Ohio moves back into the ‘tossup’ category on Fix electoral map

November 1, 2012

The Fix is moving Ohio from "lean Obama" to "tossup" in our presidential ratings amid a slew of polling that suggests that the race has tightened over the past month, even as the incumbent retains the slightest of edges.

With the move, there are now 95 electoral votes -- including Ohio's 18 -- from eight states in our "tossup" category. President Obama has 237 electoral votes either solidly in his camp (186) or leaning his way (51). Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has 206 electoral votes either solidly red (170) or leaning in his direction (36).

We first moved Ohio from "tossup" to "lean Obama" in late September after a series of polls -- including one conducted by The Post -- suggested that Obama had a high-single-digit to low-double-digit edge in the state. That surprisingly wide margin was attributed to (a) a barrage of television advertising from President Obama, (b) a state economy over-performing the sluggish national one, and (c) the sustained popularity of the auto bailout.

What's changed since then? Well, let's look at what hasn't changed first. The state's unemployment rate remains below the national average (7 percent in September) and the auto bailout remains popular, as evidenced by Romney's flailing attempts to muddy the waters on the issue in recent days.

What has changed is that Romney's performance in the first debate in early October bumped him back into contention in the state -- as it did in virtually every other swing state, as well as nationally -- and the natural partisanship of the state started to assert itself.

The simple fact is that Ohio has been too close for too long to expect that Obama would win it by five points or more. (Even the most optimistic pro-Obama types would have acknowledged that a month ago.)

In the four presidential elections prior to 2008, Democratic candidates got 9,060,521 total votes in Ohio, as compared to 8,965,170 for the Republican candidates, according to calculations made by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In 2008, despite routing John McCain nationally, Obama carried the state by just 262,224 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast. 

No one expects Romney to underperform McCain in the state -- both because he is far better funded than the Arizona senator was and the incumbent is far less popular than he was in 2008.

After reviewing all of the available public polling data as well as talking to operatives in both parties about the private polls they are privy to, we are convinced that Ohio is a 1-3 point race in President Obama's favor at the moment.

That -- coupled with the state's electoral history and the absolute necessity for Romney to win the state if he wants to be president -- leads us to move it back to the "tossup" category.

Put simply: Ohio today has much more in common with Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire and Virginia (all "tossups" in the Fix rankings) than it does with New Mexico and Minnesota ("lean Obama" states in the Fix rankings).

60-Plus looks to expand the map: The conservative retiree group 60-Plus is adding to the GOP's effort to expand the map, dropping a $4.1 million ad buy in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida.

The buy features two ads: one featuring a World War II veteran worried about wasteful spending and the other featuring singer Pat Boone attacking Obama's cuts to Medicare.

Multiple GOP groups are now funding ads in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan, which lean blue but which Republicans hope to make competitive in the face of tough Electoral College odds.

Fixbits:

The total amount set to be spent on this election: $6 billion.

new Pew poll suggests Obama's and Romney's voter contact efforts have been about equal. Washington Post-ABC polling showed very much the same thing earlier this week.

Biden 2016? The vice president jokes that a voter will "vote for me in 2016." 

Jeb Bush says Obama's strategy is all about blaming his brother.

The Democratic super PAC American Bridge is spending $30,000 on talking mailers hitting Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock for his comments on rape and pregnancy.

Former Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel will reportedly endorse former Democratic Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey on Thursday. Hagel, who has drifted from his party in recent years, also backed the Democrat in the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate race, then-Rep. Joe Sestak.

An edited report of the investigation into a 2009 boat crash involving Senate candidate Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.) has been released

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and his Senate campaign are up with an ad featuring Romney talking directly to camera.

Independent Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has very poor numbers.

Democratic super PACs are targeting Republican House and Senate candidates on stem cell research.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (I) super PAC spends $1.3 million against Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.).

new ad from Rep. John Tierney's (D-Mass.) opponent, Richard Tisei (R), features a serene view of the beach in Massachusetts and nothing else (besides his campaign logo) for 30 seconds.

Arizona voters will vote on whether to institute a "top two" primary system on Tuesday. Such systems are currently in place in California and Washington state.

Must-reads:

"Head of Crossroads GPS once a McConnell aide, now his political ally" -- T.W. Farnam, Washington Post

"What State Polls Suggest About the National Popular Vote" -- Nate Silver, New York Times

"Idealism Harder to Find From Young Volunteers" -- Jesse McKinley, New York Times

"Some things to watch in the final days" -- Dan Balz, Washington Post

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