With the two campaigns locked in a struggle over Obama’s auto rescue, a central issue in Ohio, today’s New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac poll finds Obama holding a lead in the state among likely voters, 50-45. The race is probably tighter than that; the Real Clear Politics average puts Obama’s lead at 2.4 points.
But a peek into the internals of today’s poll suggests why Romney continues to struggle to close the gap in Ohio — and why he is mounting a dishonest, last-ditch campaign to rewrite the history of the auto bailout.
For one thing, Romney has decidely not shaken his “47 percent” problem in Ohio. Only 44 percent think Romney cares about the needs and problems of people like them; 52 percent say he does not. By contrast, Obama’s numbers on this question are 62-36. Obama holds a big advantage on who would help the middle class, 54-42.
What’s more, Romney is not winning over blue collar whites in Ohio at anywhere near the rate he’s winning them nationally. The poll finds that Obama is running nearly even with Romney among white Ohio voters without college degrees. It’s always dangerous to read too much into one poll. But it seems fair to speculate that Obama’s auto-bailout — which helped save an industry linked to one in eight Ohio jobs — and the Obama camp’s nonstop attacks on Romney for opposing it could help explain these numbers, and Romney’s general inability to close the gap.
Romney is trying to deal with this by running new ads touting himself as the true friend of the auto industry and casting the auto rescue as a sellout to China. But fact checkers — and the Ohio press — have widely called out his ads as false. And another finding in today’s NYT/CBS poll suggests this could be problematic: Only 45 percent think Romney is honest and trustworthy, versus 50 percent who don’t; for Obama those numbers are 54-42.
And so, Ohioans may be more inclined to believe what Obama is telling them about the auto bailout than what Romney is telling them about it. The Obama camp is using Romney’s ads — and Romney’s overall dissembling about his own opposition to the auto rescue — to raise doubts about Romney’s character, integrity, honesty, and whether he can really be trusted to look out for Ohioans’ interests. The fact that Romney’s numbers on honesty are upside down underscores what a major gamble Romney’s new auto bailout deception campaign represents.
* Obama leads in key battlegrounds: The new New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac polls show Obama up by five in Ohio, but also by two in Virginia (49-47), and one in Florida (48-47). Obama leads among early voters in Ohio (60-34) and in Florida 50-44). This reflects, again, an overlooked dynamic: The race is tighter in Virginia (where Obama has now edged ahead in the Real Clear Politics average) and Florida than it is in Ohio. And Romney probably needs all three to win.
* Romney has not put away either Virginia or Florida: Don’t take my word for it. Take it from Chris Cillizza, who notes that the averages clearly show that Romney is far from taking either Virginia or Florida off the board. Also: As Cillizza points out, with time a now-precious commodity, Romney has scheduled stops in both states. If you want to know which states are really in play, watch the candidates’ movements.
* What about Minnesota? Related to the above: Zeke Miller points out that Romney’s final campaign swing does not include a stop in Minnesota, which casts doubt on whether the Romney camp really believes it’s in play. However, stops are set for Pennsylvania and Michigan, either because the Romney camp really thinks they are winnable, or because without Ohio, there's no other route to 270.
* What about Pennsylvania?As Nate Cohn demonstrates, despite the rumblings about Pennsylvania, the math dictates that Romney would need to put in an extraordinary performance in Pennsylvania to overcome Obama’s advantage among black voters and Philadelphia suburbanites.
* Obama video makes case he’s on track to reelection: The Obama campaign has released a new Web video on the state of the race, including this claim from campaign manager Jim Messina:
We are ahead or tied in every single battleground state. That means that Mitt Romney has to win not only all the toss-ups, but also a couple of states where we have a clear lead, in order to have any chance of winning the presidency.
According to averages, the only swing state where Romney clearly leads is North Carolina. Romney is up one in Florida, and Virgina is tied. Obama is up in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Nevada. So if you believe the averages, in addition to North Carolina, Romney does have to win a host of states where he’s either tied or behind. Obama has more maneuvering room: If he wins just the states where he’s leading, he secures reelection, and he also obviously has a shot at all the ones that are tied.
This calculus changes if Romney can put Michigan, Pennsylvania or Minnesota in play; also, we need to see a good Wisconsin poll.
* All tied up nationally: The New York Times and CBS also have a new national poll finding the race effectively tied, with Obama at 48 and Romney at 47. Romney has a six point lead on the economy, but Obama holds a nine point lead on who will help the middle class — also an economic metric. This poll is perfectly consistent with polling averages that have showed a dead heat for weeks.
* Truth is Romney’s first casualty: Dana Milbank has an excellent takedown of Romney’s dishonesty on the auto-bailout and on his Jeep-to-China lie. This sums it up perfectly:
The fast-and-loose with Jeep points to a troubling Romney instinct: When the stakes are high, as they are for him in must-win Ohio, the truth is often the first casualty.
The Romney TV ad Milbank references is dishonest enough, but his new radio ad on the same topic is far worse.
* And a note on Romney’s disaster event: As David Firestone notes, no matter how many cans of soup Romney hands out, federal disaster response requires money, and Romney’s ideological hostility towards federal assistance would lead him to cut that funding. And by the way: Romney won’t answer reporters’ questions about whether he would eliminate FEMA.