ELECTIONATE NOVEMBER 3, 2012
The polls looked good for Obama over the last few days and Wisconsin was no exception. We Ask America, PPP, Grove (D), St. Norbert College, and the well-regarded Marquette University survey all showed Obama leading by more than 5 in the Badger State. The only interesting dissent—that is to say, from a non-partisan pollster other than Rasmussen—came from NBC/WSJ/Marist, which still showed Obama leading by 3 points with 49 percent of the vote. On average, Obama’s ahead by 5 points in Wisconsin, 50-45, in post-debate surveys.
But what's interesting is that the president will stop more in Wisconsin between now and the election than anywhere other than Ohio or Iowa. In addition to Thursday's stop in Green Bay, Obama plans to visit Wisconsin twice between now and Election Day, and that doesn’t include Obama’s stop in Dubuque, Iowa, which counts toward southwestern Wisconsin in my book. If Obama is really up by 5 points, they could have comfortably allocated one of those stops to extremely tight states like Virginia, Colorado, or Florida, where a win would not only compensate for an unlikely loss in Wisconsin, but all but close Romney’s route to victory. In fact, the president will stop 5 times in Wisconsin, Iowa, and New Hampshire over the next three days, compared to 3 stops in Florida, Virginia, and Colorado.
If the Obama campaign's polls show the same thing as the public data, then they appear to be pursuing a defensive strategy intended to reinforce their lead and lockdown the easiest path to victory. This would presumably reduce the risk that Romney breaks through the so-called firewall, even if it reduced the Obama campaign's odds of seizing the electoral votes numbered 282 through 332. To the extent that unprecedented sums of money pose an unquantifiable but existent risk to Obama's standing, precautionary and compensatory measures seem justifiable.
Of course, the Obama campaign's fortress strategy could also be interpreted as a sign of vulnerability in their core states. It's certainly possible; we don't know what the Obama campaign's internal numbers show and it might not resemble the public polling. At the very least, the Obama campaign isn't outright dismissing the possibility of a Romney victory, like they are in Pennsylvania. Given that the polls only show Obama with a modest lead in these states, that seems wise. The stakes in a presidential race are more than high enough to justify a strategy built on consolidating and holding a modest but consistent and persistent lead in the battleground states.