By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
President Barack Obama and the First Lady will be in Richmond this weekend (May 5) to attend a campaign event, yet another signal that the 2012 Presidential campaign is officially underway. Mitt Romney, who has managed to outlast all of the competition for the GOP nomination to run for the White House, and President Obama have been giving voters a sampling of their themes and unwrapping the strategies they will unleash against the another during the weeks leading up to the November 6 General Election.
At this point, Romney is seeking to solidify support from national and state GOP officials and the various segments of the party’s base of support, including conservative evangelicals, white males and other groups who support the Republican brand. National polls of voters show Romney is closing in on Obama and Virginia is considered a critical state for the President’s relection. Some polls show Obama with an average of five percentage points among voters; some show a closer race with Romney slightly behind or slightly ahead.
By Labor Day, according to most respected political analysts, polls measuring what is expected to be a tight race, should be more reliable. And the contender who holds the lead by that holiday weekend, barring any significant mistakes, will usually win in November. Although the economy has shown some signs of revival, with the unemployment rate standing at 8.2 percent, Obama’s strategists hope better economic vital signs will deny Romney his most potent weapon.
Polls indicate that although voters like Obama more personally and think he has a firmer grasp on most domestic issues, they give his rival higher marks for potentially having the ideas which may uplift the economy.
The Gender Gap
Poll are showing that women will play a key role on election day. The President has, on average, a 14-point lead in the Gallup Poll over Romney with women. African Americans and white women with college degrees, support the President overwhelmingly. Young Black and white women from ages 18 to 29 strongly support the President as well. During the most competitive phase of the GOP primary race, Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich unleashed a barrage of conservative ideas on contraception, which may have caused some women to pull away from supporting the GOP.
Romney hinted at reducing or abolishing funding, especially to organizations like Planned Parenthood, which provide healthcare for many working and low income women. “The Democrats have had the advantage with the gender gap since 1980,”said Dr. Deirdre Condit, Associate Professor of Political Science at VCU and fellow with Wilder Center for Politics. “Women vote different than men on a variety of issues,” said Condit. “And they do not vote on issues in a way that most people think they should. Women, increasingly, are becoming more impacted by the economy and more concerned about reproductive rights and health issues.”
Condit said women bear the heaviest burden of raising and caring for most of the nation’s children. In the case of African American women, they are raising a majority of the children without a supportive spouse. “Women are interested in health care, child care and education and other issues related to their caring and supporting children,” said Condit. “They are likely to be more supportive of government intervention on social and employment equality and protections. Republicans do not believe in expanding government into the areas, so who benefits most from women’s support? Democrats.”
Romney has been seeking to close the gender gap by stating that “women suffered more job losses under Obama” than any other demographic group. Romney has been dispatching his wife Anne to the microphone more, to address issues related to women and their role at home and in the workplace. For the past year, First Lady Michelle Obama has taken on her own popularity. She has a health and fitness initiative for youth, has frequented late night talk shows and has done a long list of interviews in national museums.
Romney’s campaign thought it had an opening on women’s issues when a Democratic party DNC adviser Hilary Rosen commented that Anne Romney had never held a job in her life. The Republicans countered that she stayed at home and raised her children, which many traditionalists call a very demanding “job.” “I do not think this episode will have much impact closing Romney’s gender gap,” said David Bositus, chief political analyst at the Black think tank, the Joint Center for Political Economic Studies.
“Polls say working and professional women do not like Anne Romney’s take on her employment roll,” he continued. “Because she was privileged and did not have to juggle a wage earning career and rear their children.”
Bositus said Virginia is among key “battleground” states Obama and Romney will be fighting over, because polls show neither candidate has a significant and solid lead at this point. Obama is ahead six points in Virginia, a state he won in 2008, but Romney feels he has a chance of competing for it.
So it’s no surprise that President Obama will be launching his reelection campaign with rallies in Virginia and another battleground state, Ohio on May 5th. The two campaigns will be injecting most of the manpower and resources into these “battleground states.” Two months ago, as part of its ground offensive, Obama campaign operatives were visiting barber shops in Newport News and Hampton, to sit and talk issues related to the 2012 campaign with patrons.
Vice President Joe Biden delivered a speech at Norfolk’s Maury High School. On April 24th at Norfolk State and other sites in Virginia, a number of African Americans for Obama rallies were held. The Biden and NSU events were designed to reignite support among college age students. Obama has a lead over Romney with college age students today, but that support is not as strong as it was in 2008 because many of them are feeling the pinch caused by the tight job market.
By the Numbers
It takes 271 electoral votes to win the White House. The President leads in polls in states which are likely or leaning toward voting Democratic with 231 electoral votes. There are 197 on the Republican column. So there are 110 electoral votes up for grabs.
The count in February was 227-197. New Hampshire went to a toss to leaning for Obama; Indiana moved from likely GOP to leaning to GOP and Georgia went to likely GOP.
The seven key states which will determine the 2012 election are Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. No GOP contender can win the electoral prize without Ohio and Obama has a slight lead in that state now.