It was bound to happen at some point. With President Obama showing a consistent lead in Ohio for months now -- and buoyed by this week's CNN poll putting him up 4 points over Romney and hitting 50% in the state -- Romney is having to go off the beaten path to find his increasingly difficult route to 270 electoral votes.
On Friday, there were several key indicators that Wisconsin may be the GOP's last real hope as we head into the final week of the election. And this should help handwringing Democrats (such as myself) breathe a little easier.
Consider these factors:
1. First, in a piece published Friday night, Huffington Post hints that Romney/Ryan may have privately conceded that Ohio is too steep an uphill climb:
Romney campaign officials would never publicly announce a change in approach. And it's not that they are giving up entirely on Ohio; they certainly have the money to compete anywhere. But Republican sources say Romney headquarters in Boston is increasingly seeing Wisconsin as a state more apt for flipping. Less campaigning has taken place there, meaning fewer voters have been overwhelmed by, and tuned out, political ads. Moreover, the Badger State has, in recent months, been more conducive to Republican success and possesses a stronger ground operation.It's worth noting (the obvious) that along with public polls, campaigns spend big bucks on internal polls that are even more detailed and accurate. After three weeks of early voting and already around 1,000,000 votes cast in Ohio, both campaigns likely have a good idea how things are shaping up there and if their GOTV operations are getting the job done. If Mittens is truly shifting more focus to Wisconsin, it means his Ohio internals don't look favorable. In fact, the state may already be effectively lost.
2. Also on Friday, Scott Rasmussen posted a conveniently timed poll showing the race (gasp!) all tied up in the Badger State, 49-49. He also was kind enough to post a special "commentary" of why, as he puts it: Wisconsin may be the New Ohio.
If Ohio goes for the president, Romney has a few perilous paths to victory available to him. All require him to carry Wisconsin and its 10 Electoral College votes.3. Next, and right on cue, came the always helpful Matt Drudge, who fired up his rabid fans and lit twitterverse ablaze when he linked to this heavily re-tweeted article: Is Obama's 'firewall' crumbling? Romney draws level with President in 'safe state' of Wisconsin.
The simplest path without Ohio would be for Romney to win Wisconsin, Colorado and one other swing state. It's plausible, but an uphill struggle. The latest Rasmussen Reports polling in Wisconsin shows the president up by 2 points.
Despite the polls, some conservative activists in Wisconsin think it's possible to pull off an upset. They point out that, unlike Ohio, the state was not flooded with anti-Romney ads over the summer (in Wisconsin, they were still fighting about the governor's election recall at the time). That means more voters may be open to supporting the GOP candidate.
You know how this goes by now. In this article, they cite that convenient Rasmussen poll to push a little meme that Romney is surging to a dead heat! in the once safe state of Wisconsin. Mittmentum! What they don't tell you, of course, is that no other poll has it that close and Mitt Romney hasn't led in a poll there since August (the latest PPP has Obama up 51-45). Still, they make some interesting points:
Wisconsin has not sent a Republican to the White House since Ronald Reagan, but this year the state and its 10 electoral votes are very much up for grabs. Polls here keep showing that Obama and Romney appear to be in an exceptionally close race. Some analysts now say the outcome could hinge on 106 counties nationwide, that swung from Republican George W. Bush in 2004 to Obama in 2008. A third are in Wisconsin, and Chippewa is one of them.4. Then there's this bit of news as diaried by Markos on Friday. Seems both campaigns bought some air time in Minnesota. Some speculated if the state was being seen as a pick-up opportunity for Romney, but as Markos points out, the buy had more to do with Minnesota's neighbor:
Republicans have already spent $5.5 million on television in Wisconsin this week, compared to about $2.8 million for Team Blue. This is a tepid extension of those efforts, hitting about a quarter million Wisconsin residents via their Minnesota-based media market. And some of these stations bleed into Iowa as well, as a bonus.So there you go. Team Romney sees the Ohio polling, both public and private, and they realize it's a very steep if not impossible uphill task. Romney would also privately admit that Nevada is off the table as the early voters there look good for Obama. So, Mittens does the math on the back of a napkin and concludes that without Ohio and Nevada, his path to 270 requires a near sweep of the remaining swing states. Therefore Iowa and Wisconsin are critical.
And so Wisconsin -- a state that just started early voting last week -- appears to be the new Ohio. Wisconsin, a state Obama won by 14 points in 2008 and hasn't voted for a Republican president since Ronald Reagan. With or without Paul Ryan on the ticket, there's little indication the GOP will steal the state in 2012.
So if it's true that Ohio looks dire and Mitt Romney is shifting his election hopes on flipping the Badger State with a little more than a week to go, he's ... well, kinda screwed.
5. Which, finally, brings us to the latest campaign schedules:
The battle for Wisconsin hits a fever pitch over the next six days with visits from both presidential candidates and their running mates, underscoring the state's looming role in a nerve-racking electoral endgame for each side.This is terrific news, right?
Vice President Biden is campaigning in Oshkosh and Kenosha today.
Republican Mitt Romney will be in West Allis Monday evening at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion at State Fair Park. Doors open at 5 p.m.
President Barack Obama will be in Green Bay Tuesday.
And Republican Paul Ryan will campaign in the state Wednesday.
Pretty sure it means we are winning.