Romney Needs to Expand the Map

Originally, the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama campaigns chose which swing states to focus on by comparing election results from previous years and figuring out which were most or least likely to vote for each candidate. The result was a consensus that North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada and Colorado were the most likely to swing one way or the other.

As a result of this analysis, the two campaigns have dumped an unbelievable amount of money into advertising in these “battleground” states and have largely ignored the rest of the country. Voters in these states have been deluged with ads — particularly negative ads — at a level of intensity unparalleled in political history.

These ads have created their own dynamic. States that were once borderline between the two parties have reacted to the advertising and partisan loyalties have firmed up. Particularly, the Obama anti-Romney ads have besmirched the Republican candidate’s image and made it harder for him to win votes in some of the swing states.

At the moment, it looks like North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, and Florida are tending toward Romney but that Ohio, Nevada, and New Hampshire remain very closely contested. With good debate performances, Romney is very likely to win all of these swing states.

But, his campaign, and the PACs supporting him, may find it easier to win some states not initially designated as battleground states than some of those that have been in the campaign crosshairs all along. In these new states — like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and even New Jersey — Romney does not have the high negatives Obama’s ads have given him in states like Ohio, New Hampshire and Nevada. Their main impression of Romney comes from a very good convention speech and a spectacular performance in the first debate.

The Romney campaign, and the PACs supporting the Republican, should raise their sights and put major efforts and funding into these new swing states. It is entirely possible, for example, that Romney could lose Ohio and carry Michigan or Wisconsin, thereby winning the election anyway.

In Michigan, for example, a private statewide poll conducted on Oct. 4 showed Obama ahead by 46-40. A follow up poll by the same firm on Oct. 13, showed him ahead by only 44-43. A poll by McLaughlin and Associates — a very reputable Republican firm — showed Romney leading in Pennsylvania 49-46. Even Tom Smith, the Republican Senate candidate, was only two points behind the Democratic incumbent Bob Casey (46-44). Another private poll shows Romney only four points behind Obama in Minnesota. All three of these polls offer encouraging evidence that broadening the campaign’s sights to include these new swing states could be a very effective strategy.

Right now, the Romney campaign is spending vast amounts of money in the swing states. Its overall swing state expenditures for the week came to $23 million (counting pro-Romney PACs) while Obama’s was $17 million. The pro-Romney groups have increased their swing state ad spending by 60 percent.

They would be well served to divert some of that surplus money to these new swing states. After all, an electoral vote is an electoral vote, no matter from which quarter it comes.

And Republican chances of ousting Democratic Senators in Michigan (Stabenow), Pennsylvania (Casey), and Wisconsin (vacant Democratic seat) are excellent. Even in New Jersey, the Republican Joe Kyrillos is less than ten points behind the Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez and the Democrat is below 50 percent of the vote. A strong Romney finish in these last two debates could hand Kyrillos a surprise victory over the vulnerable Menendez. With heavier media and field organization concentration on these states, they could be the key to a big Republican majority in the Senate.

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