News24

Democrats swing into action

2012-01-19 08:07

US President Barack Obama is in campaign mode.

On Wednesday morning, multiple media across the US reported that the campaign team for incumbent President Barack Obama had inquired about advertising rates in 14 battle ground states, which are key to winning the election in November. This is possibly the clearest indication that campaign mode has begun, particularly as White House spokesperson Jay Carney began needling the most likely Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, the previous evening.

Up to now, the Obama administration has remained outside the Republican presidential race, constantly telling reporters to refer to the individuals involved in it. Carney presented a complete change of tactic when he urged the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, to release his tax records. Romney had flubbed an answer about releasing his taxes at the previous Republican presidential debate in South Carolina on 14 January. Carney said, “It is an established tradition for presidential candidates to release their tax records,” and that this tradition was “initiated by then-presidential candidate George Romney back in 1968”. George Romney is Mitt’s father, and served as governor of Michigan from 1963, before running for president in 1968.

More significantly is the Obama campaign team’s inquiry into the advertising costs in fourteen important electoral states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa. These states are vitally important, as Obama wrested eight of them from Republican control when he won the election in 2008. They will be worth 161 electoral votes in the 2012 election, a massive chunk in a race where 270 electoral votes are required to become president.  All of these fourteen swing states voted Democrat in the 2008 election with the exception of Arizona (which Republicans won 45% to 54%).

The basics of a US election are that some states will remain Republican or Democrat, regardless of what really goes on in Washington DC. Therefore the candidates need to compete for the states that change their minds, pretty much the aforementioned 14. For example, it would be a huge surprise to see Texas vote for a Democrat candidate (which it hasn’t done since 1976 when it chose Jimmy Carter), or Massachusetts push to elect a Republican candidate (which last happened in the 1984 election, awarding Ronald Reagan his second term in office).  Obama is lucky in this sense as Texas is the only state with a large amount of electoral votes (38) which will definitely pick a Republican.

Taking into account the last five US elections, Obama can expect to carry 14 states with stable Democrat electorates. These are worth 176 electoral votes, meaning he will look to secure about two-thirds of the swing state vote. In polls asking voters whether they approve of the president, or whom they would vote for, Obama is above the Republicans in six states, behind in four, with the other four being unquantifiable.  

Obama’s strategy now, according to Michael Toner, an electoral law expert who spoke to the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, is to nail Mitt Romney early on, much like George Bush did to John Kerry in the 2004 election.

We'll certainly be hearing more from the White House on Romney's finances, as it is very unlikely that Obama will face anyone else in November.