Obama Charts a New Route to Re-election?
posted at 2:00 pm on September 30, 2011 by Karl
That’s an inaccurate headline at today’s New York Times:
With his support among blue-collar white voters far weaker than among white-collar independents, President Obama is charting an alternative course to re-election should he be unable to win Ohio and other industrial states traditionally essential to Democratic presidential victories.
Without conceding ground anywhere, Mr. Obama is fighting hard for Southern and Rocky Mountain states he won in 2008, and some he did not, in calculating how to assemble the necessary 270 electoral votes. He is seeking to prove that those victories on formerly Republican turf were not flukes but the start of a trend that will make Democrats competitive there for years.
While Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have slid across the board as unemployment remains high, what buoys Democrats are the changing demographics of formerly Republican states like Colorado, where Democrats won a close Senate race in 2010, as well as Virginia and North Carolina.
There’s nothing new about this. The left eyed the Mountain West and Southwest as fertile ground for its Emerging Democratic Majority in 2008 (and well before that, really).
However, if you look at the latest Purple Poll (or .pdf) from the new, bi-partisan Purple Strategies, the head-to-head numbers for Obama against Romney or Perry in the “Wild West” (Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada) and “Southern Swing” states (Virginia, North Carolina and Florida) are both within the margin of error of the numbers in the “Rust Belt” of Ohio and Pennsylvania. That’s why TNR’s William Galston does not think Obama should be focusing on the electoral map:
The last Democrat to win the White House without carrying Ohio was John F. Kennedy, who pulled off the feat with 73 electoral votes from south of the Mason-Dixon line and another 26 from the border states of West Virginia, Missouri, and Arkansas. Obama’s likely haul from that territory: zero. And as Seib points out, the president is facing an uphill climb in much of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region—including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, all of which went his way by larger margins than did Ohio. (For more evidence, see the latest Pennsylvania survey, which finds that 54 percent of registered voters disapprove of Obama’s performance and 51 percent don’t think he deserves reelection, while it has him running even with Romney in a state he carried by 10.3 points in 2008.) In short, the president won’t have the luxury of building his campaign on a solid-blue foundation of 242 electoral votes in 2012.
So what does this all mean? Barring unlikely circumstances, the core challenge facing the Obama campaign is not to execute a thread-the-needle Electoral College strategy. It is rather to spend the next thirteen and a half months giving the people credible reasons to believe that the economy will fare better in a second Obama term than it did in the first. (Emphasis added.)
Of course, that is why Camp Obama is spending time with the maps.