Tale of Two Bus Tours: After Romney’s Offensive, Obama Hits Friendly Turf
Unlike Mitt Romney’s recent bus tour, President Obama’s upcoming roadtrip might feel more like a homestand.
On Tuesday his campaign announced a two-day bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, which will take him across some friendly turf. Not only did Obama win those two states in 2008, he’ll stop in counties that supported him: The president has four scheduled public appearances, each one in a county he carried in 2008.On Thursday, Obama will traverse northern Ohio, a Democratic stronghold. On Friday, he’ll visit Pittsburgh, a Democratic outpost in traditionally Republican western Pennsylvania.
Obama stops at the Wolcott House Museum in Toledo, Ohio, in a county where he defeated John McCain by 31 percentage points; at Washington Park in Sandusky, Ohio, where he won by 4 percentage points; at James W. Day Park and Dobbins Elementary School in Cleveland, where he won by 39 percentage points; and at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he won by 15 percentage points in 2008.
In all, Obama carried the total vote in these four counties by 27 percentage points. If they made up a state, Obama would have won it 63 percent to 36 percent.
Contrast that to Romney’s recent bus tour, on which the former governor ventured into hostile territory. While Obama will play some defense, Romney played mostly offense.Romney’s schedule included stops in many counties Obama won in 2008. By the end of the trip, Romney had appeared in 15 counties, 10 of which Obama won in 2008 and five of which were won by McCain.
In mid-June, Romney’s five-day bus tour swung through New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, all Obama states in 2008. In the 15 counties Romney visited, including major Obama strongholds in Madison, Wis., and Davenport, Iowa, Obama carried the total vote by 5 percentage points. Counting all votes cast, Obama defeated McCain 50 percent to 45 percent in Romney’s bus-tour counties.
“We’re certainly campaigning on their turf,” Romney strategist Russ Schriefer told reporters the day the tour began.
Why did Obama’s campaign choose such friendly territory?A campaign official explained the stops as “still-critical towns and markets,” and in Pennsylvania, Obama will reach voters who opposed him last time, as Pittsburgh’s media market covers surrounding counties that all voted for McCain. Pennsylvania’s Democratic counties surround Philadelphia, the state’s southeastern region.
But in Ohio, Obama will largely seek to energize and solidify his 2008 base. The tour will take Obama across the northern part of the state, where every county east of Toledo backed him last time.
Ohio is among a handful of swing states Obama won in 2008 and is struggling to hold. In 2008, the Obama defeated John McCain 52 percent to 47 percent in Ohio, but he registered only 42 percent approval there in 2011, according to a January state-approval-rating report by Gallup. When Quinnipiac University polled there in May, Ohio rated as a statistical tie, with Obama leading Romney45 percent to 44 percent.
In a conference call with reporters this week, the Obama campaign stressed economic recovery in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“The president’s leadership has helped reduce Ohio’s unemployment rate for 10 consecutive months, with manufacturing and agriculture leading the way. So many Ohioans are working again that in every county in our state, unemployment is lower today than it was a year ago,” former Ohio governor Ted Strickland (D) said.
“Four years ago, then-Sen. Obama came to Pittsburgh and promised to strengthen American manufacturing. And once we elected him, he’s kept that promise many times over,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn. “Since March 2010, Pennsylvania alone has added more than 10,000 new manufacturing jobs.”
Given that Obama won in 2008, we can expect to see him repeatedly visit states (and counties) that supported him last time. If those states didn’t merit Obama’s attention, it would signal a landslide re-election for him in 2012.
To play offense in Ohio, Obama would need to travel south, reaching Republican counties and red media markets in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. But if Thursday and Friday are slow news days, and with Congress in recess, not much will be happening, politically, Obama could reach more voters outside the counties he visits. If TV stations and newspapers in other media markets choose to cover it, Obama would get exposure across the swing state.