Bain Attack Fail: Obama Struggling in Swing States

Bain Attack Fail: Obama Struggling in Swing States

This morning, USA Today/Gallup released their latest survey of 12 battleground states. The poll, conducted at the end of June, found Obama and Romney essentially tied in the swing states, with Obama pulling 47% to 45% for Romney. Nationally, Obama leads Romney among all registered voters, 48-44. The paper tried to use today’s poll to argue that Obama’s attacks on Bain Capitol were hurting Romney. But, the results suggest almost the opposite. 

USAToday/Gallup doesn’t make internal poll details readily available. Its hard for us to know whether the sample of battleground states is properly weighted or if the partisan screen on the poll is realistic. However, this poll is an ongoing series, allowing us to compare the poll’s findings across time. Even if the sample is biased, it is consistently biased over the series, providing us with a meaningful comparison. The battleground poll released in April, after Romney had effectively secured the GOP nomination, found Obama with a sizable lead in the swing states; 51% to Romney’s 42%. So, in the last two months, Obama’s “effective” barrage of negative ads on Bain Capital have resulted in his numbers falling 4 points and Romney’s climbing 3 points. 

More success like that and Obama will confirm his legacy as this century’s first Jimmy Carter.

Keep in mind, since the April poll, the Obama campaign has spent almost $50 million on TV ads, against Romney’s $17 million. As my colleague, Joel Pollak, notes this morning, over three-fourths of Obama’s ad spending has been on negative ads, chiefly attacks on Romney and his time at Bain Capital. Virtually all of these ads have been run in battleground states. If the attacks were so effective, why has Obama lost ground in the swing states since the start of the barrage and why does he have a slightly larger lead in states where the ads haven’t run?  

Indeed, USA Today notes that the Bain attack ads have generally only been effective in bringing Democrats back into the Obama fold:

To be sure, Obama’s ads have done more to win back Democrats than to win over independents or Republicans: Thirteen percent of Democrats say their minds have been changed by ads, compared with 9% of independents and 3% of Republicans.

The paper also notes that, while virtually all the swing state voters recall the ads, only around 8% of registered voters say they have had any impact on their voting intentions. Obama has enjoyed an almost 3-1 advertising advantage, an edge he is unlikely to enjoy for the rest of the campaign, and not only has the needle not moved, it has arguably moved against him. It seems the attacks have only worked with the media and the DC GOP mandarins whose favorite parlor game is to wring their hands over others’ campaign decisions. 

Several weeks ago, I wrote that Obama has a real problem in Pennsylvania. The lefty twitter-sphere had a grand time making fun of me for this. And yet, last week, where did Obama take his campaign bus? Western Pennsylvania. You don’t spend time campaign in states you are confident of winning. 

But, I missed something important about Obama’s swing through PA and Northern Ohio that Michael Barone noted. The areas where Obama campaigned are bastions of the blue-collar vote in these states. Walter Mondale beat Reagan in the areas where Obama campaigned. If the Obama campaign is worried about a traditionally democrat area, how are they going to make inroads with the critical independent voters? How would the media report if Romney were campaigning in traditionally Republican areas?

Obama is in serious trouble in the swing states. Don’t believe what a campaign says, believe what it does. When an incumbent president, who just four years ago had won GOP states, now has to shore up support within his own party just four months before an election, you know things aren’t working according to plan. 

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