where he’s leading a strong organization.

Woodbury — 44, 202 total votes for Obama/McCain in 2008

  • Trend in last four presidential races: Dem by 2 points, GOP by 3 points, GOP by 2 points, GOP by 1 point.
  • This is an urban river county where three states come together, and voters worry about competing with neighbors for jobs. Both Nebraska and South Dakota have lower income taxes, but Iowa has a more favorable sales tax.
  • It’s in the heart of Iowa’s red west, but unlike Pottawattamie to the south, it’s an outpost of urban Democrats.
  • Democrats recently opened a campaign headquarters here — in a Hispanic neighborhood in Sioux City. Woodbury Republicans opened theirs with Sam Clovis, a popular conservative radio host, officiating.
  • If congressional challenger Christie Vilsack can make a run of it here, her influence will energize the Democrats, politics watchers said.
  • Independent voters — a third of the electorate — will be the deciders this year, said Linda Holub, co-chair of the Woodbury GOP. Health care and federal debt top the issues list.

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Battleground Target: Iowa

As the first in the country caucus, Iowa gets a disproportionate amount of attention ahead of its kick-off to election season.  Once completed, Iowa normally fades into the background as states with greater electoral counts gain prominence among the campaigns and media.  That is not the case this go-around due to the narrow number of states that will likely determine this year’s President, of which, Iowa is one.  It should see increased attention now that it’s neighbor to the north, Wisconsin, joined the Battlegrounds, ensuring greater attention to this region by both campaigns. The Mitt Romney bus tour heads to Iowa today with much anticipation from a state populated with some of the most politically active voters in the country:

Mitt Romney’s next target in Iowa is the Mississippi River Valley — battleground territory in the Hawkeye State important to both presidential campaigns. The GOP presidential candidate will make two stops in crucial swing-state Iowa Monday – a private event in Dubuque and a public speech in Davenport. Virtually deadlocked in national polling with President Barack Obama, Romney is barnstorming states in the upper Midwest, trying to pressure the Democrat in the heart of places where the Republicans think his challenges lie. Part of a Romney success strategy here is to win over Iowans who lifted Rick Santorum to a win in the caucuses. (Romney finished just 34 votes behind.) Santorum said in a CNN interview today that he’s not interested in a post in a Romney cabinet, and he refused to walk back some of the criticism he leveled in Iowa that Romney lacks authenticity. But on Saturday at a Faith & Freedom Coalition event in Washington, D.C. said: “I’ve talked to Governor Romney, and I have no doubt – and I mean this in all sincerity – I have no doubt he understands the centrality of family. He understands the importance of family for our culture, for our economy, and for our future.”

What and where:

After campaigning in Wisconsin Monday morning, Romney will board a boat in Dubuque for an afternoon trip along the Mississippi River with Iowans who volunteered for his campaign. Then Romney’s campaign bus heads south to a riverside park in downtown Davenport. At 5:10 p.m. Monday, he will speak at the Le Claire Park band shell. It’s open to the public; doors open at 3 p.m. Monday will be Romney’s third visit to the Hawkeye State since the caucuses. He flew to Des Moines on May 15 to speak about national debt, and spoke about the economy in Council Bluffs on June 8. The Dubuque event, on a replica of a century-old steamboat, will be open to 50 volunteers who made 300 calls for Romney on Saturday, campaign aides said.

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Romney Bus Tours Battleground Counties

Even though we pointed out that the bus tour travels through all states won by Obama (complete schedule here), ABC drilled down a little further and identified that many of the stops were in all-important Battleground Counties — one of our favorite topics:

In New Hampshire:

Romney visits the towns of Stratham and Milford. Stratham is located in Rockingham County, in the southeastern most portion of the state. Barack Obama narrowly carried Rockingham in 2008, defeating Sen.  John McCain by about 1 percentage point. Milford is located in Hillsborough County, another blue county in 2008.  Obama carried this one by a margin of about 3 percentage points.

In Pennsylvania:

Weatherly and Quakertown are located in Carbon County and Bucks County, respectively, two counties that went blue the last time around. Obama won Carbon County by roughly 2 percentage points and carried Bucks County by about 9.

In Ohio there are no pure Battleground Counties on the tour. Brunswick in is red Medina County (McCain: 53, Obama: 45) but the town is right on the border of Cuyahoga County that Obama carried 69-30 thanks to strong city support in Cleveland.  Newark is in red Licking County (McCain 57-41), but its neighboring county is Franklin County that Obama carried 60-39. Troy is in lightly populated Miami County that McCain carried decisively (63-35 ) but its adjoining county is the far more populous Montgomery County that Obama won 53-46.

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