What better way to close out our Morning Of The Living Polls with this tongue-in-cheek (lip?) pledge from David Axelrod? When challenged on the sudden expansion of the electoral map for Mitt Romney into previously-considered safe Democratic states, Team Obama’s communications director scoffed at the notion that Barack Obama might be vulnerable in Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Minnesota — despite the fact that his team has shifted millions to those states this week in a last-ditch defensive effort. Axelrod tells the Morning Joe crew that he’ll shave off his moustache “of 40 years” live on their show if Obama loses any of those three states:
Jake Tapper tweeted a quick quip in response:
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 31, 2012
Axelrod didn’t do so well with his answer to Mark Halperin’s question about independents in Ohio:
As it happens, I tend to agree with Axelrod about Minnesota. The Mason-Dixon poll for the Star-Tribune looks pretty solid on the demographics, but I’m not seeing a lot of Romney activism on the ground here. The Senate race has been a snooze; the only real energy in this state for the election relates to the referendum on the definition of marriage. That’s driving enthusiasm from the core counties in the Twin Cities, which is exactly what you don’t want to see if you’re a Republican presidential candidate.
On the other two states, though, I wouldn’t be so sanguine. Josh Kraushaar has a pretty good insight into what may be happening in the Rust Belt:
But it’s also becoming clear it’s not just Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin that are looking winnable for Romney – it’s the entire swath of competitive Midwestern and Rust Belt states that share demographic similarities, and where Republicans made significant gains during the 2010 midterms. Obama holds a small lead in Ohio thanks to the auto bailout, but the issues driving the electorate in neighboring states are more favorable to Republicans.
The Obama campaign is on air in Minnesota, and sent former President Clinton to Minneapolis and Duluth to shore up his standing this week. That comes in the wake of a Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll showing Obama with a mere three-point lead, 47 to 44 percent. Obama is bleeding support from working-class white voters upstate over his health care law and energy policies. Also worth remembering: Obama won Minnesota by a narrower margin in 2008 (55 percent of the vote) than he did Wisconsin (56 percent of the vote), which has long been considered a toss-up.
In Pennsylvania, Romney’s debate performances narrowed his once-imposing deficit in the Philadelphia suburbs and his campaign is making a play to turn the western part of the state Republican. The Romney campaign is up with an energy ad attacking Obama on coal and cap-and-trade, a message aimed at converting disaffected Democrats around the Pittsburgh media market. A Philadelphia Inquirer poll conducted last week showed Obama with a 49 to 43 percent lead, with GOP internal polling showing the race even tighter.
In Michigan, the Obama campaign just announced it was buying costly Detroit television for the final week of the campaign to counter a multi-million dollar buy from Romney’s super PAC. Expect Obama to blast Romney on the auto bailout, and Romney to criticize the president over his record on welfare, both issues particularly potent with blue-collar workers prevalent in the state. A Detroit News/WDIV poll out today showed Obama’s lead down to three, 48 to 45 percent, the narrowest it’s been in a while.
The election isn’t just coming down to Ohio. There’s plenty of evidence that, given Obama’s struggles with white working-class voters, he could face some unexpected headwinds in states that have been in the Democratic column during presidential years since at least 1988. Obama’s campaign is acknowledging as much with their late television buys and surrogate campaign stops. Romney is currently trailing in the aforementioned states by several points, but Obama is under the 50 percent mark. If undecided voters break to the challenger, all bets are off.
Undecideds normally break in a big way away from the incumbent, who has had four years to win their votes. That, combined with the numbers we’re seeing on voter enthusiasm, suggests that we may see a Rust Belt wave break in six days that will not only boost Romney, it might even claim Davod Axelrod’s moustache.