Winning the unwinnable

| August 21 2012
Hannah Thoreson

Romney-Ryan has expanded the playing field for Republicans going into the Presidential election.

As late as this spring, many believed that the White House might be an unattainable goal for Republicans this cycle.  Many top GOP options sat out the primary, choosing to sit on the sidelines to avoid getting involved in what became an extremely messy affair.  Panic set in as the Obama campaign announced a plan to raise a billion dollars.

Now, in mid-August, it’s a short, hectic sprint from now and the conventions to Election Day.  The polls are getting closer in all of the crucial places — and nearly everywhere else.

At the end of last week, CNN moved the Leans Blue state of Wisconsin over to toss-up status on its electoral college map.  President Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points last time, but his odds there have shrunk significantly with the addition of Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket.  He’s something of a hometown hero in the state, and fellow Republican Governor Scott Walker continues to enjoy high levels of popularity.

Bits of the East Coast seem to be beginning to align more with Romney than Obama as well.  It’s certainly not a guarantee that this will hold through election day, but New Hampshire is currently considered a toss-up on the CNN map and the polls are narrowing in Pennsylvania as well.  Obama has locked up only 44% of the Keystone State’s vote to Mitt Romney’s 38%.  An incumbent polling at under 50% is generally considered to be vulnerable, so it’s telling that 15% of voters remain undecided.  Most undecided voters will eventually break for the challenger.  Strikingly, Obama’s share of the vote has dropped off six points since the last poll was conducted; that is where the “undecided” voters start.  If this sounds like a fantasy, consider that Pennsylvania Republicans also flipped the governor’s mansion, a U.S. Senate seat, and five House seats in 2010.  This is a region where Obama’s declining support from unions as a result of his terrible energy policies could really hurt him on Election Day.

Strangely enough, one other place Obama is polling under 50% is actually on his home turf, in Cook County, Illinois.  He is still holding it 49-37, but the numbers follow a familiar pattern.  Obama has a big lead in Chicago proper – around 60% of the vote – but those numbers completely collapse in the suburbs.  ”The Republican challenger leads 45-38 in the surrounding areas.  Across the county as a whole, Romney leads 43-31 among independent voters, a crucial voting bloc.”  No one really questions that Romney is likely to win Illinois’s rural, downstate counties.  In Illinois as in Pennsylvania, Republicans won the U.S. Senate seat that was up for grabs in 2010.  The governor’s race came within 1 point.  Is it possible that when turnout is factored in, Mitt Romney could win Illinois?

It’s possible.  The odds don’t favor it, but it’s certainly competitive by any legitimate analysis.  Romney-Ryan may just be about to win the unwinnable.

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