Concord, Merrimack County, New Hampshire
Obama begins the day in Concord, New Hampshire, a modest population center in the south-central part of the state. Concord and Merrimack County straddle the boundary between New Hampshire’s Democratic-friendly western countryside and the Republican-leaning southeastern and more populous southeastern quadrant. To carry New Hampshire, Obama will need to carry Merrimack County by a modest margin—it was the largest New Hampshire county that voted for Kerry eight years ago.
Ft. Lauderdale, Broward County, FL
In another stop aimed at maximizing turnout on friendly turf, Obama’s stopping in Ft. Lauderdale and Broward County, the heart of Florida’s Democratic coalition. In 2008, Broward’s diverse combination of a large Jewish population and growing African American and non-Cuban Hispanics segments helped offer Obama 67 percent of the vote. Any chance of an Obama victory in Florida involves a near repeat performance in Broward County.
Aurora, Arapahoe and Adams Counties, CO
The site of this summer’s tragic theater shooting, Aurora lays just outside of Denver and is actually Colorado’s third largest city. Aurora is a minority majority city with large Hispanic and African American populations and it straddles Arapahaoe and Adams Counties, two diverse, suburban counties outside of Denver where Obama will need to perform well in order to carry the state. In 2008, Obama won 55 and 58 percent of the vote in Arapahoe and Adams Counties, and Obama doesn't have a credible path to victory in Colorado without a win in both counties.
Cincinnati, Hamilton County, OH
While Cincinnati’s Hamilton County is traditionally Republican and the Cincinnati area is very conservative, strong support among African Americans helped Obama become the first Democrat to carry Hamilton County since 1964. An Obama victory would probably involve carrying it again, especially since it voted for Obama by more than the state as a whole in 2008.
Des Moines, Polk County, IA
Romney heads to Des Moines—the largest city of Iowa. Des Moines’ Polk County will almost certainly vote for Obama, but the margin in the Des Moines metropolitan area could easily sway the state. In particular, Romney will need to run up the score in neighboring Dallas County, an affluent and fast growing county home to the western suburbs of Des Moines, where McCain only won by 5 points compared to Bush’s 16 percent. But Romney isn’t in Des Moines because of the specifics of the city, he’s there to hit the state’s largest and most populous media market.
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, OH
Cleveland isn’t exactly Romney’s base, but he’s not visiting Cuyahoga County to specifically target Cleveland’s voters. Instead he’s making an appearance to get on television in the Cleveland media market. The Cleveland market doesn’t just encompass Cleveland and its suburbs, but most of the northwestern part of the state, including Canton, Akron, and plenty of conservative countryside.
Morrisville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Romney’s big stop in Pennsylvania hits Morrsville, Pennsylvania in Bucks County, a suburban county outside of Philadelphia. Unlike most of the famous swing counties of the Bush elections, Bucks credibly remains a bell-weather for Romney’s chances in Pennsylvania. Bucks is a mix of white working class inner suburbs adjacent to northeastern Philadelphia, affluent outer suburbs, and a mix of exurbs and countryside in the northern half of the county. Obama did worse in Bucks than the other three major counties surrounding Philadelphia, probably because it has fewer minorities and postgraduates than any of the other suburbs. Kerry won Bucks County by 3 points in 2004, and it’s tough to envision Romney carrying the state without taking Bucks or at least improving over Kerry’s performance.