The Fix today is moving Minnesota, the state that hasn’t voted Republican since 1972, from “solid Obama” to “lean Obama.” The move comes in response to two major developments:
1) A new Star Tribune poll conducted by Mason-Dixon and released Sunday showed Mitt Romney within the margin of error against Obama, with Obama at 47 percent and Romney at 44 percent. That’s closer than any other poll has shown.
2) Both sides are now spending money in Minnesota, with Romney’s campaign launching a very small ad buy and Obama’s launching a $500,000 buy in the Twin Cities media market.
Now, both of these come with caveats.
In the latter case, we should clarify that Obama’s team says the Twin Cities buy is intended for western Wisconsin, which is in that media market. That may very well be.
Romney’s campaign, we should also note, hasn’t really spent much of anything in Minnesota — only about $30,000. And Republican-leaning outside groups haven’t spent much either. If this is a three-point race, it’s news to the GOP. So we’ll see if they start investing real resources.
Also, the Star Tribune poll isn’t yet backed up by other polling. A St. Cloud State University poll from last week showed Obama leading by eight points, and an automated SurveyUSA poll in mid-October for KSTP-TV showed Obama up 10.
In other words, it’s not clear this is primed to be a battleground state. But it’s still worthy of inclusion in our list of “lean Obama” states, which also includes places like New Mexico and Pennsylvania, since a Romney victory is within the realm of possibility if not at all likely.
Remember, Minnesota went 54 percent for Obama in 2008. That’s less than he took in Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and about the same share of the vote he took in Iowa.
With the change, we now have five states, totaling 69 electoral votes, in the “lean Obama” category — Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Michigan. If Romney could somehow add one or two of them to the mix, it would greatly improve his chances on what is a difficult map.
At this point, Obama gets 255 electoral votes from the states that are either solidly in his favor or leaning his way (this includes Ohio, which we continue to rate as “lean Obama”), while Romney gets 206 electoral votes from the states that are either “solid Romney” or “lean Romney.”