ELECTIONATE OCTOBER 22, 2012
Yesterday, Nate Silver raised the question of whether Obama should concede in Florida, a state where Romney holds a slight but clear lead in the polls. With Obama nursing an equally slight but clear lead in Ohio and more modest leads in Wisconsin and Nevada—states that add up to 271 electoral votes—Florida isn’t as central to the electoral math. The case for withdrawing from Florida rests on the additional assumption that the Obama campaign would benefit in the Midwest and Nevada from a Florida pullout, since the campaign could reallocate resources toward those more critical states.
But the abstract case for withdrawing from Florida makes less sense after considering the spending behavior of the two campaigns. This week, Team Romney is outspending Team Obama in Florida by $2.3 million ($8 million to Obama's $5.7 million). That's the same margin by which they're outspending Team Obama in a state like Ohio, where Team Romney also holds a $2.3 million lead (in that case, $7.6 to $5.3 million).
If both campaigns reallocate their resources from Florida toward the Midwest, it wouldn’t appreciably change the balance of spending in the tipping-point states. So it's hard to envision how Obama’s position would improve at all. And even if Obama could use his dollars more efficiently to improve his position in the Midwest, any gains would be, at best, hard to discern. In contrast, Obama’s odds of winning Florida, even if they were not particularly high in the first place, would fall dramatically if Obama conceded the state. Conceding Florida would also deal a blow to the Obama campaign's narrative—that isn't especially important but it's also not entirely irrelevant.
In fact, a better argument could be made that Team Romney should reduce their spending in Florida to reallocate resources toward the Midwest. With a slight lead in Florida, Team Romney can probably afford to reallocate some portion of their $2.3 million spending advantage without imperiling their chances. And although states like Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin are relatively close, Romney is quickly running out of time. There are just 15 days until the election, and Romney needs to make up ground. The Romney campaign should be willing to accept a greater advertising disadvantage in the Sunshine State if it might improve Romney's chance of overcoming Obama’s advantage in Ohio. And realistically, the Obama campaign would probably choose to reduce their buys in Florida, at least slightly, to reinforce their Midwestern redoubts.