Suburbs key to Romney's widening map

As the East Coast recoils from Hurricane Sandy, the political news is of new states suddenly inundated with presidential campaign ads. First Wisconsin, then Pennsylvania, more recently Minnesota. Ann Romney is campaigning in Michigan, Bill Clinton in Minnesota.

All these are states Barack Obama carried by 10 points or more in 2008. Why is the electoral map scrambled this year?

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. 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.

The tightening race in Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Obama carried by 16 and 10 points in 2008, seems to reflect a move toward Romney in the affluent suburbs surrounding Detroit and Philadelphia.

In contrast, Romney has been struggling in Ohio, where the Rasmussen poll released Monday is the first survey in three months that shows him ahead there.

Only one-eighth of Ohio's votes are cast in affluent suburbs. Traditional Republican strength there comes from small industrial counties where the barrage of Obama ads castigating Romney for opposing the auto bailout clearly had some impact.

Another significant shift from 2008 has come in what was once America's Northwest -- Wisconsin, Iowa and, perhaps, Minnesota.

These three states are part of what I call Germano-Scandinavian America, settled in large part by immigrants from Germany, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
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On economic issues, Germano-Scandinavian America is not as liberal as many analysts think. Iowans like to boast that their state has the nation's lowest rate of credit card debt. 
In Wisconsin, voters in June decisively rejected the public employee unions' all-out drive to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker. And Minnesotans in 2010 gave Republicans big gains in the state legislature and nearly elected as governor an inept Republican over a free-spending and well-known Democrat.
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Ohio does look like it is within Romney's grasp.  It is a bit of a weird state.  It has a conservative population, but a virulently liberal media making it hard to break through all the anti conservative buzz.  The auto worker vote has been up for grabs.  Obama has run several misleading ads about Romney and the bailouts   Romney has countered with an ad suggesting that the Italian owner of Chrysler might create some Jeep jobs in China and Italy.  The Obama bodyguard fact checking brigade have responded with a flurry of Pennacchios.  They clearly see the power of the suggestion.

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