Maine has largely slipped from the ranks of top battleground states, with Democrats winning here in the last five presidential elections. The same could be true this year, considering President Obama won by 17 percentage points in 2008. But Mitt Romney’s Northeastern roots – and the state’s Tea Party strain – make it worth watching. The Romney campaign will try to seize at least one electoral vote since Maine is one of two states that divide their allotment.
Mitt Romney was born and raised in Michigan, where his father was a popular governor. But the competition with President Obama will be rooted in the economy – not nostalgia – in this Democratic-leaning state. The government’s rescue of the auto industry, which Mr. Romney opposed, will be a central line of argument by the Obama campaign. Mr. Romney will likely fight hard in the state, given his family ties, but he has an uphill battle.
Democrats have won Minnesota in the last nine presidential elections – native son Walter Mondale claimed it as his only state victory in 1984 – so there is little reason to think that President Obama will struggle here. But the president’s campaign is organizing and not taking this Midwestern state for granted. If Mitt Romney is competitive here in the closing stretch of the campaign, Mr. Obama could face a very stiff re-election challenge.
President Obama recorded a 15-point victory over Senator John McCain in New Mexico four years ago, a margin that belied the history of the state’s hard-fought presidential elections. While Republicans carried the state in 2004 and elected a new governor in 2010, New Mexico is still viewed as Democratic-friendly terrain. Mitt Romney will campaign here, but his advisers concede that it is likely not one of their best opportunities to pick up electoral votes.
For years, Pennsylvania has trended Democratic in presidential races, but that has not stopped Republicans from trying to make it competitive. Mitt Romney has traveled across the state and Republican groups have advertised, but so far there has been little headway. A new voter identification law raises concerns about a possible drop in Democratic turnout, but a Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll gives President Obama an early edge of 11 percentage points. The state, once a Tossup, now leans Democratic.
President Obama’s victory in Colorado was among his most prized accomplishments in 2008, after the state had voted reliably Republican in eight of the last nine presidential elections. A wariness of big government could test Mr. Obama in the Rocky Mountain West, but Mitt Romney faces his own challenge in appealing to independents and women, whose support was critical in a pair of Democratic wins in races for Senate and governor in Colorado in 2010.
The most famous battleground state in America could once again earn that title. President Obama carried the state in 2008, but a wave of home foreclosures and a sour economy has complicated his path to an easy victory. A growing number of conservative retirees offer Mitt Romney hope, but the outcome could hinge on whether he can win over Hispanic voters, particularly younger Cuban Americans in southern Florida and Puerto Ricans in central Florida.
President Obama has a sentimental attachment to Iowa for delivering his first victory in his improbable primary race four years ago. But the state presents a far bigger challenge this time. Mitt Romney and the full Republican field spent months attacking Mr. Obama in the Iowa caucus campaign this year, which has kept the president’s poll ratings lower than other nearby states. In a close general election, these six electoral votes are critical to both sides.
Democrats selected Charlotte as the site of their national convention, with party leaders hoping to generate enough enthusiasm among voters to help repeat President Obama’s narrow victory in 2008. Mitt Romney had hoped to shore up the state by now, but both sides continue to spend money on television advertising. The state has a long history of voting Republican, but the race is now a tossup because Democrats have kept the contest competitive into the closing stretch.
The White House has paid close attention to New Hampshire, sending Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to the state repeatedly to make an argument against Mitt Romney, who has a vacation home in New Hampshire and is seen as a favorite son. The voters have an independent streak, but generally oppose what they perceive as government intrusion in their lives. It could be one of Mr. Romney’s best opportunities to win a state that Mr. Obama carried.
The economic outlook in Nevada has declined considerably since President Obama won the state four years ago and has been slow to rebound. With the nation’s highest rates of home foreclosure and unemployment, Mitt Romney has a ready-made laboratory to argue that policies of the Obama administration have not worked. A large Mormon population also could bolster Mr. Romney, but Mr. Obama is hoping his appeal to Hispanic and lower-income voters will deliver the state again.
There are few credible paths to the White House for Mitt Romney without winning Ohio, a well-established bellwether. The state has accurately picked winning presidential candidates in the last 12 elections. A steadily improving economy could help President Obama carry the state again. Large portions of the state remain conservative, but Republicans worry that Democrats may be motivated by a victory last year in which voters struck down a law restricting public workers’ rights to bargain collectively.
As one of the nation’s newest battleground states, Virginia will be center stage in President Obama’s fight for re-election. The state is deeply conservative, but population shifts in Northern Virginia have changed the state’s political demographics. Mitt Romney’s argument against the expansion of government is complicated by the number of government workers in Virginia. The president carried the state by seven percentage points in 2008, but both campaigns agree the race will be closer this year.
The addition of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin to the Republican ticket does not guarantee victory over President Obama, but it cements the state’s role as a true battleground. Democrats carried the state in the last six presidential contests – often narrowly – but Republican groups are advertising to try to push the Obama campaign to spend money. Still, Mitt Romney is at the top of the ticket and must show that he can make his own case here.
The politics of Arizona are gradually shifting with its demographics. For now, Republicans believe their party has an advantage in presidential elections, even though they concede the rising number of Hispanic voters could give Democrats an edge. President Obama, who lost by 9 percentage points in Senator John McCain’s home state in 2008, is intrigued by the prospects in Arizona, and his campaign is registering voters and gauging its competitiveness for the fall.
President Obama carried Indiana by a whisker – 1 percentage point – when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in four decades. But he is unlikely to outspend Mitt Romney by five to one as he did Senator John McCain in 2008. The state leans Republican, which gives Mr. Romney a strong upper hand. But the proximity to Chicago, particularly the suburbs in northern Indiana, offers a sliver of hope for Mr. Obama, but only a sliver.
President Obama fell 3,632 votes short – out of 2.9 million cast – in his quest to win Missouri four years ago, a defeat that frustrated his advisers who hoped he could overcome the state’s Republican-leaning trend. If Mr. Obama came close the first time, his chances in 2012 are more distant. Yet Mitt Romney will need to show that he can win over conservatives and evangelical voters and encourage them to turn out.
This is a solid Republican state that has leaned more Republican in presidential races over the last half-century than any other state but Utah. Yet Nebraska can divide electoral votes by Congressional district. Four years ago, President Obama carried the state’s second Congressional District – Omaha and the surrounding area – and collected a single electoral vote. A competitive Senate race could help drive up Democratic turnout again, but Republicans are less likely to be taken by surprise.