Something Big Is Shifting in the Electorate -- Obama Has Moved Over 50 Percent Line in Three Vital Swing States
President Obama has pulled ahead in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Wisconsin, according to a new poll by released Friday morning by the Wall Street Journal/ NBC News/Marist College, “reaching the 50 percent threshold in all three battlegrounds.”
The WSJ/NBC/Marist poll finds that Obama is up by 5 percentage points over Romney in Iowa and Colorado, and up by 8 percentage points in Iowa. This fits the overall pattern in polling this week where the nation’s electorate is shifting toward Obama after seeing how and he and Romney responded to the attack on the American embassy in Libya on 9/11, and heard Romney’s harsh remarks about “47 percent” of Americans failing to pay federal income taxes and being overly dependent on federal benefits.
What’s particularly striking about the shift toward Obama is not just that poll after poll has found that Romney is too distant from voters—whereas Obama is more concerned and likeable, but as was found in the WSJ/NBC Colorado results, that likely voters there have slightly more confidence in Obama on the economy than Romney, and much more confidence in Obama on foreign policy.
These polls, particularly at the state level, are important indicators of more than the local and national mood because in 30 states, such as Iowa, early voting will begin by the end of September. Election Day is a bit of a misnomer, as it is more accurate to talk of an election season that starts with early voting and mail-in ballots and culminates in polling places on November 6.
In western states like Colorado, upwards of 80 percent of the electorate will vote early or by mail—a very different electoral experience than most eastern and midwestern states. So the latest polling showing Romney’s continuing decline is anything but good news for the Republicans. Indeed, in many states, early voting will begin before the first presidential debate in early October, which many pundits say is Romney’s last big chance to change the race’s dynamics.
The forecasters who look at the Electoral College like a political weather map are now saying that there are many ways for Obama to retain the presidency, but the paths for Romney are becoming fewer. They say Romney cannot win if Obama takes states like Ohio, Florida and Colorado, as polls suggest he will.
The Romney campaign’s response is to brush the aside the polls and say that they are concentrating on their ground game—registering likely Republican voters and getting them to vote, particularly by mail. In Colorado and Ohio, the Republican secretaries of state have mailed out absentee ballot applications to every registered voter. The state GOP can then trace who has replied, who hasn’t, and send volunteers to knock on doors to get people to sign the applications and later vote. Of course, Democrats can do the same, but in past years the GOP has tended to outpace Democrats in absentee voting outeach, whereas Democrats focus more on polling places.
The presidential race’s shifting fortunes also affects down-ballot races, starting with races for U.S. House and Senate. In Wisconsin, Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin has pulled ahead of former GOP governor Tommy Thompson. In the Massachusetts Senate race, Democrat Elizabeth Warren is now ahead of the incumbent Republican, Scott Brown.
The question of whether the Democrats can take back the House and expand their Senate majority is also coming into view, which wasn’t even being discussed a few weeks ago. The Princeton Election Consortium this week increased the odds of the GOP losing their House majority, another welcome sign for Democrats. It said Democrats had a 74 percent chance to retake the House.
Friday’s newspapers also are filled with tidbits that the Republicans’ are getting depressed and their spirits are fraying. The New York Times said Ann Romney chastised her husband’s critics while campaigning in Iowa yesterday, saying, “Stop it. This is hard,” she told Radio Iowa. “You want to try it? Get in the ring.”
But Wisconsin’s Thompson acknowleded the presidential ticket's fortunes lifted or lowered the rest of the party. “The presidential thing is bound to have an impact on every election,” he said earlier this week. “If your standard-bearer for the presidency is not doing well, it’s going to reflect on the down ballot.”