It’s been widely noted that, although national polls show the presidential race remains a virtual tie, the electoral college map clearly seems to favor President Obama.
As The Washington Post’s blog The Fix pointed out Wednesday morning, of the eight true tossup states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, and Wisconsin), Mr. Obama holds a lead in seven, based on the RealClearPolitics averages of available polling.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, leads in just Virginia – and that’s by just 1 point. As The Fix notes, if Obama were to win all seven of those states, he would wind up with a total of 319 electoral votes, well beyond the 270 he needs to secure reelection.
Of course, public polling isn’t always as accurate or plentiful as the private (and closely guarded) polls conducted by campaigns and "super political-action committees." So another way to gauge the competitiveness of states is by looking not just at polls but at campaign activity.
That's why, despite the Romney campaign's claims that Michigan and Pennsylvania are still swing states, it's probably more meaningful to note that they are not actually advertising in either one, and the Republican super PACs have also stopped running ads in those two states.
Conversely, when the Obama campaign revealed Tuesday that it was set to begin advertising in Wisconsin – a state Obama won by 14 points in 2008, and which no Republican presidential candidate has won since 1984 – it seemed to confirm that the Badger State will be one of the most fiercely contested battlegrounds this election. According to The New York Times, the Obama ads will begin running on Thursday.
The Romney campaign is also advertising in Wisconsin – along with all of the other tossup states listed above, plus North Carolina, which seems to be leaning more toward Mr. Romney of late, but which he probably cannot afford to lose.
The RealClearPolitics average currently has Obama up by just 1.4 points in Wisconsin. But perhaps even more to the point, Wisconsin has shown itself to be one of the most volatile and unpredictable states in the nation of late – as well as bitterly divided.
The rancorous recall election of Gov. Scott Walker, which Mr. Walker wound up surviving with relative ease, may reflect more enthusiasm (or better organization) on the Republican side. In addition, of course, it’s the home state of the Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan. Coincidentally, Mr. Ryan has begun running ads in the Badger State for his own reelection campaign to Congress, giving perhaps an added boost to Team Romney, without costing the Romney campaign a dime.
If Romney could shift Wisconsin into the Republican column, it would give him a tiny bit more breathing room when it comes to getting to 270. Of course, he still needs to win nearly all the other tossups. But at least it’s a start.