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Obama’s Battleground Advantage

A new Rasmussen poll for four  battleground states -- North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida -- gave Obama a 3 point lead this week, two points closer than in a prior survey.

It will be very difficult for Mitt Romney to  win if he does not carry Florida, Ohio, and Virginia.  Most analysts think the Republican ticket will win both Indiana and North Carolina this time around , given how narrowly Obama won these traditional GOP leaning states in 2008. If Romney were to lose Ohio, he would need to win Pennsylvania, a state where Obama’s approval ratings have been weak and the GOP had a very good year in 2010. Of the three western states, Colorado is considered more of a tossup than Nevada or New Mexico .

The outcome in the battleground states will to a large extent reflect the national popular vote outcome. If either candidate wins by 3% or more, he will likely win most of the competitive battleground states. Where Obama may have an edge is that his superior ground effort may give him a point or two boost in some of these states. The Romney campaign and its Super PAC supporters  have very effectively used negative advertising to tar first Newt Gingrich, and then Rick Santorum during the primary season. Unlike 2008, the Republicans will not be badly outspent this time around, and there seems much less reluctance to make Barack Obama, as well as his record, an issue.

Several events from this past  week  suggest there is fertile ground for negative or comparative ads.  Obama’s open mic disaster with his “message to Vladimir” has already been made into one ad, and there will be more. Just what will Barack Obama do in a second term, beyond selling out our European allies to please the Russians? For Jewish voters who care about Israel, the leaking of information on Israel’s ties to to Azerbaijan, undoubtedly designed to forestall Israeli military action against Iran ,and the State Department’s statement on Jerusalem, suggesting that none of the city was in Israel, were both damaging. Worst of all was the disastrous performance of the administration’s attorneys  trying to defend Obama’s signature “achievement," the “Affordable Health Care Act" (Obamacare as even its defenders started calling it this week), at the Supreme Court. If the Court were to throw out the entire law or much of it, it is likely this would help the Republicans up and down the ticket .

Over the past few days, the daily tracking polls conducted by Rasmussen and Gallup have shown a few point drop in Obama’s numbers. While these tracking polls have regular fluctuations, if they stay down for a bit, and the head-to-head matchups between Obama and Romney show some movement towards Romney, it will suggest that the week’s events may have taken a bit of a toll on Obama.

We are still more than seven months out from November 6, and Obama remains the favorite. Intrade gives him a 60% chance at the moment of winning re-election, which sounds about right. Obama has more red states to play in than Romney will have blue states. That is the most important reason why he is the favorite.