Obama's Woes in the Buckeye State

President Obama is in deep trouble in Ohio, according to this Public Policy Polling survey:

Obama's approval rating in the state is only 43%, with 52% of voters disapproving of him. He's very unpopular with independents at 39/57, and even with Democrats his approval has dropped to a worrisome low of 73%. He's in particularly bad shape with white voters (37/57) and men (38/58).

A head to head between Obama and Romney would be a tie at this point, with each candidate getting 46%. Those numbers are worse for Obama than they appear to be on the surface though- just 18% of the undecided voters approve of the job he's doing. When those folks make up their minds they're not very likely to end up in Obama's camp. Romney has an 11 point advantage with independents and pulls 12% of the Democratic vote while losing only 4% of Republicans to Obama.

No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio since the founding of the party. No Democrat has won the White House without winning Ohio since John Kennedy. As Brookings points out, it's not that Ohio's electoral votes are so vital, it's that the formula for winning Ohio works for the entire nation:

Indeed, Ohio is a political bellwether because it is a microcosm of the country. Its economy is balanced, with shares of its workforce in manufacturing, construction, services, sales, education, health care, and the professions mirroring the national breakdown. Its demography looks a lot like America’s too. The median age of its population is 37.9 years (36.5 for the country); 13.6 percent of its population is over 65, but so is 12.6 percent of the country. African-Americans make up 11.7 percent of the population (12.4 percent of the country). Latinos constitute the only notable difference: 15.1 percent of the country, but only 2.6 percent of Ohioans. This is a double-edged sword for Obama. On the one hand, the paucity of Latinos in Ohio helps to explain why his margin in that state lagged slightly behind his share of the national vote. On the other hand, if the predicted drop-off in next year’s Latino vote comes to pass, it will have much less effect in Ohio than in any other large swing state. [All demographic figures are from the U.S. Census Bureau.]

The president has lost middle America. Michigan, Wisconsin, and even Minnesota are also up for grabs, with Pennsylvania competitive at this point. The path to 270 electoral votes is still there, but the window is narrowing. The race will probably come down, as it usually does, to a handful of swing states where the GOP advantage with whites, males, and independents could be decisive.