Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin Up for Grabs

BY Terence Burlij and Katelyn Polantz  August 8, 2012 at 9:13 AM EST

Mitt Romney; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event in Basalt, Colo., last week. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

They call them battleground states for a reason.

President Obama and Mitt Romney are locked in close races for three of the most hotly contested states this election year: Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The latest Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday gave Romney a 50 percent to 45 percent advantage over the president in Colorado. But the Democratic incumbent held leads of 49 percent to 45 percent in Virginia and 51 percent to 45 percent in Wisconsin.

Mr. Obama won all three states in 2008, taking Wisconsin by 14 percent, Colorado by more than 8 percent and Virginia by 6 percent.

The three states clearly have the attention of the campaigns, as the president will be in Colorado on Wednesday, while Romney plans to kick off his bus tour in Virginia this Saturday.

The margin of victory for either candidate in any of those three states this November is not likely to be high, as economic concerns continue to dampen the president’s prospects and while Romney faces challenges with his personal appeal to voters.

In all three states, more voters said they thought the nation’s economy was getting worse or staying the same rather than getting better.

When voters were asked about the economic conditions in their respective states, however, a greater percentage responded things were getting better instead of worse, although most people said that things were staying the same.

On the question of which candidate would be better at handling the economy, Colorado voters give Romney a 51 percent to 41 percent advantage. Virginians favor Romney by a 47-45 margin over the president, while the Democrat is preferred by Wisconsinites, 47 percent to 46 percent, on the issue.

But Romney finds himself in trouble on the question of whether he cares about problems of average voters, with 51 percent of Wisconsin voters saying he does not, compared to 41 percent who responded that he does. The split was 48 percent to 44 percent in Virginia and roughly even in Colorado.

Those numbers underline the problems Romney faces in his national poll numbers.

A Washington Post/ABC News survey released Wednesday found that Romney’s favorability ratings this summer have flatlined. Forty percent of respondents said they had a favorable impression of the former Massachusetts governor, while 49 percent said they had a negative view of the GOP candidate.

In May, Romney’s numbers were 41 percent positive and 45 percent negative, revealing that the barrage of negative attacks by the Obama campaign may have taken a toll on the Republican’s standing among some voters.

WELFARE WARFARE

The latest bruising exchange in the campaign has centered on the issue of welfare reform, with Romney accusing the president of gutting one of former President Bill Clinton’s signature domestic achievements.

During a campaign stop Tuesday in Elk Grove, Ill., Romney charged that the president had moved to “reverse that accomplishment by taking the work requirement out of welfare.”

He added: “That is wrong. If I’m president I will put work back in welfare.”

The welfare attack started with the release of a television ad Tuesday that featured an image of Clinton signing the law.

Clinton responded to the spot in a statement, calling Romney’s allegations “not true” and defending the administration’s decision to let states seek waivers from the work requirement in order to test other strategies for helping people find jobs.

“The administration has taken important steps to ensure that the work requirement is retained and that waivers will be granted only if a state can demonstrate that more people will be moved into work under its new approach,” said Clinton.

The former president added: “The Romney ad is especially disappointing because, as governor of Massachusetts, he requested changes in the welfare reform laws that could have eliminated time limits altogether. We need a bipartisan consensus to continue to help people move from welfare to work even during these hard times, not more misleading campaign ads.”

The Romney campaign is not showing any signs of relenting, releasing a web video Wednesday that uses archival video of Clinton talking about welfare reform along with clips of Democratic Sens. Carl Levin, John Kerry and Joe Biden talking up the measure. It contrasts those statements with a bite from Mr. Obama in 1998 saying he was not a “huge supporter” of the plan.

You can watch the video here or below.

The Obama campaign is also pushing back with a web video it unveiled Wednesday that slams Romney’s television spot as “dubious” and raises the same charges as Clinton that Romney sought changes to the welfare laws while governor.

The kicker: “Romney, flexible on welfare and the truth.”

You can watch the ad here or below.

OUTRAISE, OUTSPENT, OUTLAST

The money wars of this presidential election have the Romney team outraising the president, but the Obama campaign has outspent the Republican. Judy Woodruff explored these dynamics on Tuesday’s NewsHour.

She talked with Rick Davis, who served as Sen. John McCain’s campaign manager in 2000 and 2008, and Democratic strategist Mo Elleithee, who worked for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

So how can Republican interests pull together more money this year? “I think that it’s an indication of some problems within the Obama electorate,” Davis said. “Raising money is some indication of your level of support out in the country.”

Elleithee pointed out that while Mr. Obama falls behind in big-check donors, he remains strong in grassroots support.

The money that the president’s campaign has spent so easily hasn’t just funneled into advertisements. It has gone toward a robust ground game, particularly in swing states such as Virginia, Elleithee said.

He added:

The ads do matter. But, also, I do think the organization on the ground is going to matter. And so the money is what builds both of those things. Without it, you can really, really struggle. And I don’t think the president is going to be in a position where he is really struggling on either — on either side. But he does run the risk of being drowned out.

Watch the segment here or below.

LOUGHNER PLEA DEAL

On Tuesday’s NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown took a look at Jared Lee Loughner’s guilty plea in the 2011 mass shootings in Tucson, Ariz., that left six people dead and 13 wounded, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson explained the legal technicalities under consideration in the courtroom. She compared it to the Unabomber case, saying a plea change is unusual but not unprecedented. In this case, both sides wanted the plea bargain, she said.

Levenson:

I think that there was something in it for both sides on this plea bargain. The defense understood that he might very well get the death penalty, even with the claim of insanity. And that is because, even though he was mentally ill, he seemed to understand what he was doing and wanted to do it.

And the legal test for insanity is quite a difficult test, particularly in the jurisdiction. So, I think the defense said, better to take the deal, spend his life in prison than risk the death penalty. And the prosecutors on the other hand said, if we go for the death penalty, there’s no certainty that a jury will give it to him. Some jurors might say, he is mentally ill, and, therefore, we will give him a break.

Watch the segment here or below:

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn and Manu Raju note that the president will have to put forward specifics next month about the automatic spending cuts required in the sequester agreed to as part of the debt ceiling deal.

  • In an Obama for America online video, actress Elizabeth Banks discusses “working class ladies who need health care” through Planned Parenthood.

  • Remember Julia, the Obama team’s mascot for women’s issues? The Republican National Committee is using her grocery lists from “Before Obama” and “After Obama” as another campaign tool in this infographic (No, it’s not a Venn diagram, but the amount of meat Julia consumes certainly is impressive).

  • The Republican National Committee has its own web video out Wednesday attacking Obama adviser David Plouffe for money earned in public speaking.

  • Obama for America has a second web ad out Wednesday morning called “Dubious”. It focuses on Romney’s history with welfare policy and on debunking recent attacks against the president.

  • Americans for Prosperity is plunking down another $25 million against the president in swing states.

  • The newest addition to the White House is an official videographer. The Washington Guardian questions its purpose as campaign tool or in-house documentarian.

  • Don’t discount the names that Republicans have announced as speakers for their national convention. The Romney camp is toying with us, says ABC News.

  • TechPresident suggests how to spot Romney’s vice presidential pick in advance: Check the Wikipedia pages of the contenders.

  • The Los Angeles Times uses horse dancing to read the tea leaves on a vice presidential pick.

  • The Wall Street Journal frames the 2012 election using Ronald Reagan’s famous question from 1980: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

  • Just for a laugh, here’s another VP possibility.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., survived a three-way contest to secure the Republican nomination in the race against Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. Even though Akin leads McCaskill in early polling, the National Journal writes that Akin is the opponent of choice for the embattled senator.

  • In other Show Me State news, Democratic Reps. Russ Carnahan and Lacy Clay Jr. faced off in a member vs. member race for a new district covering the entire city of St. Louis, a municipality previously shared by the contestants. Carnahan can renew his season tickets to the Cardinals, because he’ll be spending some more time in town after being lambasted by Clay. The final margin: 63 to 34.

  • In Michigan, former Congressman Pete Hoekstra defeated Tea Party-backed challenger Clark Durant in the GOP primary for the Senate. Hoekstra will now face Democratic incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

  • Two more Democratic incumbents squared off in Detroit, as Rep. Gary Peters took down Rep. Hansen Clarke.

  • (In case you were wondering who Clarke is, go back and re-read Daniel Newhauser’s profile of the freshman in Roll Call.)

  • We continue to have dead heats in Virginia and Wisconsin senate races.

  • Ray Suarez began the NewsHour’s series on energy in America on Tuesday. Watch part one here.

Christina Bellantoni, Alex Bruns and Joshua Barajas contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Mitt Romney attends a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, at 9:25 a.m.

  • President Obama campaigns in Colorado with events in Denver at 3:20 p.m. and Grand Junction at 7:25 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.