This blog is about Battlegrounds States and only Battleground States. It is quite interesting that Barack Obama is below 50% in California and honestly it is a definite sign of weakness in the President’s re-elect chances. However, the 2012 election battle will not be fought in California and even if through some miracle of tidal wave results Mitt Romney were to carry California, the 270 threshold necessary to win the Presidency will have long since been breached by carrying one of the identified Battleground states.
Which brings us to North Carolina.
The argument to call it a Battleground state is straight forward and not without merit. Barack Obama won the state in 2008. The DNC convention is in Charlotte, NC in late August/early September affording the Obama campaign almost limitless free media in the state during the run-up and through the convention. This should create plenty of momentum for Obama in the North Carolina. And most importantly for a Battleground state, BOTH campaigns are currently in the state battling it out with TV, radio and internet ads — quite possibly the very definition of a Battleground!
All of this is true and I would expect nothing less of either campaign at this juncture — a full five months from the election.
But it is the mere fact that both campaigns are in North Carolina today but likely will not be there one month from now that gives me comfort that North Carolina is truly NOT a Battleground State. The reasoning behind each campaign’s presence are completely opposite — Obama wants to see if he has a chance, Romney wants to put it to bed. Each campaign is also approaching these spends from dramatically different positions of strength — Obama is overcoming a state party circular firing squad, Romney is outpacing a McCain campaign that never showed up in 2008.
Unlike the vast majority of Battleground polling you see showing Obama with a 2 – 5 point lead, the Real Clear Politics average in North Carolina is Romney +2.5. Critical analysis of the Battleground polls showing Obama leading reveals those races are more likely a dead heats or Romney is leading as in the case of Nevada. Critical analysis of polling in North Carolina reveals Romney with a likely 6 – 8 point lead. It’s like the old saying about mainstream media polling: “If the poll shows the Democrat with a slight lead, it’s tied. If the poll shows the race tied, the Republican is winning. And if the poll shows the Republican winning? well then the race is over.” For example the Civitas poll showing Romney up 2 versus Obama last week had a party ID breakdown of Democrat 45, Republican 33 and Independent 22 or D +12 — a completely unheard of oversampling of Democrats. I fully expect polls in the coming days to confirm these increased margins.
Which brings me to why each campaign is in the state today and why this tells you North Carolina is not a Battleground state. The Obama campaign is spending resources today in North Carolina to see if their pro-Obama or anti-Romney ads can move these under water poll numbers right now. They are test-marketing everything. They are intensely polling every demographic. The are scrutinizing every voter to see if there is any hope that the people of North Carolina are open to Obama’s message. And if they cannot move that polling number right now or they do not find the citizens open either supporting the President or changing their support from Romney, they will immediately pull every resource and move it across the state line to the far more important state of Virginia. If this were a Battleground state they would fight for these votes from now through November. That is not the case in North Carolina. The Obama campaign will make the “fish or cut bait” decision most likely within the next two months if not sooner.
Why is the Romney campaign spending in North Carolina? To blunt any movement the Obama campaign is seeking in hopes of putting this state to bed now so they too can focus on truly persuadable voters in other states. That is all.
If the Obama campaign can move the needle enough to both justify staying in the state and force the Romney campaign to also stay in the state through October, the actual result in the state will be immaterial. It will be an Obama victory simply to make the Romney campaign sweat out a state Obama won by only a few votes simply because the McCain campaign wholly ignored it and GOP voters stayed home. With Romney’s campaign not taking the state for granted and animosity towards Obama far higher than it was four years ago there should be little chance for Obama to carry the state. But just in case, the Obama campaign is battling it out in North Carolina today. However, I do not expect them to be there for long…otherwise the Romney camp is in a more precarious position than than even they realize. ©
UPDATE: We are already seeing the slow fade from North Carolina: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is II — North Carolina Dropping
Update II: I’d like to welcome the New York Times and Five-Thirty-Eight’s Nate Silver to the bandwagon. All Aboard! There’s plenty of room:
“People call lots of things toss-ups or swing states when they aren’t really, e.g. North Carolina.”