Obama In Trouble In Battleground States

The electoral map should be making the Obama 2012 camp just a little bit nervous.

National Journal takes note of the fact that, according to recent polls, President Obama is in serious trouble in many of the states likely to be battlegrounds during the 2012 General Election:

In every reputable battleground state poll conducted over the past month, Obama’s support is weak. In most of them, he trails Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.  For all the talk of a closely fought 2012 election, if Obama can’t turn around his fortunes in states such as Michigan and New Hampshire, next year’s presidential election could end up being a GOP landslide.

Take Ohio, a perennial battleground in which Obama has campaigned more than in any other state (outside of the D.C. metropolitan region). Fifty percent of Ohio voters now disapprove of his job performance, compared with 46 percent who approve, according to a Quinnipiac poll conducted from July 12-18.

Among Buckeye State independents, only 40 percent believe that Obama should be reelected, and 42 percent approve of his job performance. Against Romney, Obama leads 45 percent to 41 percent—well below the 50 percent comfort zone for an incumbent.

he news gets worse from there.  In Michigan, a reliably Democratic state that Obama carried with 57 percent of the vote, an EPIC-MRA poll conducted July 9-11 finds him trailing Romney, 46 percent to 42 percent. Only 39 percent of respondents grade his job performance as “excellent” or good,” with 60 percent saying it is “fair” or “poor.” The state has an unemployment rate well above the national average, and the president’s approval has suffered as a result.

In Iowa, where Republican presidential contenders are getting in their early licks against the president, his approval has taken a hit. In a Mason-Dixon poll conducted for a liberal-leaning group, Romney held a lead of 42 percent to 39 percent over the president, with 19 percent undecided. Even hyper-conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann ran competitively against Obama in the Hawkeye State, trailing 47 percent to 42 percent.

The July Granite State Poll pegs the president’s approval at 46 percent among New Hampshire voters, with 49 percent disapproving. A separate robo-poll conducted this month by Democratic-aligned Public Policy Polling shows him trailing Romney in the state, 46 percent to 44 percent.

As the Journal goes on to note, much of this is a reflection of the fact that the economy is in bad shape, and this is especially true of states like Ohio and Michigan, which have both been especially hard hit by the downturn in manufacturing since 2007.  The fact that both states handed significant victories to Republicans in 2010 is attributable to this as well, and also makes the President’s standing in the polls there not entirely surprising.

Nonetheless, there’s plenty in this for Obama to be worried about. He won election in 2008 by winning in battleground states like Ohio and Virginia, and by turning several traditionally Republican states like North Carolina and Indiana to the Democratic column. These states, and the traditional battlegrounds, are going to be where the 2012 election is fought and, absent a massive economic crash, it seems pretty clear to me that the 2012 election is likely to be closer — both in the Electoral College and the Popular Vote — than 2008 was. Depending how you run the numbers, it would take as little as 7 or 8 states flipping from blue to red for Obama to go from the 365 Electoral Votes he won in 2008 to under the 270 needed to win the election. Unless the economy improves greatly, and assuming the GOP doesn’t go completely off the rails in its nomination process, I would say that the Electoral College battleground is going to be a lot tougher for the President than some are anticipating.

Ed Morrissey runs some of the math:

Obama won the Electoral College handily in 2008, 365-173.  By flipping Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Colorado, Virginia, Nevada, and Wisconsin, Republicans edge Obama 295-243.  Swapping Florida for North Carolina still produces a 281-257 win for Republicans.  Winning Michigan and conceding Colorado makes it 288-250 Republicans.

It strikes me that each of these states are ones that a Republican candidate could conceivably win in 2012 depending on the economic conditions. If I were in the Obama campaign, I’d be studying the map carefully, and worrying a little.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. ponce says:

    As with McMegan, Special Ed has a knack for spouting wrong predictions.

  2. An Interested Party says:

    Some of that math is certainly interesting, considering that Pennsylvania hasn’t gone Republican for president since 1988 and Wisconsin since 1984…granted, Romney with his supposed business cred might do well, but Perry, Bachmann, or the others? Good luck with that…I wouldn’t be surprised if the President’s reelection strategy doesn’t take a page from the 2004 election…

  3. PD Shaw says:

    According to Chuck Todd, this is what the Obama political team is predicting, a map closer to the 2004 map, with the obvious intention of solidifying some of the states picked up in 2008.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Also, the census swung the 2008 electoral count +6 McCain and -6 Obama states.

    I’ll go out on a limb and predict Obama wins re-election, but I think understanding how he and others are acting, the assumption has to be that it will be much closer, and the Republicans might be reviled and still pick up seats in the House and take control of the Senate.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Obama In Trouble In Battleground States


    Back in 2009 I made the bold prediction that Obama was toast if the economy did not turn around. Unfortunately, I had no idea how weak and stupid the entire GOP field would be.

    Doug, here is a hint: he was always in trouble in battle ground states. The only reason this is now a question is because we all wonder, “Just how stupid can the GOP be?”

  6. A voice from another precinct says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Considering the performance on the Debt Ceiling issue so far, I would say the GOP is capable of unfathomable stupidity. Let’s take a few days off on this issue and see where we are on August 3 or 4.

  7. Steven Donegal says:

    Yawn. If this result holds a year from now, there will be something to be concerned about. Until then, it’s basically trivial filler for a slow news day.

  8. Nightrider says:

    The Michigan results likely reflect the Romney family tradition in Michigan and shouldn’t be over-interpreted for national meaning, except for the fact that if Romney is the nominee Obama will have to work harder there.

  9. Kylopod says:


    As with McMegan, Special Ed has a knack for spouting wrong predictions.

    How can you say that? On Nov. 3, 2008, he wrote: “I think John McCain will win a squeaker over Barack Obama.” He was right, only he was talking about an alternate universe.

  10. Hey Norm says:

    Holy Crap…Obama is in trouble???
    Oh wait…Doug typed the same story last week.

  11. President Obama’s numbers in battleground states should be concerning to him, but I think it is very evident that he is currently in the lead in the popular vote and the EC hasn’t really factored in much except in 2 elections in the past hundred or so years.

  12. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    If Palin is not the GOP nominee then it’ll all depend upon the job market next year, the degree of turnout among the black demographic and the number of conservatives who stay home next November and don’t vote for one or more idiotic reasons.

    Of course if Palin runs and wins the nomination then it’s all a moot point; Obama in that event easily will prevail, even with Great Depression levels of unemployment and misery.

  13. Kylopod says:

    @Talmadge East: I agree. (One technical point: 2000 was the only election in the last hundred years where the popular and electoral vote diverged–the last one before that was 1888.) The importance of state-by-state numbers is given way too much attention, especially when you consider that these polls are taken much less often than popular-vote numbers–which themselves are of little value this early on. Even though our system is based on the electoral vote, it virtually never supersedes the popular vote in importance. Even in 2000, without trying to rehash the controversy in Florida, let’s just say the tally was so mind-bogglingly close it just wasn’t very meaningful. The outcome of the election hinged on it, yes, but not enough to support the general idea that looking at battleground states is a good way to measure a candidate’s fortunes.

  14. @Kylopod: I didn’t feel like actually looking up the years, so I knew a “hundred or so” would cover it in general. I actually don’t include 2000, because I think Al Gore received more votes in Florida, but irregardless the crux of your statement is correct.

  15. Wayne says:

    I have feeling it will end up closer to the Reagan\Carter election results than anything more recent. However with a year and half to go and knowing how finicky many voters are, it is hard to say with any realism one way or another.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    I have feeling it will end up closer to the Reagan\Carter election results than anything more recent.

    That’s a fine theory, except for the twin facts that the President really isn’t the second coming of Jimmy Carter, despite what some delusional people think, and the GOP doesn’t have another Reagan to trot out…

  17. Eric Florack says:


    Back in 2009 I made the bold prediction that Obama was toast if the economy did not turn around. Unfortunately, I had no idea how weak and stupid the entire GOP field would be.

    I say this election will go to the GOP if they get an actual conservative to run. If not the results will be an even bigger disaster than Obama’s first term was.