100 days out: Jump ball.
If you believe the polls, despite a persistently weak economy and some high profile gaffes on the part of the president, at one hundred days out it’s still anybody’s race. National polls show President Obama holding a very tenuous lead over presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. In the states that Romney will have to win if he’s to win the White House, namely Florida, Ohio and Virginia, Obama’s lead is slightly greater.
The economy is doing nothing to help Obama. Last week it was announced that U.S. Gross Domestic Product had grown by only 1.5 percent in the latest quarter. This is well off the pace of just a year ago and a clear sign that the economy is stalling.
Advantage: Romney. Every poll shows that voters believe that Romney will do a better job when it comes to managing the economy.
Yet the race, according to the polls, remains very tight.
Texas is a confirmed Red State and is written off by the Obama campaign and taken as a given by the Romney team. Thus neither candidate is spending money in Texas and thus we see none of the advertising that is filling TV screens in Ohio, Florida and Virginia.
If we were seeing campaign commercials, we would see the Obama team trying to discredit Romney as a wealthy, out-of-touch “vulture” capitalist. The Obama campaign is trying to discredit Romney’s tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital. So far, there is little evidence that this strategy is working as judged by the polling data.
Late last year it was taken for granted that Obama would have a clear money advantage over Romney. That assumption has been proven wrong. The Romney campaign itself has out-raised the Obama campaign in each of the last two months while pro-Romney Super PACs have vastly outraised outside groups supporting Obama. It now seems clear that the Team Romney, which includes the campaign itself together with pro-Romney super PACs, will be able to keep pace or even outpace Team Obama in spending.
The question facing each candidate today is “Spend money where, talking to whom?” What is becoming clear from looking at the polls is just how few people remain undecided and in how few places that indecision matters. There are 272 counties in America that voted for George W. Bush twice and then went for Obama in 2008. Many of those counties are in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. If voters in those counties remain loyal to Obama in 2012, he will likely be re-elected. If they swing back to the GOP, it’s Romney’s White House.
Also clear from the polling data is that although there is a high level of dissatisfaction with President Obama, Romney has yet to convince many swing voters that he represents a better alternative. “Rich, white and not Obama” seems to be how many voters describe Romney. In the eyes of many swing voters, Romney has yet to sell a compelling vision for the country that they would select over what they see from President Obama.
So, inside 100 days, it’s either candidate’s race. The economy and a growing perception that he is anti-business will serve as a drag on Obama. A perception that he is rich, out-of-touch and in some vague way part of the system that led the country into such a deep financial crisis will weigh heavily on Romney.
We know how it’s going to play out in Texas. Keep an eye on Ohio, Virginia and Florida.