Four years ago, John McCain’s campaign team thought they saw something happening in Pennsylvania late in the fall and even sent him into the state in the closing days. It was more a sign of weakness than strength. Whatever his advisers thought was happening was either illusory or disappeared by Election Day. Pennsylvania should be closer at this point that it was in 2008, given where the national polls are, but it still tilts toward Obama.
Michigan shows a similar pattern, though, it has become even more Democratic in presidential races over the past few cycles. Four years ago, Obama got 57 percent of the vote in Michigan, four points better there than he got nationally. John Kerry ran three points better in Michigan than he did nationally in 2004, as did Gore in 2000. With the national polls close, Michigan, like Pennsylvania, should be closer than it was four years ago.
George W. Bush made a strong push for Minnesota in 2000, seeing opportunities among younger white men, and made a race of it. Gore carried the state, but only by about two percentage points. (Ralph Nader got 5 percent there that year.) Kerry won the state by three points in 2004. Four years ago, some early fall polls made Minnesota look competitive. Obama ended up winning by 10 points.
Instead of watching the advertising dollars, watch the candidates’ movements. Will Romney campaign in Michigan or Pennsylvania before Tuesday? His campaign announced a big rally in Ohio on Friday night, which will feature a huge cast of elected officials from around the country. They will then fan out in groups across 11 states (including Pennsylvania and Michigan but not, according to the Romney release, Minnesota). But where will Romney go?
The Republican nominee was spending Wednesday in Florida, a state he needs to take Tuesday to have a realistic chance of winning. He hasn’t put that state away yet, although Republicans remain cautiously confident that he will. He also hasn’t locked down Virginia, a state that under virtually every scenario must be in his column for a Romney victory.
And then there is Ohio, the battleground of battlegrounds, where the success of the president’s automakers bailout continues to throw obstacles in Romney’s path. Romney’s new TV ad implying that Chrysler plans to shift production of Jeeps from Ohio to China (denied outright by Chrysler officials) reflects the campaign’s concerns about winning enough white, working-class votes in Ohio to carry the state.
Two new polls of Ohio came out overnight. A Quinnipiac University poll for the New York Times and CBS News showed Obama ahead by five points, which conforms roughly to where the Obama campaign says the race stands. The Ohio Poll by the University of Cincinnati showed Obama ahead by two points, which is closer to what Republicans say the race looks like in their private polls.