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Battleground States to Watch for This Election

Flip on your favorite pump-up music, break out your most confident strut, and don those red, white and blues, because it’s Election Day in America.

Many pollsters and Electoral Vote predictors have suggested that Tuesday’s election could come down to eight states — Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire.

Here’s a final look at where the polls stand for each swing state.

If you’ve followed this year’s presidential election since the summer of 2011, when Mitt Romney and a handful of other Republicans fought for the party’s nomination, then you know that Ohio would be a pivotal battleground needed to win the election.

President Obama currently leads his GOP challenger 50% to 47.1%, or 2.9 percentage points, in an aggregate of Ohio polls collected by RealClearPolitics. The lead, though, remains close enough for pollsters to call the state a toss-up.

“There’s a real optimism here [Youngstown, Ohio], and President Obama, I think, rightfully gets a good deal of credit for it,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio). “He stuck his neck out on the auto-rescue package, he got tough with China when it came to steel — and tires in other parts of the state.”

The polls narrowed for Romney shortly after the first presidential debate, in which the former Massachusetts governor delivered a sterling performance that boosted his national image as a legitimate contender.

Romney has even led a number of individual polls taken in the state. One source familiar with Republican Party internal polling within Ohio told TheStreet two weeks ago that they had Romney with a one-point lead against Obama.

But the average of polls have not given a decided lead to Romney, nor have they offered a distinct advantage to Obama.

Obama grabbed Colorado in 2008 with nearly 54% of the vote, but Romney’s ground game has kept him in a close race for 2012. It’s a crucial state for the Republican to win as he has very few battlegrounds to surpass the president and reach the decisive 270 electoral votes.

The aggregate of Colorado polls put Obama slightly ahead of Romney 48.8% to 47.3%, or an advantage of 1.5 percentage points.

Colorado Republicans overwhelmingly favored the Republican nominee during the 2008 GOP primary, but Romney surrendered the state in a shocking upset to Rick Santorum in 2012.

The governor shook off his primary defeat and has maintained a close race in Colorado; he took a slight lead for a couple of weeks in October. Again, this state is a toss-up.

Another dead heat can be found in Virginia, where Obama leads by a miniscule 0.3 percentage points. An average of polls shows Obama up 48% to 47.7% in the state won by Obama with more than six percentage points against John McCain in 2008.

A Republican source in Virginia told TheStreet a week ahead of the election that Obama had not been polling strongly in the state, which the source said did not bode well for an incumbent president. The source said Romney wasn’t necessarily surging in Virginia, but said it’s not a good sign for a president if voters are not showing a commitment to the incumbent by the last days of the election.

Again, this is a toss-up state that could decide the election.

The 2000 election in Florida branded the state for a generation of voters as a notorious battleground state.

George W. Bush carried the state in 2000 by just 537 votes, and carried the state by a wider five percentage-point margin in 2004. Obama won Florida by nearly three percentage points in 2008, but the Great Recession and the devastating housing collapse have left Florida voters in one of the most economically troubled regions of the country.

Romney has held a lead in Florida poll averages since the beginning of October, and he currently leads Obama 49.7% to 48.2%, or 1.5 percentage points.

Losing Florida would cripple the Romney campaign on Tuesday night, but a victory would keep it competitive. The campaign likely is aware that the state is a necessity to beat Obama, and Romney’s first trip after Hurricane Sandy forced a pause in campaigning was a three-stop swing through the south, central and north sections of Florida.

The state’s 29 electoral votes would go a long way for either candidate. Romney’s October surge suggested to many pollsters and analysts that Florida would lean in favor of the former Massachusetts governor. The 1.5 percentage-point advantage leaves it in toss-up territory.

The president has held a consistent lead in Nevada throughout the election season, but the final polling shows Obama ahead of Romney 50.2% to 47.4%, or 2.8 percentage points. This would leave the state in toss-up territory.

One Republican source in Nevada predicted that Obama likely would win the race there, and noted that early voting was favoring Democrats by a sizable margin. Nevada reporter Jon Ralston wrote on Sunday that it would be difficult for Obama to lose.

“But they [Romney] need everything to break right — President Obama hemorrhages Democrats and independents vote in huge numbers for Romney, two things I do not see happening,” Ralston wrote.

In Iowa, where the economy proved incredibly resilient during the Great Recession, the president leads the Republican nominee 48.7% to 46.3%, or 2.4 percentage points.

Former Vice President Al Gore won Iowa in 2000, and Bush won there in 2004. A number of state Republicans, including Polk County Republican Party Chairman Kevin McLaughlin, have said since last year that they believed the state would be winnable in 2012.

McLaughlin said Obama has let down many of his 2008 supporters. “[They’re] tired of being taken for granted by the Democrats … and tired of Democrats showing up before the elections and expecting them all to vote for the Democrat candidate,” he said.

Wisconsin, where GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is from, shows a wider advantage for Obama than the aforementioned states.

Obama leads Romney 50.4% to 46.2%, or 4.2 percentage points, there as the typically Democratic-leaning state submits its ballots on Tuesday.

Republicans believed they had a shot at Wisconsin after a high-profile recall of GOP Gov. Scott Walker failed. Enthusiasm rose when Romney selected Ryan as his running mate.

Though Romney narrowed Obama’s lead after both events, the president has shown steady improvement in the state in the past week. Though the state is listed as a toss-up, it appears to be leaning toward the incumbent.

Experts have long considered New Hampshire a vulnerable state for incumbent Obama. The president won there in 2008 by nearly 10 percentage points, but Romney’s New England connection has kept him competitive.

The final polls show Obama ahead of Romney 49.9% to 47.9%, or 2 percentage points, but Romney held a slight aggregate poll advantage for a couple days in mid-October.

Though the state’s four electoral votes don’t seem great, they are another four votes that if Romney can somehow squeeze out a win would suggest election day momentum in favor of the challenger.

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