October 20, 2012

BURNING FIREWALL:

Obama's Hope Fades in Virginia (ROBERT STACY MCCAIN, 10.18.12, RCP)

As recently as Oct. 2, a Roanoke College poll reported President Obama leading by 8 points in Virginia, but in the past two weeks, the Old Dominion has shifted sharply toward the GOP challenger. Romney has led five of the seven most recent polls and, although the RCP average for Virginia still shows Obama with razor-thin lead, the Republicans here sense a strong enough momentum to carry them to victory on Nov. 6.

Anyone driving through this part of the state would notice the proliferation of yard signs for Romney, his running mate Paul Ryan and Allen's Senate campaign, while signs for Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrat Senate hopeful, Tim Kaine, are surprisingly rare. Albemarle County is anchored by the liberal enclave at the UVA campus -- where the faculty probably has more Marxists than Republicans -- and thus leans toward Democrats at election time. Even in 2004, a high-water year for the GOP, Democrat John Kerry eked out a 51-48 percent win in this county over President Bush, who carried Virginia 54-46 percent. But what happened here in 2008 -- when Obama became the first Democrat to win Virginia since Lyndon Johnson did it in 1964 -- was a wipeout that crushed Republicans. Boosted by student enthusiasm, Obama won Albemarle County by a 19-point margin, with some 7,000 more votes than Kerry got in 2004, part of a statewide wave that helped the Democrat win Virginia by more than 200,000 votes, 53-47 percent.

This year, however, the shiny newness that made Obama such a historical phenomenon four years ago has worn off, as Hope and Change have given way to economic stagnation and political gridlock. Nearly all the excitement now -- in Virginia, as across the country -- is on the Republican side and, with less than three weeks remaining until Election Day, it appears unlikely the Obama campaign can close the "enthusiasm gap" that has broken wide open since Romney's decisive win in the first debate. Although the grassroots core of the Democratic Party was somewhat encouraged by Biden's performance in last week's vice-presidential debate and Obama's showing in Tuesday's town-hall debate, neither of those seemed to have the impact of Romney's stunning Oct. 3 breakthrough. The Gallup tracking poll released Wednesday showed Romney surging to a six-point lead nationally -- with the GOP challenger clearing the critical 50-percent threshold -- and there are now clear indicators that even Obama's campaign leadership knows the president's re-election chances are dwindling.

The Democrats are evidently shrinking their Electoral College map, in what looks like a defensive "triage" strategy to win just enough states to hold on to the White House. Team Obama already appears to have written off North Carolina, which the president narrowly won in 2008, but which he hasn't visited since the Democratic convention in Charlotte early last month. In a remarkable interview with National Journal's Major Garrett, top Obama strategist David Plouffe suggested that the Democrat is prepared to fall back to a last-ditch defense of just four battleground states -- Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire -- that would provide enough of an Electoral College cushion for Obama to squeak past to re-election. That would mean ceding not only North Carolina but also Colorado, Florida, and Virginia to Romney, and might permit the Republican turnout operation to maximize its margins in those states without the battering "headwind" of Democrat attack ads. 
Posted by at October 20, 2012 3:37 PM
  
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