Obama and Romney face stubborn divisions in key states
Women voters and the white working class are crucial, write JIM RUTENBERGand ALLISON KOPICKIin New York
FOR ALL of the Democratic attacks painting Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch elitist who will help the rich at the expense of the middle class, he is maintaining the traditional – and sizable – Republican advantage among a politically vital constituency, white working-class voters in the states most likely to decide the presidential election.
And despite concerted Republican efforts to use the weak economy to drive a wedge between President Barack Obama and female voters, the incumbent is holding on to their crucial support in most battleground states.
Those findings, contained in the latest batch of Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News swing-state polls, highlight the stubborn divisions of this year’s presidential race among two of the most important voting groups in the most hotly contested states.
But they also help explain the intense efforts of the two campaigns to alter the balance in both groups, which together will go a long way towards determining the outcome.
Obama’s goal is to keep Romney from running up huge margins among white working-class voters – defined as those without college degrees and household incomes between $30,000 and $100,000 – who could give him the edge.
Results from surveys over the past week in Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin, combined with surveys last week in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, show Romney appears to be holding his own with that group, but running no stronger than senator John McCain did four years ago.
Similarly, Romney is trying to peel off as many female voters as possible from Obama’s electoral coalition, hoping to offset the president’s advantages among single and non-white women by appealing to married and white women with a message about economic security and pocketbook issues.
But while the poll suggests Romney is making inroads among women in Colorado, where he is also showing strength against Obama by several other measures, support for Obama among women has otherwise held up in the battleground states. As a result, Obama has been able to stave off bigger losses in the most hotly contested states, in particular among independents, who are divided in Colorado and Wisconsin and supporting Romney in Virginia; and white men, who are supporting Romney by double-digit margins over the president in all three states.
Far more than national polls, which can track the mood of the electorate only as a whole, the results in the state-by-state polls provide a detailed snapshot of the race where it matters most, in geography and demography. They also help explain why both the Obama and Romney campaigns are focusing so much of their time and money on messages intended to resonate with such specific groups in such specific places.
The latest polls underscore just how tight the presidential race continues to be, with the candidates running closely in Virginia and Colorado and Obama leading in Wisconsin, although not by his double-digit margin of victory in 2008. Obama won all three states in 2008.