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A Conservative Look at the 2012 Battleground States

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A Conservative Look at the 2012 Battleground States
David Johnston - Getty Images

Characteristics of a Battleground State

There are some states that Republican Mitt Romney is nearly certain to win, such as Utah, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. While Romney will have an edge in these conservative-leaning states, Obama will do equally well in liberal states such as California, Hawaii, New York, and Vermont. What remains is a number of battleground states, also known as swing states, and they can go either way. George W. Bush did well in these states in 2000 and 2004, and losing one less state could have cost him the election in either year. Likewise, Obama cleaned up big time in 2008, defeating John McCain in 9 of the 10 contests listed here. The number of traditional toss-up states actually increased by three due to Obama’s unexpected wins in North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana.

Momentum

The big question heading into the November elections is whether voters in these states will be more in 2008 mode, the year of "hope and change," or in 2010 mode, the year of the tea party. Most of these states were relatively close in 2008, and the blind enthusiasm towards the Obama campaign will be hard to match. This could give Romney a little extra edge, knowing that it will be difficult for Obama to get the same turnout from four years earlier. The other good news for Romney is that these states were home to a majority of the big-time tea party victories in 2010, and the enthusiasm from those voters does not appear to be waning.

The Battleground States:

Florida

In what will likely be the most expensive state in 2012, Florida delivers the third largest elector haul behind Texas and California. Republicans have 2-1 majorities in the state legislature and hold nearly all state-wide offices. The state was also tea party rich in 2010, when Marco Rubio was elected to the US Senate in a landslide, conservative star Allen West won a congressional seat, and far-left liberal Alan Grayson was ousted from office. (29 electors in 2012; Obama 51%, McCain 48% in 2008)

Virginia

After voting for Republicans for president in every election since 1968, Virginia voted for Obama in 2008. Since then, however, Virginia has had a bit of a tea party comeback in the state and the Republican Attorney General has been a leading opponent of Obamacare. (13 Electors; Obama 53%, McCain 46%)

Wisconsin

While not originally on the radar, Wisconsin was added to the list following two big tea party wins in 2010 when conservative Scott Walker won the governorship and Ron Johnson defeated a popular incumbent for a US Senate seat. While liberals in the state were able to force a recall election against Walker, it appears that he is likely to win that election too despite a multi-million dollar union campaign to oust him. (10 Electors; Obama 56%, McCain 42%)

Ohio

Perhaps the second most important state behind Florida, Ohio might be the purest swing state in the country. It has voted with the winning president in every election since 1964. Had George W. Bush lost Ohio in either 2000 or 2004, he would have lost the election. In 2010, Republicans swept the state. Jon Kasich defeated an incumbent Democrat for the governorship, Rob Portman won election to the US Senate by 17 points, and the GOP picked up 4 congressional seats. (18 Electors; Obama 52%, McCain 47%)

Indiana

Like Virginia, Indiana voted for the Republican nominee for president in every election since 1968, until voting for Obama in 2008. While many do not believe Obama will likely win Indiana again, few thought he would four years ago either. (11 Electors; Obama 50%, McCain 49%)

Colorado

Colorado was one of the more disappointing states for conservatives in 2010. In an attempt to stop the establishment at any cost, the tea party gave Ken Buck the senate nomination against a weak Democrat incumbent, but he lost steam after winning the nomination and the tea party enthusiasm waned. They also lost the governor’s mansion after supporting a third party candidate and destroying the Republican nominee. On the upside, George W. Bush won the state twice, Republicans netted two congressional seats in 2010, and Mitt Romney is far more disciplined than the 2010 statewide candidates were. (9 Electors; Obama 54%, McCain 45%)

North Carolina

President Obama eked out a win in North Carolina in 2008, but it will probably be a difficult hold in 2012. The Democratic National Committee is throwing everything they can at the state, including holding their national convention there. Voters recently voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state, and Obama vocally expressed disappointment in the vote before embracing gay marriage altogether. The right-to-work status of the state has also been a major area of conflict between the liberalism of the Obama administration and the natural conservatism of the state. (15 Electors; Obama 50%, McCain 49%)

Pennsylvania

While Pennsylvania has voted Democrat in five straight presidential elections, the races are usually close. Republican Pat Toomey won the US Senate seat held by longtime nemesis Arlen Specter in 2010, while the GOP also picked up a win in the race for governor and ousted 4 Democrats from congress. Along with Wisconsin, it may be one of the more difficult states for Romney to secure a victory, but a win here means he is winning contests Obama won by double-digits previously. (20 Electors; Obama 55%, McCain 44%)

Missouri

The only toss-up state that McCain won in 2008, Missouri should be a safer bet for Romney in 2008. A whopping 71% of Missourians voted in favor of a referendum slapping down President Obama’s healthcare mandates. Democrat senator Claire McCaskill is vulnerable and Romney can probably run on one word alone here: Obamacare.(10 Electors; McCain 49.4%, Obama 49.3%)

Michigan

Obama’s biggest swing-state victory in 2008 came in Michigan, a 16 point shellacking of John McCain. But Republicans rebounded two years later, taking the governor’s race by an equally large margin and winning nine of 15 congressional seats. Romney is also from the state where his father was once a popular governor. That adds up to the race being a lot close than it was four years ago. (16 Electors; Obama 57%, McCain 41%)

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