Lead Stories

High-stakes states

"High-stakes states" Continued...

Nevada (six electoral votes)

With one of the nation’s highest home foreclosure rates and an 11.8 percent unemployment rate that is worst in the country, Nevada is unlikely to give Obama another 12-point victory like he had here in 2008. The dismal economic numbers should suggest that Romney the challenger has a decided advantage over Obama the incumbent. But that conclusion doesn’t include the Harry Reid factor. Reid, the Senate majority leader, has spent more than a decade building a formidable Democratic political machine. When most pollsters counted Reid out during his 2010 reelection contest, his machine flexed its muscle and sent their leader back to Washington. Now Obama will call on Reid’s army to help the president win the state despite its dismal economic numbers.

Romney may get a boost from the state’s Mormons, who makes up 7 percent of Nevada’s population. Obama is counting on a Hispanic population that has grown by 82 percent since 2000. Hispanics made up 15 percent of the state's electorate in 2008 after accounting for just 3 percent in 1996.

With the state having voted for the eventual White House winner in every election since 1912 but one (1976), the battle here is fierce: In mid-October, with still three weeks to go until Election Day, Las Vegas set the record for the most televised campaign advertisements in a single year at 73,000 and counting.

North Carolina (15 electoral votes)

This was the state that Republicans lost by the closest margin in the 2008 race for the White House. A mere 14,000 votes, or four-tenths of a percentage point, gave Obama the victory—the Democrat’s first in the Tar Heel state since 1976. Now North Carolina appears to be the most vulnerable of the battleground states for the president. The state’s unemployment rate of 9.6 percent is the fifth highest in the nation and more than a half a point higher than when Obama took office. Facing such dire numbers, incumbent Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue decided against running for a second term. The Democratic brand in North Carolina has suffered since 2008. Twenty percent of Democratic voters in North Carolina selected “no preference” over Obama in the party’s state primary in May, there are 116,000 fewer registered Democratic voters in North Carolina compared to four years ago, and Republican took over the state legislature in 2010 for the first time in a century.

Democratic House members running for reelection distanced themselves from the party’s convention in Charlotte this September, including Rep. Larry Kissell, who stayed away even though his district was less than 10 miles from the convention center.

North Carolina has the largest percentage of black voters (22 percent) among all the battleground states. While African-Americans went overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008, some socially conservative blacks are dismayed that the president endorsed same-sex “marriage” earlier this year. North Carolina voters passed a referendum favoring traditional marriage in May with 61 percent of the vote.

Ohio (18 electoral votes)

All you need to know about Ohio is the fact that a Republican has never won the presidency without winning the Buckeye State. Obama won here by 4.6 percentage points in 2008, becoming the first Democrat to top 50 percent of the Ohio vote since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Republican George W. Bush won Ohio with a 2-point margin in 2004 and a 4-point margin in 2000.

In just two months over this summer the campaigns bombarded the state with $43 million in commercials. Ohioans endured nearly 400 television ads each day, or 16 every hour.

The state’s 7 percent unemployment rate is below the national average. Two years ago Ohio suffered from a 9.4 percent unemployment rate. The debate now is over who can be credited with the turnaround. Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, in his first term, argues that his conservative, small government policies have led to the job market rebound while Obama’s team touts its federal auto bailout. In Ohio, one-in-eight jobs are tied to the auto industry. In parts of the state, Obama backers placed billboards with the GM logo above the word “alive” and a headshot of Osama Bin Laden above the word “dead.”

With 120 field offices and about 600 paid staffers, Ohio is the focal point of Obama’s ground game. Some of these Obama offices never closed their doors after the 2008 election. By contrast, the Romney campaign had more than 40 Ohio offices and 160 paid staffers by October.

It’s a battle for the blue-collar vote, as the white working-class demographic makes up about 54 percent of the state’s electorate. Labor unions backing Obama, buoyed by a collective bargaining victory over Gov. Kasich in a 2011 referendum, were expected to reach 2.3 million Ohio voters in the campaign’s final month. But Ohioans last year also voted 66 percent to 34 percent for an initiative declaring that the insurance mandate in Obamacare should be illegal in Ohio. (See also “Church hopping in Ohio,” by Daniel James Devine, Nov. 3.)

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