As the Battle Rages, It's Time to Check the Pulse of Swing States
With new national polling numbers coming out nearly every day in the presidential fight between Barack Obama and John McCain, it's easy to forget that the race for the White House remains a state-by-state battle for electoral votes.
To keep the eyes of the political world in the right place, The Fix will use the remaining Mondays before the general election to highlight several battleground states where either candidate appears to be soaring or slipping.
Away we go!
· Florida: Obama went on television in the Sunshine State early and often, spending more than $8 million on TV ads before McCain started his advertising this month. It appeared as though the Democrat's spending had gone for naught as polling seemed to show the Republican with a solid single-digit lead. But the most recent polls suggest Obama and McCain are essentially tied in the state; a Time-CNN poll conducted early this month showed both candidates receiving 48 percent of the vote, and a Research 2000 survey in the field at the same time put McCain at 46 percent and Obama at 45 percent. A St. Petersburg Times poll released yesterday showed McCain leading 47 percent to 45 percent.
· Minnesota: Long considered a shoo-in state for Obama, Minnesota appears to have returned to competitiveness after the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. A poll by the Minneapolis Star Tribune put the race at a dead heat -- 45 percent each for McCain and Obama -- while the newly minted Big Ten Battleground Poll, conducted by two University of Wisconsin political science professors, showed Obama with 47 percent and McCain with 45 percent. In a state as "Wild" for hockey as Minnesota -- Republican Sen. Norm Coleman is running for reelection on the slogan "he brought hockey back" -- could McCain's growth of late be related to the "hockey mom" effect?
· Indiana: When Obama passed over home-state Hoosier Sen. Evan Bayh, it was widely assumed that Indiana, which hasn't voted for a Democrat at the presidential level since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, was off the table for the Democrats. A series of new polls challenge that assumption, most notably a survey conducted by J. Ann Selzer, of Selzer & Co., that had Obama at 47 percent and McCain at 44 percent. (Political junkies will remember that Selzer, who is based in Des Moines, nailed the order of finish in the Iowa Democratic caucuses this year.) The reason for the competitiveness? Indiana's economy has been hit hard by the collapse of the manufacturing sector, and voters might think a change of the party in charge in Washington is the best way to voice their disapproval.
Social Security Makes Comeback
The financial meltdown is having an impact on political races up and down the ballot, as it adds to voters' feelings of insecurity and pushes economic issues front and center. But the crisis may be having another effect on House and Senate races by bringing back a vintage issue (circa 2005) -- Social Security.
Three years ago, Democrats had a big time tarring Republicans for their support of President Bush's dead-on-arrival Social Security plan, which sought to partially privatize the retirement program by allowing retirees to put their money in a variety of investments, including the stock market.
Now that the Dow Jones industrial average has been swinging up and down hundreds of points a day, Democrats are trying to repeat their efforts, reminding voters which Republicans backed Bush's plan.