Mitt Romney’s long, risky summer road trip

These early summer weeks have been busy with speculation that the Obama campaign must be close to panic.

After a bitter Republican primary, challenger Mitt Romney has leaped to parity in national polls — effectively tying the president.

With oodles of zillionaire cash following to pro-GOP Superpacs, and Barack Obama battered by the soft national economy, surely it’s time to pull the rip cord, right?

But in fact, Mitt Romney faces an equally long, risky journey though the summer.  In fact, his path is far more rocky than that of the president.

Because of the vagaries of the electoral college,Romney will be forced to compete in far more states than Obama, often on terrain that’s been friendly to Democrats, and where the president’s team has a powerful ground game.

As of this week, Obama leads by 5 points or more in states that give him 247 electoral college votes.  In other words, he has 90% of the votes he needs for victory.

He also leads by 3-5 points in two states — Wisconsin and Virginia — that give him the extra margin he needs to win.  Finally, Obama is tied (within the margin of error) with Romney in three additional states:  Colorado, Florida and Iowa.

(The latest poll in Colorado shows Obama up 7 points.)

By contrast, Romney is leading by 5 points or more in states that give him just 191 electoral college votes.  He still needs to find nearly 80 electoral college votes to claim the White House.

Significantly, he is not currently leading in any of those states by more than the margin of error.

To get a sense for how dramatic this is, Romney has been campaigning in New Hampshire, despite the fact that the latest poll there shows him down by 12 points.

He’s also been stumping in Pennsylvania, where the last two polls have Obama up by 6 and 12 points.

The optics of that are telling.  For Obama to be equally “desperate,” he would have to be campaigning and spending campaign cash in Hail Mary states like Montana and South Carolina.

The strategic contrast here is equally stark.  Obama can still eke out a win with the sort of trench-warfare, strategic targeting of states that won him the Democratic primary in 2008.

Pick up a Florida or an Ohio, lock down a state like Colorado, and it’s probably game, set and match, even if Romney picks up steam in a lot of other places.

Romney, meanwhile, needs to win big nationally.

He needs the country as a whole to decide in a sweeping way that Obama doesn’t deserve a second term, the way that the country broke against Jimmy Carter in 1980.

His message will have to resonate from Colorado to North Carolina to Pennsylvania.

But Romney is no Ronald Reagan and in our polarized, geographically divided nation, this kind of wholesale zeitgeist change is really tough to pull off.

It’s also significant that Romney needs to lock down come-from-behind wins in some of the American states with the most rapid growth in Hispanic population, making the feat even more complicated.

That’s not to say that Romney doesn’t have some powerful momentum.  And the fact that he will likely have at least a small — and maybe a big — money advantage down the stretch will be significant.

It’s also true that in many states, independents and late undecided voters will probably break against the Democrats, as they usually do against the incumbent in the White House.

Especially if the economy softens further, this will be a nail-biter.

But even with those wrinkles, it’s clear that Mitt Romney can’t afford to fall into a summer-long deadlock.

His bus tour has to do more than remind people that we’ve had three rocky years under Obama.  He also has to convince people that there is an attractive, hopeful alternative.

So far, the polls suggest that hasn’t happened.

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40 Comments on “Mitt Romney’s long, risky summer road trip”

  1. JDM says:

    At this point, you seem to be saying “it’s Obama’s to lose”. I would agree with that.

    Obama seems to losing steam. Wisconsin is back in play. Michigan is in play with Romney up, but inside the margin of error.

    If Romney picks Rubio, there goes Florida, and some of the Latino momentum that Obama tried to bribe, recently.

    Now we have Fast-and-Furious, the Obamacare decision, and phoney autobiographies.

    Yes, right now it’s Obama’s to lose – and he seems to be losing.

  2. TomL says:

    JDM, I don’t see a trend that shows Obama is losing, yet. Nate Silver’s 538, which is about as reliable as any projection, still has Wisconsin and Michigan as ‘likely Obama’ and projects the electoral votes at 291 to 247, with Obama gaining slightly http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/ .

    Things seem pretty stable, and summer tends to be uneventful, even in Presidential Election years. Things will start to get exciting around late August. Anything can happen, but it doesn’t look like the economy will change much – it won’t get much better, nor will it get worse. I think the effect of the economy on Obama’s support us showing up in the polls now – voters who don’t like his handling of the economy have already made up their minds, and those who support his handling of the economy, who don’t like Romney’s alternative, or who don’t care won’t be changed either.

    At this point, I think Obama will win, albeit more narrowly than the polling is indicating. However, my guess is that it will all come down to the debates, and some key speeches by both candidates in the ‘swing states’ come September & October.

  3. mervel says:

    8.2% unemployment and the number looks to be going up? Looks to me like the guy already failed.

  4. Paul says:

    I predicted that the president would win for one simple reason he was going to outspend Romney. That appears to be no longer be the case:
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0620/Obama-expects-to-be-outspent-by-Romney
    Now It is anybody’s race. I wouldn’t panic if I were either candidate.

  5. Ken Hall says:

    Brian, You are just trying to make my DAY!!!!!

  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul, the Republican spending has already reached a point of rapidly diminishing return. Just outspending Obama isn’t enough they need to outspend probably somewhere around 8 or 10 to one in order to turn enough votes away, except that the amount of spending itself has started to become an issue and the more they spend the more people will distrust the parties, which plays into Obama’s court. The independent voters don’t want to feel bought.

  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Mervel, in the news today 1,000 more jobs in the Glens Falls area in May but the unemployment rate went up because people who had given up are now starting to look for work again.

    If you’re going to say Obama failed you also have to say that the Republicans in Congress worked hard to make him fail instead of trying to help fix the economy.

  8. Gary says:

    I’ve been saying this for several months, “If you can’t run on your record, you are in trouble.” Yesterday the polls showed the candidates were dead even. Obama has been loosing ground steadily for the past few months. Why? The polls show the voters disagree with his policies and handling of the economy. Economic numbers are getting worse as the election gets closer. Troubles in Europe will add to these numbers. The picture is much worse than you are painting it Brian!

  9. Newt says:

    There were two interesting items in Monday’s P-R about Romney. The first was a cartoon Romney in campaigning in a towed crashed car, labeled something like “Bush Economic Policies”. Fragile as is American political memory, many voters can still recall what caused the mess that Obama has not completely cleaned up.

    More interestingly, Byron York ( of all people) had a column about a poll in battleground states about voters feelings on private equity funds like Bain Capital. Unlike Cory Booker, Bill Clinton, Ed Rendell, and other East Coast, corporately-owned, Dem big shots, a plurality of battleground Dem and INDEPENDENT voters do not view private equity firms as God’s gift to America, have in fact an unfavorable view of them and all those connected to them. That is why the Obama campaign is running against conventional wisdom and continuing this line of attack.

    Obama, for his many failings, is the guy who saved Detroit, while Romney would have let it die.

    Romney is the guy believed (corrrectly) to have destroyed dozens of companies and thousands of jobs to make millions for himself and his cronies.

    This may not mean much in the North Country, but it will in Michigan and Ohio, if Obama continues to push it.

  10. Peter Hahn says:

    its still the stupid economy, which right now is mostly driven by events in Europe. Both Spain and Italy could implode between now and the election. Romney has reason to be optimistic.

  11. mervel says:

    I agree with Peter.

    Knuckle, I know; I meant failed as far as that number goes. But just politically, if we are seeing that number drift up again all through this year, I think Obama is in more trouble than people realize, even going against an admittedly poor Republican candidate.

  12. PNElba says:

    I still don’t understand exactly which Obama policies people disagree with.

    Ok, Obamacare, but that’s for two reasons: 1. people don’t seem to understand it (Obama’s fault) and 2. many of those opposed wanted single-payer instead of the Republican mandate idea.

    But what job policy do they disagree with? Obama hasn’t been able to get a jobs bill through congress. What immigration policy do they disagree with? Obama hasn’t been able to get an immigration policy through congress. In fact, I can’t think of a single significant bill that Obama has been able to get through congress in the last two years. The reason seems to be that any idea or bill that Obama supports, even if it was previously supported by Republicans, cannot get through our current congress.

    What about Romney’s policies? Well it’s difficult to comment on any Romney policy idea because he refuses to provide any specifics. What is his immigration policy??? Don’t know. What is his answer to lack of jobs? Other than tax cuts for the wealthy, don’t really know. What is his foreign policy? Seems to be all about attacking Iran as far as I can tell.

  13. Pete Klein says:

    When, oh when will people realize that no president can do anything to boost the economy unless you want him or her to spend your tax dollars to do it by hiring more government workers or providing money for public works projects.
    You want to blame someone, blame business.

  14. Walker says:

    “…any idea or bill that Obama supports, even if it was previously supported by Republicans, cannot get through our current congress.”

    What is really discouraging about having one of our political parties take this approach– to hell with what needs to be done, let’s defeat Obama by refusing to compromise regardless of what the country needs– is that if the Democrats respond in kind under a Republican administration, we will cease to be able to respond to critical situations: our Titanic will steam ahead into the icebergs while the two parties fuss at each other endlessly. Pathetic!

  15. PNElba says:

    Walker – there is the point. If Democrats do the same thing Republicans are currently doing our government will be functionally dead in the water.

    In the past, it seems Democrats have been willing to compromise with Republicans somewhat, when Republicans held control of congress( much to the chagrin of many progressives). I’m a hard core “lib” but I believe in reasonable compromise. By reasonable, I mean the party elected to power has to be given the opportunity to govern. That has not happened over the last two years and seems to be a new phenomenon.

  16. Paul says:

    “What about Romney’s policies? Well it’s difficult to comment on any Romney policy idea because he refuses to provide any specifics. What is his immigration policy??? Don’t know. What is his answer to lack of jobs? Other than tax cuts for the wealthy, don’t really know. What is his foreign policy? Seems to be all about attacking Iran as far as I can tell.”

    PNElba, what are you talking about?

    “What is his answer to lack of jobs? Other than tax cuts for the wealthy, don’t really know.”

    For example on this one if you look here at the “summary” of his policies related to jobs:

    http://www.mittromney.com/blogs/mitts-view/2011/09/believe-america-day-one-job-one

    This is the summary version you can download and read the 87 page version if you have time (I doubt that anyone does!). He never once mentions “tax cuts for the wealthy” as part of this policy so I am not sure how you are linking the two together?

    Now you may disagree with the policy ideas but to say he hasn’t laid them out their in detail is not accurate.

  17. Paul says:

    Sorry “there” not “their”.

  18. PNElba says:

    Paul -

    What I’m talking about is what Romney is not saying on the campaign trail. Why won’t he answer questions about his immigration policy? Why won’t he say, on the campaign trail, which deductions he wants to remove from current tax policy etc. Why won’t he say specifically what spending cuts will be made to make the Ryan budget proposal work? I will gladly read the material you linked to, but I doubt the average voter will. They (and I) would rather get the information straight from the horses mouth.

  19. PNElba says:

    Oh! Romney bills for day 1: corporate income tax cuts; increased “energy exploration”; retraining Americans for the jobs of today’s economy (which are?); cut red tape (regulations); decrease power of unions; end Obama care.

    I just don’t see any real specifics on creating jobs other than those involved with drilling for energy sources. All I’m reading is political blah, blah, blah.

    I’ve downloaded the 87 page version in hopes of finding some specifics. I’ll keep reading until I find where he proposes repairing infrastructure and funding research and development.

  20. Paul says:

    I do agree that he should articulate his policies better than he does. I have heard him describe some of the deductions that he would like to see eliminated. Many of those are geared at higher income individuals so in that sense I think maybe he doesn’t want to mention those with too much enthusiasm.

    I like this idea:

    “Eliminate taxes for taxpayers with AGI below $200,000 on interest, dividends, and capital gains”

    This would be a boost to small business development. For example many people who want to start a business often do this by selling a real estate or some other investments that they own. This would allow them to have almost 20% more in capital to go towards investing in a new business.

    But you are right he (and the president) should give it to us straight. Hopefully that will be what the next several months are all about.

  21. PNElba says:

    Romney had a chance to articulate his immigration policy just a few hours ago.

    “Some people have asked if I will let stand the president’s executive action,” Romney said. “The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure.”

    Ok, good. Now please explain what the long-term solution will be.

  22. Paul says:

    I hope King Romney allows some input from his subjects, or is he going to shove his policy down our throats also?

  23. Larry says:

    PNElba said:
    “I still don’t understand exactly which Obama policies people disagree with.”
    And,
    “In fact, I can’t think of a single significant bill that Obama has been able to get through congress in the last two years.”

    And there you have it. The guy’s done nothing, largely because (thankfully) it is difficult to build bipartisan support for an extremist philosophy.

    As for the idea that this state of affairs (Republicans opposing Democrats) will be the ruination of the country, I will remind everyone that it has always worked that way. Our system of governmental checks and balances ensures that we are protected from the worst excesses of either party. Our government is forced toward the center where most Americans “live.” Contrast that with rule by parliamentary majority like they have in Greece or Spain.

  24. Bob S says:

    If O’Bama has a problem it is of his own making. He said just give me all this money to spend and I promise you certain results. Unemployment will settle below 8%. Didn’t happen. Infrastucture will be built because there are lots of shovel ready jobs out there. By his own admission there were no shovel ready jobs so instead the money went to public sector jobs (read that unions). Now the money has run out and the public sector jobs are being lost again. If Wisconsin, a blue state, is a harbinger of things to come then I suggest that he has a real problem on his hands having little to do with Romney who is in my opinion a weak candidate running against another weak candidate.

  25. Newt says:

    Of course the Republican have blocked most Obam/Dem efforts to revitalize the economy (witness a the infrasture bill, passed by somethinglike 77-22 in the Senate now dying a slow death in the House), partly because of ideology, mostly because they would rather see the country mired in unemployemt than give Obama something that might reduce reduce it. Mitch mcConnel said as much, “Our #1 priority is to defeat Barack Obama”.

    So the ‘Pubs can say, in effect, “We will stop any job-creating bills from passing Congress as long as Obama is President.” Or, as Paul Krugman put it,”Nice little economy you got here. It would be a real shame if something should happen to it.” Which can only be altered, they say by defeating Obama.

    Except, even the most clueless of voters, at least outside of the South, Knows that a Romney victory would only guarantee fulfillment of the sellout of the public interest that cannot be completed as long as Obama, meek and mild as he has been, remains President.

  26. JDM says:

    TomL: “JDM, I don’t see a trend that shows Obama is losing”

    Gallup daily tracking poll, three-day-moving-average, June 21, 2012:

    Obama at 43% approval, 49% disapproval.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/113980/Gallup-Daily-Obama-Job-Approval.aspx

  27. PNElba says:

    As for the idea that this state of affairs (Republicans opposing Democrats) will be the ruination of the country, I will remind everyone that it has always worked that way.

    No, it has not always been the way this way. We used to have reasonable compromise in congress. We did not require a supermajority vote to get anything done in the Senate. In the house of Representatives, the elected majority was allowed to govern, with reasonable input from the minority (compromise).

    Today, Republicans have made it very clear that there will be no compromises with Democrats. They’ve been honest in telling us, almost from the day Obama was elected, that their goal is to see he does not have a second term. They’ve signed pledges promising there will never, ever be a tax increase (no compromise).

    Fine, let’s say Romney gets elected. Let’s say Republicans gain control of the Senate and keep control of the House. Let’s say Democrats then do everything in their power to keep any legislation from being passed in the House or the Senate. I’m sure the Republicans will be very understanding.

  28. PNElba says:

    He said just give me all this money to spend and I promise you certain results. Unemployment will settle below 8%.

    That is inaccurate and has been debunked many times.

    http://www.politifact.com/new-jersey/statements/2012/feb/27/chris-christie/chris-christie-claims-obama-said-unemployment-woul/

  29. Larry says:

    It is a matter of objective fact that checks & balances have always moderated government policy. It HAS always worked that way. Eisenhower did little to end racial segregation; the Supreme Court did with Brown v. Board of Ed. what the President & Congress would or could not. There was initially plenty of Congressional opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that was only overcome by Johnson’s political power and a reluctance to oppose the late President’s vision. Neither party should be in complete control. There will be plenty of compromise when politicians see that it is in their interest to do so (see the example of L. Johnson, above).

  30. Paul says:

    JDM, those kind of polls mean nothing. What matters is what happens in certain states. For example there is basically no presidential election in NYS.

  31. Paul says:

    PNElba, tax increases are not the only thing that a democratic or republican congress can do. Tax reform has bi-partisan support. They should do what they can do.

  32. PNElba says:

    Paul – agreed. So why isn’t tax reform happening? Obama has called for lowering corporate taxes to 28%. Romney proposes 25%. Is there no room for compromise?

    Obama wants to let the Bush/Obama tax cuts expire on those that make over $200,000. That’s a tax increase. It can’t happen and there can’t be compromise because Republicans have signed a pledge, to Grover Norquest, promising not to raise taxes.

    Obama want the tax reform to be paid for and not add to the deficit. Republicans believe that tax cuts pay for themselves. So there is no room for compromise here.

    http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/Documents/The-Presidents-Framework-for-Business-Tax-Reform-02-22-2012.pdf

  33. Paul says:

    PNElba,

    I think that something could be done on Corporate tax rates over the next few months. This Washington Post article outlines some of the issues pretty well:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/obama-to-propose-lowering-corporate-tax-rate-to-28-percent/2012/02/22/gIQA1sjdSR_story.html

    I heard Marco Rubio yesterday say that he could move on something like this before the election. If that tea party man wants to do something I think it could really happen.

    Maybe not.

    Something like this would be moved on very rapidly if Romney were to be elected.

  34. Paul says:

    I wonder if this is why Geitner is out next year? It sounds like he and the president may even have some internal disagreements on corporate tax reform.

  35. Paul says:

    It is too bad that the president didn’t deal with corporate tax rates back when he took office and could have easily gotten all that through.

  36. Gary says:

    Pete, When I have seen the posts on this site blaming Bush for our economic problems I never saw you post a comment like this..”When, oh when will people realize that no president can do anything to boost the economy unless you want him or her to spend your tax dollars to do it”

  37. Paul says:

    Of course everything in politics is done for political reasons. Despite the rhetoric, the president probably has no great interest in lowering corporate tax rates this close to the election even with a compromise. That would just erode his base. He can’t afford to take that chance right now.

    You do that. And then the Supreme Court takes your largest political achievement out behind the woodshed and shoots it in the head and you are in the tanker with no time to dig out.

  38. mervel says:

    I am assuming political scientists have all sorts of figures and statistical work on this but does the national unemployment rate matter? Look at the ranges of unemployment rates between states. I mean North Dakota has 3% unemployment, Texas our second largest state has an unemployment rate of 6.9% while California is sitting at 10.8% its all over the place.

    It is kind of depressing but New York is at 8.6% higher than Michigan right now.

    I would think the voting patterns when it comes to unemployment might be more local?

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