Photo: Courtesy of WhiteHouse.gov
By all counts, President Obama’s third State of the Union was a sweeping and surprisingly confrontational address that laid bare the incumbent’s campaign positions on a wide array of issues, ranging from domestic manufacturing and farming regulations to clean energy development and immigration reform.But the speech was more than just a preview of Obama’s reelection message — it also told us who that message is intended to reach.
In fact, a close reading of last night’s speech provides some interesting clues about the electoral college strategy that the President and his campaign team plan to pursue in 2012.
As we have noted before, Obama’s reelection game plan is focused primarily on winning the 270 electoral college votes needed to lock down the election next fall. According to campaign manager Jim Messina, the team has identified several swing states, some combination of which Obama will have to win for the maths to work out.
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The states include longstanding battlegrounds like Florida and Ohio, as well as newer tossup states like Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, and Virginia.
The areas of domestic policy that Obama chose to emphasise last night — specifically, domestic manufacturing growth, increased domestic energy production (including clean energy), and immigration reform — indicate that his campaign team is already starting to double down on states where it believes the President has a shot — and abandon those states where the President’s chances look increasingly dismal.
The attention given to strengthening the manufacturing sector, for example, will play very well in Ohio, a battleground state with high unemployment that has suffered severely from the decline of the American manufacturing sector. In Ohio, the future of the manufacturing sector has been directly tied to domestic energy production — expanded natural gas production, as well as clean energy technology are viewed by many in the Midwest as the future markets for American-made products (and American jobs).
Domestic energy is also a major issue in the Mountain West, where the energy industry is growing in swing states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. Incidentally, these are also states where the Latino vote has become increasingly important, so Obama’s pledge to seek comprehensive immigration reform can similarly be seen as an attempt to lock up those key votes.
Interestingly, Obama’s State of the Union did little to pander to voters in Florida or other parts of the South — which can perhaps be taken as a sign that the campaign isn’t resting its hopes on voters there. Although it is widely believed that Obama’s campaign team had hoped to expand the Democrats’ electoral college map to increasingly-purple states like Virginia and North Carolina, his decision to make cuts to defence spending and to the space program — and his strong support of the National labour Relations Board in recent labour battles — have probably diminished his chances south of the Mason-Dixon.
If the hints in his State of the Union address weren’t strong enough, Obama is now on the first leg of a swing-state campaign tour designed to sell his new blueprint for America. The tour stops in Iowa, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and Nevada.
Interestingly, those are five of the nine states that will vote in the Republican presidential race before Super Tuesday.
Bottom Line: This is starting to get interesting.
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