From Public Policy Polling (8/21/12):
PPP's first Wisconsin poll since Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate finds him taking a small lead over Barack Obama in the state, 48-47. That represents a 7 point shift from PPP's last look at the state in early July, which found Obama ahead 50-44.
The biggest change Ryan's selection seems to have brought about is the unification of the GOP. Romney's gone from a 78 point lead with Republicans on our last poll (87-9) to now an 88 point lead with them (93-5). There's also been a tightening with independents. Obama still has a 4 point lead with them at 47-43, but that's down from a 14 point advantage at 53-39 six weeks ago. Democrats are unchanged from the previous poll.
Ryan isn't exactly a universally popular figure in his home state. 49% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 45% with a negative one. But that does give him the best numbers of anybody on either ticket in the state.
A big reason Wisconsin remains so competitive for the GOP is that the electorate looks like it will be considerably more Republican leaning than it was in 2008, reflecting the continued high energy level of the party's voters after its victory in June's recall election. We find an electorate that's 34% Republican and 32% Democratic. Exit polls in 2008 showed Democrats with a 6 point turnout advantage, 39% to 33%. Although the enthusiasm gap that plagued Democrats nationally in 2010 has dissipated some places, it appears to still be a real issue for them in Wisconsin.
Choosing Ryan as his running mate isn't giving Romney any trouble with seniors in Wisconsin. That's actually where his greatest strength is, leading Obama 52-43 with them.
From Gerald Seib at The Wall Street Journal:
[T]he key to being elected is to win the groups that should be friendly to a candidate—and to pile up so large a margin among the friendliest of them that their votes can offset the inevitable losses among less-friendly groups.
All this is especially true in a close presidential race, as this year's figures to be. Thus, in the case of President Barack Obama, seeking re-election in a stormy economic environment, his campaign is relying on four cornerstones to hold the effort steady. To see how the president is doing, start by watching these groups:
Young voters. Mr. Obama simply has to win big here. And he will. In aggregated Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling through the first half of the year, the president was preferred over Republican Mitt Romney by almost 20 percentage points among voters 18 to 29 years old.
College-educated white women. Mr. Romney is almost certain to win among white voters overall, largely because he will win big among white men, who simply aren't a great audience for Mr. Obama.
Hispanics. If Mr. Obama can win more than 60% of Hispanic votes, he will have taken a big step toward victory. Conversely, if Mr. Romney can hold the president below 60%, the electoral math shifts significantly in his favor because of his advantages elsewhere.
African-Americans. This has been and will remain Mr. Obama's strongest single group. The president almost certainly will get something in the neighborhood of 90% of the vote.
The 2012 battle for the White House will likely be a "base" election. Still the chart below should worry President Obama, because it means that his chances for winning re-election rely on his campaign's ability to make the case to swing-state independents that he deserves four more years. From Jeffrey M. Jones at Gallup:
Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan famously asked Americans, in a 1980 presidential debate, if they were better off than four years ago. Shortly thereafter, he decisively defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter in the presidential election.
The question is relevant again in 2012 as Barack Obama seeks a second term as president with the economy still struggling to recover from the 2008-2009 recession. The fact that the majority of voters in the crucial states that will decide the election believe they are not better off is 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.
It will be interesting to see how Akin navigates the fallout from this inexcuseable blunder. The New York Times' Nate Silver has more:
It can be easy to overrate the importance of scandals in the first few days after they occur. Many voters will vote along party lines almost no matter what, and others will decide based on factors like the economy or an incumbent senator’s voting record.
Nevertheless, my view is that insensitive comments concerning rape are especially likely to be deemed inexcusable by voters, and that the swing against Mr. Akin could be larger than the average of 10 percentage points from similar events.
Some Republican activists on social media platforms, perhaps going through a similar calculation, are calling on Mr. Akin to withdraw from the race. An effort to replace a candidate on the ballot would create controversy of its own, potentially including legal challenges. But if the swing against Mr. Akin in the polls is 10 percentage points or more, it might be an avenue Republicans would need to consider if they want to maximize their chances of taking over the seat.
From Blake Elis at CNN Money:
The state unemployment picture worsened last month, with jobless rates creeping higher in 44 states, according to a government report released Friday.
Only two states and the District of Columbia saw unemployment rates edge lower in July, while four states saw no change in rates, according to the Labor Department's monthly report on state unemployment.
That's worse than the previous month, when far fewer states recorded increases in unemployment rates. In June, jobless rates rose in 27 states, while 11 states and the District of Columbia reported rate declines and 12 states had no change.
Among key swing states this election, six states reported that their unemployment rates rose last month: Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa. Ohio's unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.2%.
Wisconsin, which CNN moved into the toss-up column Thursday, posted a rise in unemployment to 7.3% from 7%.
From Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins:
When Mitt Romney began seriously considering Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate earlier this summer, many of the political professionals who staff his Boston headquarters were skeptical. They realized the political liabilities posed by Ryan's controversial budget. They worried that his status as a Capitol Hill mainstay would undermine the candidate's Washington outsider image. And they recognized that adding a bold conservative visionary to the ticket could well kill any notion that this election was a referendum on President Obama.
But while Romney's staff had their doubts, the Congressman had the support of a separate, and increasingly influential set of advisers who have long had the candidate's ear: His wife and five sons.
According to people close to the family and campaign, Ann Romney and the most politically engaged of the brothers were early advocates for Ryan to join the ticket, having grown friendly with him and his wife over the course of the summer's vetting process. Mrs. Romney and Janna Ryan "got along famously" as they got to know each other, said one source, while Tagg Romney — an increasingly crucial adviser to his father this year — grew to like and respect Ryan as he crossed paths with him on the campaign trail.
CNN Thursday turned the important battleground state of Wisconsin from "lean Obama" to true "toss up" on its electoral map, in the wake of Mitt Romney's naming of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, a seven term congressman from the Badger state, as his running mate.
One contributing factor behind CNN's move was a new poll that matched two others from last week that indicate that the presidential contest in Wisconsin is close. While Ryan's announcement did not dramatically alter the presidential poll numbers in Wisconsin, it did change the way both campaigns viewed the state of the race in the state.
Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney says the recent barrage of attack ads against his candidacy expose Barack Obama's White House as "an angry and desperate presidency."
Overconfident? Perhaps. Uncommonly negative for an incumbent at this stage of the campaign? Certainly. But "an angry and desperate presidency?" Not now. Not yet.
It's not hard to understand how Romney gets this idea. He expected and wanted a referendum on the president's handling of the economy. The president's campaign knew this wouldn't end well and has worked overtime to prevent it through relentless—if not necessarily fair or accurate—attacks on Romney.
President Obama's is not an angry or desperate campaign but one confident its strategy is working. Ryan may change that. His uncommon grasp of policy will help the campaign respond more aggressively to Obama's attacks. Already, he has begun to blunt Obama's "Mediscare" tactics, pointing out the president also calls for taking more than $700 billion from the program to fund his Obamacare initiatives.
Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report
The biggest test of Paul Ryan's political career is about to begin.
The Wisconsin lawmaker and Budget Committee chairman is enjoying the honeymoon period as Mitt Romney’s running mate, drawing large and energized crowds at rallies and mostly positive coverage from national and local press.
But the glow of his selection will soon fade, and when it does, Republican lawmakers and strategists say, Ryan will have to step up his game if he’s going to help Romney beat President Obama in November.
“In the last couple of days, he's gone from double-A baseball to the major leagues,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “In terms of the spotlight, less than half of Americans even knew who he was. We can say inside the Beltway he's one of the leaders of the GOP House, but he's going to TMZ rock-star scrutiny, and that’s hard for anyone.”
Strategists note that Ryan is largely unknown on the national scene, and has never before experienced the punishing grind and wall-to-wall media coverage of a presidential race.
“People like to say what they would do on the campaign trail, but it's a whole other matter when you're actually in the trenches,” O’Connell said.
Still, the Romney campaign has been cautious about overexposure this week, limiting Ryan to a single solo televised interview with Fox News and restricting press access to early finance events that Ryan attended.
That could be a smart strategy as Ryan adjusts to the national stage. O’Connell said there are inevitably growing pains for any politician entering a race for the White House.
“It even took the president awhile to get the hang of it,” O’Connell said. “[Obama] stood up and said he had visited all 57 states [in 2008] … and he's really good at this.”
Read more from Justin Sink and Molly K. Hooper at The Hill
Depending on which Republican you ask, President Obama is either a power-hungry politician who will spew any lie to keep his iron grip on the Oval Office, or just a nice guy who is in over his head.
In the battle to tear down a president who remains personally popular with much of the electorate, a split is emerging in the GOP effort to define the president: Mitt Romney and his campaign have cast Obama as a Machiavellian mastermind, trying to dupe the country into supporting his socialistic plot. The second tack, taken by the Republican National Committee, is to portray Obama as a bumbling failure, a likable guy who just doesn’t have the skills to live up to his promises.
Both tactics are on full display this week, putting the party apparatus and its nominee at odds.
Republican observers acknowledge the disconnect but expect one of the tactics will win out.
“[Romney’s advisers] recognize that they’re not going to be able to make up the likability gap with Obama so part of it is bringing Obama down to our level. If I can’t go up, let’s bring him down,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said. “I think they’re sending out a test message.”
O’Connell said Romney’s tried the RNC approach and appears to have abandoned it.
“They’ve said over and over enough that he’s a likable guy and the polls are static,” he said. “So now there’s a chance to say, ‘He’s slinging mud at us … this is not the guy of hope and change.’”
Read more from Pema Levy & Evan McMorris-Santoro