Saturday, April 21, 2012

What's the Matter with Romney in Ohio?

Mitt Romney's got an Ohio problem. When Romney edged Santorum in Ohio, many in the Republican establishment breathed a sigh of relief similar to when Romney edged Santorum in Michigan. It was an important step on the way to Romney locking down the nomination.

But Romney's weakness in Ohio and, frankly, in many of these industrial midwest states like Michigan and Wisconsin seems to be enduring. I have noticed over several weeks and months that Romney seems to be doing a little worse in Ohio than he's doing in his national numbers.

Today, Rasmussen released an Ohio poll showing Obama ahead of Romney 46-42. A week ago, Fox News had a poll showing Obama ahead of Romney 45-39. Let's look at some data. Here is's summary of the race in Ohio:

There have been 10 polls of Ohio with this particular trial heat in 2012 and only one (a Fox Poll in February) showed Romney winning Ohio. The other 9 polls have shown Obama leading by between 2 and 12 points.

Nationally, Pollster's aggregation shows Obama with a smaller lead:

So what's going on in Ohio? I think we can posit a few possibilities: Ohio's anti-union ballot proposition has galvanized union voters to some extent. Additionally, Ohio is home to a lot of parts suppliers for the auto industry and Romney's opposition to the auto bailout hurt him there as much as it did in Michigan. Finally, Ohio's Republicans are more downscale than Republicans in say, New York or California and these are voters more likely to support Santorum than Romney. These same voters won't support Obama and the vast majority of them will vote for Romney in the Fall. But it is not easy for Romney to bring them around and some small number of them staying home can mean big trouble for Romney.

Regardless of the cause of Romney's Ohio struggles, one thing is clear. Ohio is critical for Romney. Romney CANNOT win without Ohio. Obama can win without Ohio though he'd probably have to win Florida and some other states that are tossups and he's not likely to win Florida if he loses Ohio. So Ohio is important and if Romney is going to consistently be weaker in Ohio than his national average, it makes his margin for error in the campaign to come quite a bit slimmer.

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