Tag Archives: swing state

Analysis: Looking to Ohio on Election Day

Ohio could well decide the next president – the state has chosen the winner in the last 12 presidential elections and it’s pivotal to the strategies of both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The Ohio winner has usually done particularly well in his party’s traditionally strong areas and better than expected in other regions.

The state’s geography is often divided regionally as the “Five Ohios.” Here they are politically:

• NORTHEAST OHIO: Obama needs to pile up votes in the state’s Democratic stronghold, anchored by Cleveland and the industrial towns of Youngstown and Akron.

But these areas, once home to dozens of steel, auto and tire factories, have lost population in recent years. A drop in turnout could be devastating for the president.

Cuyahoga County, the state’s biggest, is also the most reliable for Democrats. The county includes Cleveland and working class suburbs. It gave Obama one of every six votes he won Ohio with four years ago. He had 70 percent of Cuyahoga’s votes, 3 percentage points better than John Kerry in 2004.

Romney needs to do well in Republican-leaning suburbs tucked between the cities. Unemployment numbers in the suburban areas are improving, and fall well below the state average of about 7 percent.  One big question in this region and in northwest Ohio is whether voters will credit Obama and the federal bailout with revitalizing the auto industry, an important employer and economic driver.

• SOUTHWEST OHIO: The conservative suburban crescent around Cincinnati is the GOP’s answer to Cuyahoga County; Butler, Warren and Clermont counties are Republican turf. Romney needs blowout totals. George W. Bush carried the region twice with 2-to-1 margins; he got 72 percent of Warren’s vote in ‘04 as he clinched re-election.

Obama did 3 to 4 percentage points, some 23,000 votes more, better than Kerry in the counties and has a bigger presence this year. But Romney has held major rallies in the area to fire up the base.

Montgomery County, to the north, has been going Democratic in recent presidential elections, but Republicans think they are picking up strength and pro-Romney ads have highlighted Obama defense cuts in an area with the state’s largest military base, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

To the south is Hamilton County. Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the Cincinnati-based county since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, and Republicans are anxious to win it back. They’ve had an aggressive ground game, and see added advantages: no competitive Democratic challengers in the two congressional districts, and it’s the home base of Romney Ohio chairman Sen. Rob Portman.

• CENTRAL OHIO: Ohio’s capital city of Columbus is friendly ground for Obama; it’s led by a popular black mayor, with Democratic voters in trendy communities and inner-city neighborhoods. But Franklin County also has more Republican voters than any other county in Ohio, many with ties to its government, insurance and financial sectors.

Obama has tried to fuel enthusiasm with frequent rallies, building on strength at Ohio State University, among the nation’s largest universities. Romney has campaigned often in affluent, heavily Republican suburbs that ring the city – such as Bexley, Powell and Westerville, where GOP Gov. John Kasich lives.

Republican-leaning counties stretch from Columbus northward to the mid-sized cities of Mansfield and Marion, middle-class communities.

• NORTHWEST OHIO: Ohio’s conservative farm belt stretches up and down in the west through fields and small cities.

If conservatives in rural Ohio come out in huge numbers for Romney, they could be the difference. That’s what happened eight years ago, when voters felt Bush shared their values. Voters in some of the conservative counties often put faith issues ahead of economic concerns.

But Obama isn’t writing it off. Toledo, with its auto plants and heavy union influence, is a Democratic bastion. The auto bailout plays well in Toledo and may win votes in the surrounding rural areas where small companies make everything from car axles to seats.

• SOUTHEAST OHIO:  This is Appalachia, stretching through small towns and hills along the Ohio River and then up along the West Virginia border in coal country.

It had been traditionally a swing area – Bill Clinton carried it twice, as did George W. Bush. But John McCain captured much of the region in 2008, despite losing Ohio. It’s a predominantly white region, with Bible Belt conservatism on such issues as opposing abortion and gay marriage.

Romney has been playing on concerns about the future of the coal industry and thinks his campaign will improve on McCain’s showing – and possibly turn a strip of three eastern Ohio counties – Belmont, Jefferson and Monroe – red for the first time since Richard Nixon won them in 1972.

Palm Beach County ballots being copied by hand due to printing error

Because of a printing error, somewhere around 27,000 absentee ballots already cast by voters are being painstakingly copied by hand in Palm Beach County to make sure they can be read by a scanning machine. Otherwise, thousands of people could be disenfranchised in the Florida county that was ground zero in the 2000 presidential recount.

Printing errors have caused problems on thousands of absentee ballots around the country, from Cleveland to Daytona Beach, Fla., to Kalamazoo, Mich. While in most cases corrected ballots are simply mailed as replacements, in some places it was too late to catch mistaken ballots before voters returned them.

Not to worry, said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.

“It’s not rocket science. We duplicate ballots all the time,” Bucher said. “It’s a real simple procedure. But this year it’s a presidential year and I do understand the cause for concern.”

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are scrambling for every single vote in Florida, Ohio and other battleground states, giving heightened scrutiny to any potential problem that could leave even a handful of votes uncounted. In Florida, the 537-vote margin that tipped the scales to George W. Bush in 2000 is seared into memory.

The rise in popularity of mail-in absentee voting around the country also increases the risk of mistakes, lost votes and even fraud, according to election experts and researchers. A recent study by the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project of California absentee votes over two decades found that they are twice as prone not to be counted as votes cast on more modern voting machines.

The study estimated that in 2008 as many as 21 percent of absentee ballots requested nationwide never made it back to elections officials to be counted. Although that number may be inflated and could include people who simply decided not to vote absentee after all, study co-author Charles Stewart III of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said it still raises a red flag.

“We have possibly gotten way ahead of ourselves in encouraging people to vote by mail,” said Stewart, a political science professor. “It’s pretty clear that the improvement we’ve gotten by having better voting machines in the precincts may be given back by having more and more people voting at home.”

Barely 5 percent of the total vote nationwide 40 years ago, mail-in absentee voting accounted for 16 percent of ballots in the 2008 election and is forecast to easily surpass that level this year. Many states have removed requirements that voters give a reason for voting absentee, such as a foreign business trip or military service. Oregon and Washington now conduct entirely mail-in elections.

Much of the national debate on voter access this year has focused on such issues as whether a picture ID should be required at a polling place or whether ineligible people are improperly registered. But many experts say the chances for problems in the mail-in absentee system are much greater. For example:

• An elections supervisor might not receive or might misplace a request for an absentee ballot.

• Conflicts might arise between the voter’s identity and what is on registration records.

• Ballots can get lost in the mail.

• A voter’s signature might not match the one that elections officials have on record or the voter might simply forget to sign the ballot, both of which render it invalid.

• Errors in counting the absentee votes could be made at the elections office.

Then there’s the issue of fraud. Paul Gronke, a Reed College political science professor and director of the Oregon school’s Early Voting Center, called that problem “minuscule as a proportion of total ballots cast and even absentee ballots cast.”

“The rejected ballots are overwhelmingly due to voter error – usually bad signatures or unsigned envelopes,” Gronke said in an email.

There have been some scattered instances of absentee fraud this year.

The Houston-based election monitoring organization True the Vote said its research into absentee ballots in New York, Florida, Ohio and Rhode Island uncovered 99 suspected instances of voters casting ballots in two states in the same election. The group says it may have found an additional 800 fraudulent voters.

But when the names of 36 such voters were turned over recently to Florida authorities, ultimately only two appeared to warrant further investigation for fraud, said a spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

In Ohio, a grand jury in Franklin County recently indicted three people on charges of voting twice by absentee ballots in past elections. Two were charged for votes cast in the 2010 general election and one for votes in the 2008 primary, prosecutors said.

Another concern is paid ballot brokers who supposedly “assist” the elderly or disabled in filling out absentee ballots. Recently, in the Miami suburb of Hialeah, two brokers have been charged with voter fraud for allegedly filling out ballots for elderly people in assisted living facilities.

Yet when a local canvassing board examined 195 ballots collected by the brokers, only four were rejected for such things as questionable signatures.

Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the group’s election monitoring hotline has received calls from around the country from voters who say people came to their front doors with purported absentee ballots for them to fill out. The visitors would then promise to “file” the ballots on the voter’s behalf, she said.

“Of course, that’s not correct,” Arnwine said. “We have to keep watching.”

Stewart, the MIT professor, said the greater risks in absentee ballots are errors and lost ballots rather than fraud. But harried voters don’t seem to want to turn back, he said.

“The genie may be out of the bottle,” Stewart said. “We’ve settled for convenience at the cost of accuracy and making sure that every vote counts.” 

Swing state voters give Obama the debate win

Swing State voters gave President Barack Obama the victory in the third and final debate with Republican challenge Mitt Romney.

The Oct. 22 debate focused on foreign policy but the candidates repeatedly returned to sparring over domestic issues. The debate took place in Boca Raton, Fla. Numerous commentators and media outlets, in post-debate analysis, gave Obama the win.

So did voter surveys.

A CNN/ORC International poll showed 48 percent favored Obama’s debate performance compared to 40 percent for Romney.

In a CBS poll immediately after the debate, 53 percent of more than 500 voters surveyed gave the debate title to Obama, 23 percent said Romney won and 24 percent felt the debate was a tie. 

Public Policy Polling, under contract with the group Americans United for Change, polled voters in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin on debate night. The organization found that Barack Obama was the winner – 53 percent of those surveyed think the president won.

Obama’s winning margin among critical independent voters was larger than his overall win, with 55 percent of them picking him as the winner to 40 percent for Romney.

The sense that Obama was the winner was pretty universal across different demographics groups: women (57/39), men (48/45), Hispanics (69/29), African Americans (87/13), whites (49/45), young voters (55/40), and seniors (53/43) all thought Obama came out ahead.

PPP also polled on who voters in the critical states were supporting on Election Day – or before as they cast absentee or early in-person ballots. According to the survey, 51 percent of the swing state voters say they’re going to support Obama. That includes a 46/36 advantage for Obama with independents.

Also, Obama seems to have made progress with groups he was previously down by wide margins with. Among men (50/47) and whites (50/46) he is trailing only slightly and with seniors he’s actually ahead 52/47.

Obama came out of the debate as the candidate trusted more on foreign policy by a 51/47 margin, much closer than his overall victory in the face off.

Clinton in Green Bay today, first lady in Racine

Former President Bill Clinton will focus his comments in Wisconsin on Friday on the getting Democrats out to vote early starting Monday.

President Barack Obama’s campaign said that would be the focus of Clinton’s speech during a campaign stop Friday night in Green Bay.

Earlier in the day, first lady Michelle Obama plans to make pitches for early voting in Racine and Wausau.

Polls show a tight race in Wisconsin between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.

Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes. The state has not gone for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

However, Democrats won in 2000 and 2004 by less than half a percentage point each time.

Obama’s lead narrows in Wisconsin

A new poll on the presidential race in Wisconsin shows President Barack Obama’s lead narrowing from seven points to two points over the past two weeks.

The numbers come from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling. They show a bump following the first debate for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Two weeks ago, Romney trailed Obama by seven points in Wisconsin, a critical swing state. Now, according to PPP, Romney has pulled to within two points. The polling shows Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 47 percent.

The poll found that 61 percent of voters think Romney won the first debate and 49 percent of Wisconsin voters now have a positive opinion of the GOP nominee.

A positive for Obama is that he is holding steady with independents and has a lead of 9 points in that group.

The post-debate survey found that it triggered a conversation about funding for public broadcasting – 51 percent of Wisconsin voters support federal funding, 33 percent do not. About 80 percent of Democrats, 22 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents support federal funding for public broadcasting.

On the favorability scale, Big Bird is more popular with Democrats (58 percent) than Republicans (37 percent).

On other questions: Paul Ryan’s favorable rating is 50 percent; voters are more likely to trust Obama on foreign policy; the percentage of voters who describe themselves as “very conservative” is twice the percentage of those who are “very liberal;” the percentage of Democrats, Republicans and independents is around 33 percent each.

For the survey, PPP contacted 979 likely Wisconsin voters from Oct. 4-6. The poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political group. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Obama reaches 50 percent in Florida

A new poll in Florida finds Barack Obama at 50 percent. Mitt Romney is at 46 percent, but his popularity in the state has plummeted 9 points since the Labor Day weekend.

The poll from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling shows Obama improving in the Sunshine State race by gaining 3 points this month. The last poll was conducted just after the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Romney, meanwhile, has suffered with voters. His favorability in Florida has dropped a net 9 points, in large part due to the “47 percent” remarks made in Florida to a private fundraiser in May but not widely known until this past week.

Eighty-nine percent of voters told pollsters they were aware of the remarks, in which Romney said 47 percent of Americans are victims who want the government to provide for them. Fifty percent said the comments were inappropriate, including 58 percent of independents, a key voting bloc in a swing state that’s now leaning toward Obama.

The president’s approval in the state is up a net 7 points since the Democratic National Convention, with 51 percent approving of him.

Still, with the margin of error in the polling, the Florida vote remains one of the closest in the country.