Friday, April 29, 2011

If Obama can't win Pennsylvania, odds are he's toast in 2012. Simple as that.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster

April 29, 2011


By Tom Bevan  RealClear Politics

If you're looking for ways to boil the 2012 presidential race down to its simplest form, here's one of the easiest: it's nearly impossible to envision any way Barack Obama can win re-election next year if he loses Pennsylvania. No Keystone State, no second term. It really is that simple.

As of right now, things are looking dicey for the president in Pennsylvania. Two weeks ago, the Democratic polling firm PPP released a survey showing the president's job approval rating at just 42% among Pennsylvania voters.

Yesterday, Quinnipiac University confirmed PPP's findings with a survey of their own conducted in Pennsylvania last week showing an identical job rating of 42% for the president - a new low for Obama since taking office.

Worse still for the president, for the first time the Quinnipiac poll found a majority of Pennsylvania voters saying that Obama does not deserve to be re-elected.

The numbers show a sharp decline in Obama's standing in the Keystone State over the last nine weeks - particularly among Independents. In the last Quinnpiac survey, taken in mid-February of this year,

Independents approved of the job Obama was doing as president by a net 4-point margin, 50 to 46. Today they disapprove of the job he's doing by a net 20-point margin, 37 to 57.

What has caused Independents to sour so dramatically on Obama in the last two months? That's hard to say for sure, but a continued sluggish economic recovery, rising gas prices, a nasty partisan fight over the budget, and a hastily planned military intervention in Libya that appears to have bogged down into a stalemate are all probably taking a toll.

Additionally, G. Terry Madonna, Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., says President Obama's demeanor and perceived lack of empathy may also be creating a disconnect with the state's Independent voters.

"Like Obama or not," says Madonna, "he just doesn't relate very well. He hasn't been very good or very sensitive on matters of the recession."

Obama's trouble with Independents in Pennsylvania is no small matter, because most experts believe he can't win the state without them.

The bulk of Pennsylvania's Independent voters are clustered in the four counties surrounding Philadelphia (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery) and two counties in the Lehigh Valley (Berks and Lehigh).

These voters are best described as quintessential suburbanites - more moderate and less ideological in their views, more liberal on social issues but more conservative on fiscal matters.

Obama cleaned up with this bloc in 2008, winning all six counties by large margins en route to an easy 11-point victory over John McCain.

But these Independents moved heavily back toward the Republicans in the 2010 midterms: Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato managed to carry only two of the six counties last November. Both men lost.

Right now the one bright spot for Obama is the perceived weakness of the Republican field. Despite the President's horrid ratings in Pennsylvania, he's still running even or ahead of most of the prospective GOP hopefuls.

Still, this election will first and foremost be a referendum on the president. If Republicans nominate a candidate who isn't viewed as "out of the mainstream," Obama will face a significant challenge in recovering lost ground with Pennsylvania's Independent voters.

It's a challenge with dire consequences.

"If Obama can't win Pennsylvania, he will almost certainly lose Ohio and Florida," says Madonna.
And if Obama can't win any of the "Big 3" battleground states in 2012, it's very hard to see him winning back the White House.

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics.