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Friday, October 26, 2012

Can Romney Afford to Skip Florida, Virginia?

Yesterday, I began typing a post examining whether it would be prudent for Mitt Romney to forgo any further campaign stops in Florida and Virginia--seeing as he's increasingly likely to win those states--in favor of less solid battleground territory, given that Republicans have a good chance at picking up Senate seats currently held by Democrats in both those states. Then I learned that Hurricane Sandy was making an impact on the campaign; Mitt Romney has already canceled two campaign stops in Virginia, and there's talk of him doing the same in Florida. The central dilemma remains, though: With eleven days left and polls showing a slight but consistent lead for the Republican ticket in these two swing states, would the nominees' time be better psent in states where they're either tied with or slightly behind the incumbents (i.e., New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada)? Or, is control of the U.S. Senate so critical that it's worth stopping in Florida and Virginia again, if only to boost the GOP candidates for Senate there?

Personally, I'd say yes to the former and no to the latter. The reason is threefold. First, a prospective "coattails" effect is usually a shaky basis for a campaign strategy. Second, time is of the essence, and at this point in the campaign, neither side can afford to waste a single hour. Third, there are also heated U.S. Senate races in Nevada, Wisconsin and Ohio, and Republican victories in the first two are critical if the GOP is to retake the chamber. (Picking off Sherrod Brown in Ohio would be nice, and is certainly possible, but unlikely to be decisive.) Strategic ad buys and a campaign rall or two in Michigan and Pennsylvania, which the Obama campaign has taken for granted, might also prove essential to Romney pulling off an upset in either state, which would almost certainly make the outcome in Ohio academic. 

Whatever they decide, it might not make a difference. While the number of appearances each candidate makes in a state doubtless has some marginal impact on voters, it's ground game that's likely to make the difference at this late stage, and what effect (if any) Sandy will have on voter turnout has yet to be seen.

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