Politics

Race tightens in swing states as Ryan makes energetic entrance

Race tightens in swing states as Ryan makes energetic entrance

Call it the Paul Ryan effect.

Going into the Republican National Convention, the Romney ticket continues to trail the Obama campaign by a slim margin in many of the battleground states. But since Ryan became Mitt Romney’s running mate earlier this month, the Republican challengers have picked up steam in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, a swing state that had been leaning to the left before his selection.

Public Policy Polling data released last week gave the Republican contenders a one-point lead in the state, while other polls, on average, showed President Barack Obama’s lead cut in half since Ryan’s selection.

A fresh face with fiscal chops and a record of principled conservatism, Ryan could help to unite heartland conservatives behind the Republican ticket. And so far, Democratic attacks on Ryan’s budget proposal and past iterations of a Medicare plan have not proved too threatening.

With Obama keeping a narrow one-to-two point lead in most of the crucial swing states (Romney maintains a one-point edge in North Carolina, the only key battleground state currently in his column), Republican strategists hope the buzz generated from the Ryan pick will boost the Romney ticket and keep the Democratic incumbents off-message. Strategist Cheri Jacobus said that’s exactly what’s happening.

“Since the Ryan announcement, we’ve seen the Democrats go into complete and utter disarray,” Jacobus said. She said incidents from Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter’s bobbling of questions about smear ad subject Joe Soptic, who speciously accused Romney of being responsible for the death of his wife, to outrage over Vice President Joe Biden’s incendiary comment that the Republicans would put black Americans “back in chains” were all signs of the campaign’s desperation.

Nasty, ugly, disappointing

“It’s nasty, it’s ugly, it’s disappointing, and it can be a bit depressing,” Jacobus said. “But the flip side of that is that (the Democrats are) showing their hand.”

Overall, Romney trails Obama by about 2.7 percentage points nationwide, roughly double the distance that was between Obama and Republican contender John McCain at this point last election cycle, according to RealClearPolitics polling averages.

“Those margins will close as we get into the convention and Labor Day,” Jacobus said. “People are going to start paying attention and liking what they see.”

At the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, political analyst Kyle Kondik said Obama was in a weaker position this election as an incumbent, in spite of his greater lead.

“We’ve got a very close race nationally. It’s kind of a coin flip race at this point,” Kondik said.

At the convention in Tampa, Romney will have his best opportunity to show potential supporters what he stands for and unite his base—with its spectrum of tea party Republicans, Ron Paul supporters, and moderates—firmly behind him, Kondik said.

“I think they’re just going to want a credible critique of President Obama. They’re not going to want to see any mistakes, and they’re going to want to see that he’s one of them I think,” Kondik said. “Romney needs to sort of go to the right a little bit but also go to the center. So that can be kind of a difficult dance.”

While the post-convention ratings bounce tends to be a temporary effect without much real impact on a campaign, Kondik said that wasn’t always the case, particularly when the candidates were neck-and-neck.

“We’ll see if Romney can get a little bounce out of this convention,” Kondik said. “2004 was a really close race, but (Republican nominee George W.) Bush took the lead after his convention and never gave it up.”

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