President Barack Obama is in big trouble, with both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich leading him in a dozen key swing states, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.
|Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, chatting during a break in the GOP presidential debate Saturday, have plenty to smile about with the USA Today/Gallup poll showing them beating President Barack Obama in a dozen swing states. (AP Photo)
Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney leads Obama among registered voters, 48 percent to 43 percent, in the 12 states the survey covers. And former House Speaker Gingrich leads the president, 48 percent to 45 percent. Nationwide, Obama leads Gingrich, 50 percent to 44 percent, and Romney, 47 percent to 46 percent, according to the poll.
The 12 states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Obama won all of them in 2008. Each could go either way next year, and Obama needs to win half of their electoral votes to gain a second term, according to USA Today
The portion of voters in those states who identify themselves as Democratic or Democratic-leaning has dropped 4 percentage points since 2008, while the portion of Republicans has risen 5 points.
In 2008, when Obama won those states by 8 percentage points, Democrats led Republicans in party identification by a whopping 11 points. Now, the Democrats’ edge is a statistically insignificant 2 points.
Meanwhile, a wide enthusiasm gap has emerged between Republicans and Democrats, with 61 percent of Republicans say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president next year, compared with 47 percent of Democrats.
The most enthusiastic include some of the GOP’s base — conservatives and middle-aged men and women. The least enthusiastic include key Democratic constituencies responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory, such as minorities and younger voters.
"Enthusiasm is a tremendous benefit," Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus told USA Today. "We're going to be able to mobilize a grass-roots army. It helps us recruit volunteers and run absentee-ballot programs. We can fill rooms with people making phone calls and going door-to-door."
The decrease in the number of voters who identify themselves as Democrats, coupled with the increase of those who call themselves independents, will make Obama’s re-election quest more difficult. Excluding those who lean Democratic, the portion of voters who identify themselves as Democrats has slipped to 30 percent from 35 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, the portion of independents has climbed to 42 percent from 35 percent.
In three of the eight swing states that have party registration — Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire — independents now outnumber both Republicans and Democrats.
That’s bad news for Obama, as independents by definition carry no loyalty for a party's nominee. Moreover, the inflammatory rhetoric that may be needed to enliven the core element of the Democratic base — liberals, African Americans, Hispanics etc. — may turn off independent voters.
To be sure, Republicans face the same difficulty. A candidate who pushes hard to the right during the GOP primaries to attract the party’s conservative base may have a difficult time winning over independents in the general election.
But trends in ideological demographics are working for Republicans and against Democrats. In the swing states poll, 44 percent of respondents called themselves conservatives, more than doubling the 21 percent who called themselves liberal.
Assuming strong support among conservatives, the Republican nominee will need only a small portion of the 35 percent of voters who call themselves moderates to win the election. Obama, on the other hand, needs to carry not only his liberal base but a majority of moderates as well.
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