The Obama reelection campaign seems to be suffering from a case of split personalities, at least if today’s National Journal story by Kraushaar is right:
The president’s advisers are stuck between pursuing two distinctly different strategies and two very different kinds of voters, each of which is crucial to his reelection. The first is an “Ohio strategy,” which means adopting an aggressively populist message to win back blue-collar voters in Rust Belt states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The second is a “Virginia strategy,” which would emphasize a more centrist message aimed at upscale white-collar professionals and college-educated suburbanites. The Virginia strategy would also appeal to voters in Colorado, Nevada, and North Carolina, and would probably be bolstered by a mobilization of young voters and minority groups, who make up a significant share of the electorate in those states.
By my reckoning, North Carolina is already gone for Obama next year. During the “perfect storm” of 2008, Obama was still only able to win NC by 14,000 votes. That’s going to be a tough trick to repeat now the “Hope and Change” has become “Gloom and Doom.” Colorado and Nevada are still winnable — NV especially so with Harry Reid’s casino machine going full tilt. Colorado, still purple as always, will be a tougher nut to crack.
The Ohio Strategy looks like the smarter play. The Great Lakes and Upper Midwest are next year’s battlegrounds, period. The swath of Rust from PA through MN are where the next election will be decided. Minus, of course, IL and IN. IL will go blue and IN will go red, and that’s pretty much the end of that story.
Obama won by a comfortable electoral college margin three years ago, although I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he did worse than GHW Bush did in 1988, up against an opponent no more unworthy than McCain. That said, no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. And it’s impossible for a Democrat to win without capturing most of the Rust Belt.
And there’s another thing. The way Kraushaar sells it, Team Obama is stuck between appealing to either blue collar union workers or hip exurbanites. Well, looking at the notoriously unhip GOP field, I think Obama can feel safe that he’ll still pocket the hip vote.
You can expect Obama ’12 to look a lot different — and more blue collar — than Obama ’08. And that makes the potential for a Clinton-Biden Switch much more likely.