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Why The Democrats Will Win Ohio And Wisconsin

Christian Patterson |
September 20, 2012 | 9:04 a.m. PDT


President Obama's auto bailout is one of the reasons he'll probably win these two states. (Chrysler Group, Creative Commons)
President Obama's auto bailout is one of the reasons he'll probably win these two states. (Chrysler Group, Creative Commons)
One of the first concepts you learn in an AP government course is the idea of “credit claiming.” It’s a simple notion, really. Credit claiming is when an incumbent office-holder gets to boast about all of the wonderful things they’ve done for their constituents while in office.

Government can be kind of boring sometimes (there’s a reason its on C-SPAN, right?) so officials, naturally, only claim credit for their most thrilling accomplishments. Members of the House of Representatives brag about the number of free pens they’ve handed out in their district. Senators give riveting stump speeches about ribbon-cutting ceremonies. And President Obama tells large crowds about how fun it is to tell voters “I approve this message” several hundred times.

In all seriousness, though, credit claiming gives a huge advantage to an incumbent. It essentially allows them to remind people about all the campaign promises they’ve kept during their time in office. And, sometimes, an incumbent will have an accomplishment actually worth touting. This has been President Obama’s strategy in the key swing states of Ohio and Wisconsin. His commercials and stump speeches in these areas constantly remind voters of the importance of the auto-bailout he backed in late 2008, and expanded in 2009.

Because Ohio and Wisconsin rely on a strong automotive industry to power their economies, the Obama campaign views the auto bailout as the perfect initiative to use to sway Ohio and Wisconsin voters. If Romney is correct in asserting that voters only think about their economic interest when casting their ballots, then Obama has a pretty easy path to victory in these two Midwestern electoral must-haves. He just has to tell voters that he protected their livelihoods while Mitt Romney argued to do the exact opposite.

If only things were that simple. The truth is that credit-claiming doesn’t work with the entire electorate. Some voters cast their ballots with the good of the country in mind. Others side with the candidate who agrees with them on social issues. There are some who will decide based on the direction they think the country is moving. The bad thing for Mitt Romney is that if voters pick any of those metrics, he’ll be in for a long election night.

Obama may not be able to power his way through victories in Ohio and Wisconsin by talking about his support for GM and Chrysler. But other factors still make those states likely to vote for him. Ohio’s unemployment rate rests at just over seven percent, almost an entire point lower than the national average. While that’s not as low as it needs to be, it will probably be enough to convince Ohio voters that Obama is moving the country in the right direction.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is a tenth of a point higher than Ohio’s. If you throw in the fact that the Badger state traditionally leans Democratic, it makes you wonder what argument Mitt Romney could make to swing Obama voters over to his side. Romney’s only real attack on the President has been that the economy is bad, and that Obama has put us on the wrong track. If Ohioans and Wisconsinites feel that their situation is improving, Romney’s message loses a lot of its resonance.

The last week has been a terrible time to be a Republican. Polls from must-win senate races in Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts, Florida and Missouri have all shown GOP candidates falling behind their Democratic opponents. Romney is down eight points in Virginia (another key swing state), and his controversial leaked video, not to mention his haphazard response to violence in the Middle East, have done him no favors.

This seems like a really awful time to pile on to the Republican Party’s list of problems. For that reason, I’m going to do them a favor and offer some advice to Governor Romney and his fellow Republicans: you might not want to get your hopes up about putting Ohio and Wisconsin in the "win" column.


Reach Contributor Christian Patterson here; follow him here.



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