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May 5, 2015

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Nevada among nine tossup states likely to determine presidency



President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally at Ohio State University on May 5, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio.

Since the housing bubble burst, Nevada has been plagued with record foreclosures, the nation’s steepest drop in home values and its highest unemployment rate.

Iowa, on the other hand, may have missed out on some of the boom but was spared the worst of the bust: Its housing prices have stayed relatively stable, and it now has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the country.

Ohio suffered a steeper than average loss of jobs during the recession, but it has since seen its unemployment rate fall below the national average.

Each is among the handful of swing states likely to decide who wins the 2012 presidential election — states in very different stages of a slow economic recovery.

With about six months until Election Day, an analysis of the emerging electoral map by The New York Times found that the outcome would most likely be determined by how well President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney perform in nine tossup states. All nine voted for Obama in 2008, only to see Republicans make big gains since then.

Now, with many of those states transformed economically and politically by the recession and its aftermath, they are perhaps even less predictable than they were in past close elections. The disparity in their circumstances highlights the challenges that both the Obama and the Romney campaigns face in framing arguments that will resonate across the country.

The nine — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — offer both parties reasons for hope, and concern. It is no coincidence that Obama chose two of them, Ohio and Virginia, to hold his first official re-election rallies Saturday.

“This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class,” Obama said at Ohio State University in Columbus.

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Supporters cheer during President Barack Obama's speech outside Orr Middle School at a "Moving America Forward" rally Friday, October 22, 2010.

While the performance of the national economy will help shape the mood of the country and set the tone of each campaign, the situation on the ground in each of the nine states could be pivotal, as well. It would be hard to argue that these states are better off now than they were four years ago, given that they have yet to recover the jobs they lost. Often, that makes a compelling argument for a challenger trying to unseat an incumbent.

But political scientists have found that past elections have been more influenced by the changes in the economy in the year or two before the election. And a range of economic data provided by Moody’s Analytics shows that all nine states are rebounding and that most now have unemployment rates below the national average (Nevada does not). If voters in those states begin to feel improvement by the fall and the economy does not take a turn for the worse, it could aid the president’s efforts to hold on to enough of them to win a second term.

But the length and depth of the recession make it more difficult to model behavior, and the slow recovery could complicate things. Xu Cheng, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics, which uses state economic and political data to predict election results, said his team had altered its model this year to account for “the grumpy voter effect.”

“The so-called grumpy voter effect is that despite economic improvement in a state, if the economic situation in a state is really too bad, the voters will discount the improvement,” Cheng said.

The effect could help tilt foreclosure-racked states such as Nevada and Florida to Republicans in November, he added.

As the general election begins in earnest, it is clear that the tossup states are a top priority of both campaigns and that 2012 will include plenty of stops for Philadelphia cheesesteaks, Cincinnati chili and Cuban sandwiches in Florida. After Romney easily won five primaries on April 24, he gave his victory speech in New Hampshire, which held its primary months ago.

The political outlook in the tossup states is far from clear. While they all voted for Obama in 2008, seven have elected Republican governors since then and all have added significant numbers of Republicans to their legislatures or congressional delegations.

Two states, however, Ohio and Wisconsin, saw Democrats push back strongly after their newly elected Republican governors worked to curb the collective bargaining rights of public worker unions, which could have ramifications in November.

Polls conducted in the past two months have shown Obama running even or with a slight advantage in several of the tossup states, but they suggest that Romney has an opening with voters, especially on economic issues. In several of the states, polls found that majorities of those surveyed believed that the nation was still in a recession.

Click to enlarge photo

Supporters cheer as election results come in at the Super Tuesday primary watch party for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Bosto on March 6, 2012.

Republicans are also making inroads in voter registration. While Democrats retain enrollment advantages in most of the tossup states that register voters by party, their advantage has shrunk in all of them, state elections data shows. Nevada, which had 100,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in 2008, now has only 35,000 more.

The Democratic enrollment advantage has also been reduced in Florida and Pennsylvania.

Iowa and New Hampshire, where Democrats held the edge in 2008, now both have more registered Republicans. And in Colorado, the only tossup state where registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats in 2008, the Republicans have widened their edge.

In several states, Republicans have recently passed more restrictive election laws, which they say will fight fraud, but which Democrats say will make it harder for some of their key constituencies to vote.

Wisconsin and Pennsylvania passed laws requiring voters to show photo identification. Florida tightened the rules on groups that register voters, leading the state’s League of Women Voters to stop its drives. Several states have cut back on early voting. But some of the new laws are facing court challenges.

The changing makeup of the states offers opportunities for both Romney and Obama. The share of white working-class voters has increased in Ohio since 2008, which could benefit Republicans, according to an analysis of census data by William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution. Republicans could also benefit from an increase in the share of votes likely to be cast by older white residents in Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Other demographic trends are likely to benefit Democrats: minorities make up a greater portion of the electorate in Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia than they did four years ago; and the portion of white college graduates has grown in Colorado, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. The number of voters ages 18 to 29, a group that helped fuel Obama’s victory four years ago, is rising in Colorado, Florida, Iowa and Nevada.

The map of tossup states is likely to change, and it inevitably involves judgment calls. The Times analysis currently considers Michigan to be leaning toward the Democrats, despite recent Republican gains there, in part because the state benefited from the administration’s bailout of the auto industry. North Carolina, on the other hand, is ranked as leaning Republican, despite the fact that the Democrats have chosen to hold their national convention there this summer.

The economic outlook is mixed. A recent analysis by the Financial Times found that job growth in swing states over the past year was slower than in the rest of the country, which could benefit Romney. Moody’s Analytics, on the other hand, said that its forecasting model, which is based in part on assumptions about how the economy will perform in each state, predicts that Obama will be re-elected.

Christopher H. Achen, a professor of politics at Princeton who has written about the effect of economics on voting, said that if the economy continued to grow at the current pace, Obama should benefit. A disruption — caused, say, by the downturn in Europe — would most likely help Romney. The question, he said, is which way things go.

“It looks to me,” he said, “that it’s on the cusp right now.”

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  1. Interesting - as I see it Obama is carrying out George W. Bush's policies and Romney will do what? Maybe reintroduce us to the policies of Calvin Coolidge and move more of his private funds off shore. The common man is pretty much screwed!

  2. Perhaps Perl thinks of himself as one of those "common men" and csnnot fathom excelling on his own. Perhaps he believes only some nameless, faceless, unelected & unaccountable bureaucratic pencil pushing drone can make his life more bearable. That's his problem. For most of us, we see the glass as half full; not half empty and are willing to do the things it takes to take care of ourselves, our families and, yes, our neighbors, if needed. I guess Perl's attitude is why drug companies are making such huge profits selling "happy" pills!

  3. The blame for the economic downturn and its continuing effects goes to the Republicans. They have stonewalled everything the President tried to do to solve our economic problems, in the name of reducing government spending and the national debt. None of those things have anything to do with putting people back to work.

    It's incomprehensible that voters blame the President. Obama has "continued Bush policies," as one commenter already said, but that's a tragic mistake on his part in trying to accommodate ideas that led to the present circumstance in the first place.

    The second factor is the economic problems in Europe, which affects our economy far more than too many voters realize. The President can do nothing about that, and neither can Romney.

    Romney has a big mouth, but he's not going to be any more effective than Obama, and perhaps in a regression to Reagan ideas, may very well keep this country in the economic malaise it's in.

  4. RefNV, kind of funny you have no input re: Romney's foreign policy, another area where he has a big mouth & will do nothing different than Obama. Fact is, our foreign policy is secure and has once again reunited this country with the rest of world where Bush created a cleavage.

    Ok, "It's the economy, stupid." Again, Romney has a big mouth about cutting this, cutting that. He ain't going to do a damned thing different from Obama. McCalin/Palin would have been a big disaster. You Republicans are true to form: to hell with helping the little guy, we need to reduce government programs, so we can free up more money for private enterprise. Guess what? It doesn't work, nor has it ever worked.

    If cutting taxes & programs was such a great deal, not even Bush's tax cuts prevented the meltdown. That was all due to unregulated or poorly regulated "free enterprise" run amok.

    My big fault with Obama is he WASN'T LIBERAL ENOUGH; he better get more liberal in his second term and put this country on a path where it assists its average citizens far more than it has been assisting big money interests.

    Finally, the supply-demand curve ought to be called the demand-supply curve, because without demand there can be no supply.

  5. Freeman, can you please tell me where the verifiable increased tax revenue came from and why didn't we have a budget surplus at the end of either President Bush's terms? I believe it is unfair to blame Mr. Bush's administration alone for our current financial situation but it is clear to me and it should be clear to you that all he did was copy Reagan's tax cuts and ignore the deficit as well as other existing problems in the economy. Lowering taxes might have worked back in the 80's but it could not fix the problems we had and are having in this century.

    From my point of view, the hypothesis you put forth does not make sense and smells of partisanship. However I could be wrong.

  6. It is absurd to me to hear posters on the right continuing to assert that Democrats are engaging in class warfare. Absolutely absurd.

    "We're going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing while a bus driver was paying 10% of his salary, and that's crazy!"

    That wasn't President Obama. It wasn't any current politician. And it wasn't a Democrat. In fact -- and I know how much the right hates facts -- it was the their hero, the almighty Ronald Reagan, who most assuredly would be mortified and embarrassed by today's GOP and its "leaders".

  7. Am I the only one who feels like I'm being asked to vote between the lesser of 2 evils? Obama to me is like Bush (who was no conservative, he was a neocon) when it comes to war mongering, bailing out the bankers, and most unbelievably not going after corrupt Wall Street CEO's or Wall St in general (allowing them to get away with financial rape, bending over to allow them to get 1 foot deep it seems) At least the Bush went after the corrupt CEO's. Both are for torture, Patriot Act, Gitmo, etc. Obama's defense budget has actually been bigger than any Bush defense budget. (big surprise as he kept the Bush team in place)

    What then has Obama done for the age guy who wasn't born with a silver spoon in their mouth? NOTHING! His policies have made it worse. I'm not a rocket scientist but I did study economics in college. Even I know that you can't help the middle class by growing the size of government (high paying do nothing jobs) and increasing taxes. Neither Obama nor Romney will do anything to change the real loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes. I'm talking about the loopholes that are found in limited family partnerships and trust funds, especially when fed dividends from LLC's and S corps. Anyone with a good accountant will set-up 3-4 entities that shuffle money around to legally make it all tax free. The ONLY people who pay taxes in this country are the ignorant and the paycheck earners. I promise you this, and I promise this will NEVER change unless they go to a flat tax that neither support.

    What can we expect if Obama wins? The paycheck earners will have to fork over more money. The wealthy will part their trusts and FLP's off shore and a mass exodus of US wealth will leave this country. More jobs will go overseas. Obama can't make them stay here and pay higher taxes, sorry, not how it works. In other word, with Obama, we'll go bankrupt and our dollar will lose value faster than with Romney, but with Romney, this country will still go BK. Why? We can't afford more wars and he'll be gun ho to get us into any conflict that arises with a quickness. Wars cost billions, billions we don't have.

    I hope Ron Paul runs as a 3rd party candidate. By November, maybe this country will realize that he is the only one that can save this Republic.

  8. Yeah, MickeyA, just turn back the clock 150 years: no unions, no federal programs, no standards, no concerns for people's health, let everyone look out for himself & to hell with the next guy, just pay your workers for as little as you can & let them fend for themselves. Yeah, you Libertarians have the answer. Not!!