The Battle for Interstate 80

Back in the summer, I predicted that the race for the White House would come down to a fight that would follow one of two Interstate highway corridors: Interstate 95, which runs down the Eastern seaboard, and Interstate 80, which runs across the center of the nation from New York to California.

I predicted that if Obama could force Romney to fight for swing states along I-95: Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia, there would be no way that Romney could win, but if Romney could gain the upper hand in those I-95 swing states and go on offense in a number of swing states that straddle I-80, he would go into the last two weeks with a serious chance of winning.

With the battleground now shifting to the I-80 corridor from the I-95 corridor, Romney shattered the original Obama plan to use Florida, Ohio and Virginia as their electoral firewall, moved the battleground to a string of states along Interstate 80 and put the Obama campaign into an unexpected defense mode in a race which could go either way.

According to the Real Clear Politics averaging of published polling data in the Presidential race, five states worth 49 electoral votes along I-80 have moved to within margin-of-error of going either way in recent weeks:

  • I-80 is the red line.
    Colorado (9 EVs)
    RCP average: Tie 
  • Iowa (6 EVs)
    RCP average: Romney down 2.3 pts
  • Nevada (6 EVs)
    RCP average: Romney down 2.4 pts
  • Ohio (18 EVs)
    RCP average: Romney down 1.9 pts
  • Wisconsin (10 EVs)
    RCP average: Romney down 2.3 pts

With both candidates having locked down or leading in states with about 240 electoral votes each, these states will likely decide the contest - and they're states that Romney is familiar with.

As the GOP nomination contest went on much longer than usual, Romney has campaigned in each of these states, finishing first place in three of these states - Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin - and second place in the other two. Thus his campaign knows the ground in these states better than past GOP nominees who cleared the primary field well in the first few primary and caucus contests.

In each of these states, Romney has continued to inch closer since September, when the campaigns began working in earnest - and while Romney was spending time campaigning in other states that he has now nailed down.

Romney has closed the gap considerably in two other I-80 states: Michigan (16 EVs) and Pennsylvania (20 EVs), as well as Minnesota (10 EVs). While all three are considered long shots, Romney has already come closer to winning these states than most Republican candidates since President George H.W. Bush was the last one to carry them in 1988, even though his campaign has invested little in those states. While an excellent ground game and the right set of circumstances could tip at least of these states his way, it's more likely that those states will be nothing more than costly close-calls for the Obama campaign.

These moves, followed by the late decision to pull back from Florida and North Carolina after expensive efforts in those states, are the kinds of costly moves that will make it tougher for the Obama campaign to keep ahead of Romney in the other I-80 swing states. Perhaps a more realistic strategy to concede some of the states Romney would be best able to swing his way and focus on building strongholds in friendlier states would have left Obama in a better position.

The I-80 corridor states are also home to several Senate contests which are close and could decide control of the Senate, as well as a number of close House races which will determine if the Democrats are able to offset expected GOP gains in House races elsewhere in the country.

The Obama campaign failed to hold their firewall and Romney's momentum has allowed him to go on the attack in states which Obama had expected to hold without a fight. By making the Interstate 80 corridor the final electoral battleground of 2012, Romney has put Obama on defense and made this year's contest one where either side could prevail.

0 Response to "The Battle for Interstate 80"

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

To post a comment without having a Blogger account, select "Name/URL", put your name in, but leave the URL line blank. Email me if you'd like to comment, but need help making it work.