The Path Without Ohio
Romney’s odds are dramatically improving, but finally showing a lead in Ohio would be huge.


Jim Geraghty

Ohio proved decisive in President George W. Bush’s victory over John Kerry in 2004, and its sizable swing in favor of Barack Obama in 2008 exemplified the dramatic shift to the left that gripped the country that year. This cycle, the state has proven particularly tough ground for Romney, and much of the coverage of the fight for Ohio suggests that without the Buckeye State, Romney has no chance of winning the presidency.

In fact, even if he loses Ohio, Romney still has a chance, but it would require some wins in other states that have proven tough for Republicans in recent cycles. And an Obama win in Ohio remains a distinct possibility, perhaps even a probability. Even as Romney’s numbers have surged nationally and in almost every key swing state, Obama is holding onto a slim lead — 1 percentage point in Rasmussen, 6 points in Marist, 1.3 points in the Real Clear Politics average.

Both campaigns know how important the state is; Obama has 120 campaign offices in the state, while Romney has 40. The Obama campaign has spent $52 million on advertising in Ohio, while the Romney campaign has spent $30 million (as of October 5). However, the Republican National Committee has spent $4.4 million to the DNC’s zero, and there have been $15.3 million in ads from right-leaning outside groups and super PACs against $11.6 million from left-leaning outside groups.

The Romney campaign is making a hard push in the Buckeye State — four days of campaigning here before this week’s debate.

The good news for the Romney campaign is that with their candidate’s recent surge in the polls, the Electoral College map looks a lot more like 2000 or 2004 than the wider swaths of blue in the 2008 map. But the bad news is that while Romney has gained a lot of ground, he still needs at least one more sizeable state to shake loose and fall into his pile.

The political world expressed surprise this week when David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, declared that he thought three big swing states were no longer in play — and he felt so confident in the assessment, his organization wouldn’t be conducting surveys in them again.

“In places like North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, we’ve already painted those red,” Paleologos said on The O’Reilly Factor Tuesday night. “We’re not polling any of those states again. We’re focusing on the remaining states.”

“Let me stop you there. You’re convinced that Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia are going to go for Romney?” asked host Bill O’Reilly, in a tone of disbelief.

“That’s right, and here’s why,” Paleologos said, laying out that Obama was under 47 percent before the debate in those three states, “and it’s very, very difficult when you have the known quantity, the incumbent, to claw your way up to 50 — a very poor place for him to be.”

North Carolina seemed the most plausible of the trio, as Romney had enjoyed a small but persistent lead in that state for much of the year. But subsequent polls made Suffolk’s conclusion seem more reasonable.

Florida had teetered back and forth for much of the year, and Obama seemed to have solidified his lead in the Sunshine State after his convention, leading every poll released from September 20 to October 1. But Romney has held the lead in five of the past seven, and Thursday night’s release of the Tampa Bay Times/Mason-Dixon poll hit the race like an earthquake: Romney led by 7 percentage points in that survey and the numbers showed a dramatic momentum: “This latest poll showed that 5 percent of those who said they were undecided before the debate say they’ll vote for Romney. And 4 percent of those who said they favored Obama pre-debate moved away from the president — 2 percent toward Romney and 2 percent undecided.”

Virginia initially seemed the least likely of the three states to be considered safe for Romney, as Obama had enjoyed a small but stable lead for much of the year. But now Romney has led four of the most recent six polls in the commonwealth, including a McLaughlin & Associates poll that put him ahead, 51 percent to 44 percent. (John McLaughlin is a Republican pollster.)

So three of the Romney must-have states are now looking significantly better, if not yet “in the bag.”

The next states that appear to be drifting red are Colorado and New Hampshire. In Colorado, Obama enjoyed a lead for much of the year, but Romney appears to be surging of late, leading in four of the last six polls. If the Suffolk threshold of 47 percent for an incumbent president is indeed the best measuring stick, it is worth noting that Obama has been at or below 47 percent in five of those six polls in Colorado. Perhaps that high mountain altitude really is a problem for Obama.


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