Romney bus tour: What's he hope to accomplish?

Mitt Romney embarked on a bus tour Friday that is taking him to small towns in six of the nation's most important swing states from New Hampshire to Wisconsin. 

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    Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, waves as he gets on his bus after a campaign stop at the Scamman Farm in Stratham, N.H., Friday.
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Mitt Romney’s hitting the road for a six-state bus tour. He launched it today in bright sunlight in New Hampshire, standing next to a bus plastered with the slogan “Every Town Counts.”

The US middle class has not received a “fair shot” from President Obama, said the presumptive Republican nominee. 

 The giant Mitt Mobile will swing through small towns from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan. If you look on a map, you’ll see those states don’t fit together in a continuous swath. That means each likely has been chosen for particular reasons. What are they? What’s Mr. Romney hope to accomplish with this trip?

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We’ll wrestle with that second question first by way of setting the background for further discussion. It’s our belief that overall the point of the venture is simply to stay up in the Obama team’s face.

Since attaining presumptive nominee status Romney has conducted an aggressive general election campaign. He declined to rebuke supporter Donald Trump after The Donald kept raising the discredited Obama-wasn’t-born-in-the-US issue. He pounced on Mr. Obama’s remark that the private sector is “fine” to the point where he raises it at every stop. When Obama scheduled a major speech on the economy, Romney scheduled his own, at the same time.

“The discipline that the Romney campaign has displayed so far is quite impressive. And it’s something that is just frustrating the daylights out of the White House,” wrote NBC’s First Read political column Friday.

The bus tour should be seen in this light. It’s hitting some of the nation’s most important swing states at the very beginning of the general election campaign season.

Take New Hampshire. President Obama has a slim lead there, according to polls, and he won the Granite State in 2008. But Romney has a summer home there and remains relatively popular. New Hampshire is one of the most elastic of swing states, according to New York Times polling analyst Nate Silver. That means a high percentage of its independents are in fact independent, and could be persuaded to vote for either side.

Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is something of the opposite of New Hampshire. It’s inelastic, a crucial swing state with relatively few persuadable voters. That means turn-out is key at every election. Republicans must do well in the small towns between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and in the exurbs. That’s why Romney’s stops there include Quakertown, outside of Philly.

Obama easily won Pennsylvania in 2006, and currently has a modest polling lead in the state. So in that sense a Romney visit to the Keystone State is taking it to Obama on his home turf.

Ohio is Ohio, namely, the most closely balanced, crucial, important, election-night-nailbiter in the country. If they could, both Romney and Obama probably would hit Ohio in every campaign trip. They’d probably rename their dogs “Ohio” if they thought it would help.

Wisconsin, of course, is where GOP Gov. Scott Walker just survived a recall election. Many Republicans hope the energy this generated in their party will translate to an advantage for Romney in a state that’s otherwise generally blue in presidential elections.

Exit polls from the recall showed Obama with a lead there, however. And the RealClearPolitics rolling average of major polls puts the president ahead in Wisconsin by 3.4 percent.

Obama similarly has a bit of a polling edge in Iowa. But it’s a slim one, and the Romney campaign thinks the small town nature of the tour could showcase their candidate’s edge among rural voters.

Michigan? In some ways that’s Romney’s most curious bus tour stop of all. Yes, he was raised there and has said he considers it his home state. His dad was a popular governor, to the point where many Michiganders of a certain age reminisce about what a great guy he was. (Full disclosure: We are Mitten State bred ourselves.)

But Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout is a problem for both line workers and executives. If you recall, there was some question in the weeks prior to Michigan’s February GOP primary whether Romney would be able to pull it out over a surging Rick Santorum. (He did.)

The RealClearPolitics rolling average for Michigan has Obama up by 5.4 percent. But perhaps Romney feels he has to visit his childhood state, a place where, in his words, the trees are “the right height.”

Plus, it's not as if he’s going to union halls in Detroit. Among his scheduled stops are a bakery in Frankenmuth (a vacation town otherwise known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria”) and Holland State Park, in the conservative southwestern part of the state.

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