(Photo: REUTERS/Rick Wilking)
Forget about the swing states for a moment. With only five days of campaigning left, President Obama is back on the campaign trail today and having to play defense in three states that have gone Democratic for the last several election cycles: Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
In 2008 when Obama ran against former GOP candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), he carried all three states by margins greater than 10 points. In the case of Michigan, it was by a staggering 16 points.
Why is Mitt Romney making headway in these three blue political states? In a column on Townhall.com, Michael Barone makes the argument that the former Massachusetts governor is performing ahead of other GOP candidates in the outlying areas of Detroit and Philadelphia.
"One reason, which I wrote about last week, is that Mitt Romney seems to be running better in affluent suburbs than other recent Republican nominees," writes Barone in his Thursday column. "That's one reason he made big gains after the first debate in Florida and Virginia -- target states where most votes are cast in relatively affluent suburban counties."
Of course Romney grew up in Michigan as the son of a former auto executive and governor, and thus has ties to the state. The state's large minority-voting blocs favor Obama, but the state's lingering economic pains have given Democrats some indigestion. The key to Michigan may be how the voters weigh their state's economy versus Romney's opposition to the auto bailout that brought large sums of cash into the state.
Minnesota has enjoyed relative low unemployment when compared to the rest of the nation; nonetheless, Romney has made a play in this winter wonderland by running an aggressive television campaign that was quickly followed by the Obama camp.
Additionally, Minnesota is one of four states that will be voting on whether to legalize same-sex marriage. This could be an advantage for Romney if pro-family groups deliver more conservatives and evangelicals to the polls.
More than the other two states, Romney winning Pennsylvania would be the equivalent of finding gold at the end of the rainbow. The state's 20 electoral votes would most likely help push him over the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
"He's doing less poorly in Philadelphia suburbs than a basic Republican has, and the president is collapsing in the southwest," said Pennsylvania Business Council Political Director Christopher Nicholas.
On the surface, the Granite State should not even be in play. There are 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans and a recent Voter ID law passed by the state legislature this year was thrown out by the courts. Yet the wildcard that has emerged in the last three days is how Hurricane Sandy could impact the minority voting in inner city Philadelphia. The weather forecast for next Tuesday indicates Philadelphia and the eastern part of the state could see some heavy rainfall, thus keeping turnout low.
The Real Clear Politics round-up of polls shows Obama up 4.6 percent in Pennsylvania, 5 points in Minnesota, and 3 points in Michigan.