In an election that all polls show to be a tossup, the focus on the battleground states that will decide the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney is growing more intense. But two recent polls from Ohio and Virginia reveal the tide may be turning against the president in both states that he won in 2008 and remain crucial to his hopes for re-election.
The latest poll from the Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling firm shows that Obama’s lead in Ohio has shrunk to only three percent. This is the lowest margin Obama has had there all year. Just as disturbing for Democrats is a We Ask America poll from Virginia that shows Romney taking a lead there for the first time. Both surveys reflect a trend that shows these states starting to drift away from Obama and the Democrats. These results reflect the president’s poor personal approval ratings and the failing economy. But as PPP points out, they also reflect Obama’s weakness with a key demographic group often ignored in voter analysis.
Both the president’s move to halt the deportation of some illegal immigrants and the Supreme Court’s ruling on Arizona’s controversial law targeting undocumented aliens have put the Hispanic vote in the limelight in the last week and emphasized the president’s clear advantage with that group. But generally ignored is a factor that is key to understanding the president’s drop in Ohio: white voters. As the pollster’s analysis notes, Obama and Romney were more or less tied among whites earlier in the year. But now Romney has a 49-42 advantage.
Even more worrisome for Democrats is the fact that Obama is losing white Democrats. Where earlier in the year he had an 89-6 percent edge, that is now down to 78-16 percent.
If this continues, it won’t matter how large the president’s advantage among Hispanics turns out to be. Obama must reverse this trend if he is to be re-elected.
While Ohio is obviously still winnable for Obama, his deficit in Virginia may show that his chances of keeping the Old Dominion in his column this year are diminishing. Changing demographics played an important role in the president’s ability to win a state in 2008 that had been reliably Republican for decades. And up until now, Virginia’s more diverse and suburban population was thought to be sufficient to allow Obama to win there even as he lost other states such as North Carolina and Indiana that he was able to snatch from the GOP four years ago.
But here again, a bad economy and Obama’s inability to hold onto white voters he won the last time around may be tipping the state toward Romney. The fact that the same We Ask America poll shows George Allen starting to take a substantial lead over Democrat Tim Kaine in the Senate race there is another indication that Virginia may be a lost cause for the Democrats.
Despite bad national tracking and approval poll numbers, the president’s strength in swing states had been thought to be enough to keep him the favorite in November. But if the tide is turning for Romney in Ohio and Virginia, then that conventional wisdom may no longer apply. If so, the election just got a lot more winnable for Romney.