Over the course of American history, voting in swing states, or battleground states, has been a strong reflection of the national mood and has been essential to shaping presidential election outcomes. For example, the swing states of Ohio, Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey and New York were crucial to the outcome of the 1888 election. Grover Cleveland narrowly beat Benjamin Harrison with a slim majority in the popular vote after Harrison swept four swing states in the Electoral College. More than 70 years later, in one of the closest elections in American history, Illinois and Texas would boost young, grinning JFK to the presidency. Florida, after its disastrous voting controversy, was the key to the 2000 election and even more recently, Ohio aided George W. Bush to his reelection in 2004.
The 2012 Presidential election seems sure to be another tight race. Over recent months poll results have begun to even out between Obama and Romney. Both candidates have pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into advertising in critical swing state cities like Cleveland, Ohio and Tampa, Florida. Politico, a political journalism organization, broke down polling averages in battleground states in a recent chart updated on its website, which shows that Romney, although still tailing Obama in most swing states, is playing catch-up fast – making significant gains across the board.
While Obama’s term has been the most telling display of what he could offer if he were re-elected, all eyes are now on the Romney/ Ryan team and the GOP. Can Romney pull a fast one in the last bend of the curve? Will he be able to pull off what he has struggled to convey throughout the campaign—a convincing, reliable candidate who America can trust to remain firm and honest in his views?
Recently, conservative Congressman Akin (R-MO) stepped down after his “legitimate rape” comments sparked furor from women’s rights groups and people from across the political spectrum. Though Republicans hastily cut ties with Akin, the comments pushed the abortion debate back into the forefront of the political arena. Ryan has been grilled on his views on abortion, gingerly dancing around the subject, although a spokeswoman for the Romney/Ryan campaign has said the two would not oppose abortion in the case of rape and incest.
Akin’s comments have brought attention to just one of a string of social issues that have divided candidates. Women’s rights have been one of the central issues in this presidential contest, from the contraception clause in the healthcare mandate to abortion, while same-sex marriage remains a topic of contention.
On the other hand, despite his appeals to independent voters that he is the pliable candidate with the will to compromise, Obama’s handling of healthcare, the state of the economy, and the high unemployment rate (still hovering around 8%) could be major roadblocks in his bid to win swing state votes. “The incumbency advantage enjoyed by President Obama,” said Kenneth Bickers, a political science professor at the University of Colorado, said, “though statistically significant, is not great enough to offset high rates of unemployment currently experienced in many of the states." However, of the 12 swing states seen as critical in deciding November's presidential contest, two-thirds have unemployment rates below the national average, and four, including Ohio, have a lower unemployment rate than they did when President Obama took office.
“The fact that the majority of voters in the crucial states that will decide the election believe they are not better off is [also] a challenge for the Obama campaign. That includes 50% of independent voters in the swing states, in addition to 36% of Democrats and 84% of Republicans saying they are not better off .” –Gallup.com
Nearly 10 weeks before Election Day, both candidates are still courting battleground states (as the RNC began this week and the DNC begins soon) and touting promises on education and energy, among other topics. Who’s making the biggest gains? You’ll have to keep track of the polls.
Post by Lori Keong, Student Worker/Blogger, Russell Library