Swing States & National Elections

In my comment yesterday, I noted that in my experience, campaigns that find themselves behind in the national polls, but believe they can win by targeting only swing states, are generally losing campaigns.  You might be able to pull that off if the difference is less than 1%, but nobody is going to win the Electoral College while losing the mythical national popular vote by 3%, as Rasmussen has consistently had Romney leading Obama by.

Comes this from Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard, quoting an election-savvy friend of his:

“The national numbers aren’t changing much because Romney is actually gaining in the states that are not being bombarded with media. Yesterday’s Connecticut poll has Obama by only 8 for example. And red states seem to be getting even redder. This is happening because the daily news is about the economy, Washington problems, etc. and that is the main message getting through. So, polls in these states reflect how voters who only see national news and national advertising (to the degree there is any) respond.

“One can draw a lot of different conclusions here—but doesn’t it seem likely that the Obama attack on Romney is working where it is deployed in full measure? I think many analysts have erroneously concluded that because the national tracking has not moved, the Obama attack on Romney’s wealth, Bain, taxes, etc. is not effective. The results in these states suggest otherwise.”

Hidden in here is the reason that, barring something that shakes up the race, it’s a losing strategy for Obama.  If the overall national trend is in favor of Romney, light blue states will tend to move to toss-up, while he consolidates his hold on the toss-up and lean-Romney states that Obama isn’t advertising in.

Faced with having raised less money, Obama is staying in the game only by virtue of outspending Romney in key states.  This puts him in a position similar to that of McCain four years ago, who was practically invisible on the air towards the end of the campaign.  Obama won’t be invisible, but he’ll be at a money disadvantage.

So Obama will find himself having to play defense in more and more states, with less and less money to do so.  That’s why campaigns that go tactical this early in the process tend to lose.

It’s certainly possible that the national media will pick up on and repeat the Obama campaign message in the newscasts, but to be honest, I’m not sure how that really changes the nature of their coverage from where it is now.

Usual caveats apply, but it certainly looks as though this is a re-election campaign that knows it’s in trouble.

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