At the top of that target list are Wisconsin, carried by Democrats in six straight presidential elections and where Obama has the edge, and Iowa, a perennial swing-voting state.
Romney’s campaign began airing advertisements last week in Minnesota, arguing he was staking a claim in likely Obama territory. But even GOP strategists acknowledged the move was aimed at hitting voters in western Wisconsin and pressuring Obama to follow suit. By Friday, Obama’s campaign had done just that, although the president has a healthy lead in both polling and organization in Minnesota.
“We have to keep working those other states, in case Ohio doesn’t come through,” said veteran GOP presidential strategist Charlie Black, who is advising Romney’s campaign.
Ohio is a lynchpin for both candidates.
Obama was in strong standing in the state before the three presidential debates. But Romney’s strong performance in the debates helped him gain ground. But Republicans and Democrats alike now say that any momentum Romney had in Ohio from those debates has run its course, and the state gain is leaning toward Obama. New public polls show a tight race.
Operatives in both parties point to the last debate six days ago, and Obama’s criticism of Romney’s opposition to the automotive industry bailout. They say the criticism was effective in branding Romney as out of touch with working-class voters in a state whose manufacturing economy relies heavily on the car and auto parts industries.
The president started running a new TV ad in the state assailing Romney’s position on the aid. Obama’s internal polling in Ohio has shown a slight increase in support from white, working-class voters, an important part of Ohio’s largely blue-collar electorate.
“That is a killer,’” Tad Devine, a top aide to 2004 and 2000 Democratic nominees, said of the heat Romney is taking for his bailout position. “And it’s going to have the biggest impact in the decisive state in the outcome of the election.”