President Obama’s victory in Colorado was among his most prized accomplishments in 2008, after the state had voted reliably Republican in eight of the last nine presidential elections. A wariness of big government could test Mr. Obama in the Rocky Mountain West, but Mitt Romney faces his own challenge in appealing to independents and women, whose support was critical in a pair of Democratic wins in races for Senate and governor in Colorado in 2010.
The most famous battleground state in America could once again earn that title. President Obama carried the state in 2008, but a wave of home foreclosures and a sour economy has complicated his path to an easy victory. A growing number of conservative retirees offer Mitt Romney hope, but the outcome could hinge on whether he can win over Hispanic voters, particularly younger Cuban Americans in southern Florida and Puerto Ricans in central Florida.
President Obama has a sentimental attachment to Iowa for delivering his first victory in his improbable primary race four years ago. But the state presents a far bigger challenge this time. Mitt Romney and the full Republican field spent months attacking Mr. Obama in the Iowa caucus campaign this year, which has kept the president’s poll ratings lower than other nearby states. In a close general election, these six electoral votes are critical to both sides.
The White House has paid close attention to New Hampshire, sending Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to the state repeatedly to make an argument against Mitt Romney, who has a vacation home in New Hampshire and is seen as a favorite son. The voters have an independent streak, but generally oppose what they perceive as government intrusion in their lives. It could be one of Mr. Romney’s best opportunities to win a state that Mr. Obama carried.
The economic outlook in Nevada has declined considerably since President Obama won the state four years ago and has been slow to rebound. With the nation’s highest rates of home foreclosure and unemployment, Mitt Romney has a ready-made laboratory to argue that policies of the Obama administration have not worked. A large Mormon population also could bolster Mr. Romney, but Mr. Obama is hoping his appeal to Hispanic and lower-income voters will deliver the state again.
There are few credible paths to the White House for Mitt Romney without winning Ohio, a well-established bellwether. The state has accurately picked winning presidential candidates in the last 12 elections. A steadily improving economy could help President Obama carry the state again. Large portions of the state remain conservative, but Republicans worry that Democrats may be motivated by a victory last year in which voters struck down a law restricting public workers’ rights to bargain collectively.
As one of the nation’s newest battleground states, Virginia will be center stage in President Obama’s fight for re-election. The state is deeply conservative, but population shifts in Northern Virginia have changed the state’s political demographics. Mitt Romney’s argument against the expansion of government is complicated by the number of government workers in Virginia. The president carried the state by seven percentage points in 2008, but both campaigns agree the race will be closer this year.
The addition of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin to the Republican ticket does not guarantee victory over President Obama, but it cements the state’s role as a true battleground. Democrats carried the state in the last six presidential contests – often narrowly – but Republican groups are advertising to try to push the Obama campaign to spend money. Still, Mitt Romney is at the top of the ticket and must show that he can make his own case here.