The first USA TODAY/Gallup Swing States Poll since the GOP settled on moderate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as its presumptive Presidential nominee shows an interesting dynamic for Romney and the GOP.
After the Republican Party nominated one of the most moderate candidates in the field, enthusiasm for Romney is down among self-identified GOP moderates and Romney’s likely victory or defeat now hinges on “swing states” where Tea Party backed candidates made strong showings in the 2010 Tea Party wave election.
Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin are the swing states Romney needs to win to be elected. Key states, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida that contributed to Obama’s 365 to 173 electoral vote blow-out of the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008 are in play at this time – barely.
Evidence of Romney's problem in Tea Party influenced states is that while Tea Party and conservative-backed office holders are solidifying their popularity, he does not seem to be benefiting from their popularity.
In the state of Michigan, one of Romney’s “home” states where he narrowly won the Republican primary. Romney’s post-primary approval fell and he trails Obama by 6 points or more – Democratic polling firm PPP has Obama leading Romney by 16 in Michigan.
In contrast, Obama’s job approval rating has gone up from 42 percent in September to 50 percent today, and his disapproval rating has dropped from 50 percent to 45 percent.
Michigan's Tea Party backed Governor Rick Snyder's approval rating of 38 percent in September has now hit 50 percent in the state. The Governor's disapproval rating is now down to 36 percent, compared to 46 percent in September.
Tea Party backed Florida Governor Rick Scott, whose “shakeup Tallahassee” agenda cost him some popularity as he made tough calls on the budget, has gone up 10 points recently and is now at 43 percent, statistically the same as Obama’s 43 percent. Romney’s multi-million dollar carpet bombing of Newt Gingrich in Florida gained him exactly 1 point over Obama to place him at 43 percent.
In Pennsylvania, after Rick Santorum dropped out, Romney didn’t run his usual barrage of negative ads. According to the Quinnipiac poll, Romney actually lost five points while running virtually unopposed in the Pennsylvania primary, and now trails Obama 47 percent to 39 percent.
Since March, Obama has gained two points while Romney lost three. Despite campaigning in the state, Romney still has a negative approval rating, with only 35 percent approving and 39 percent disapproving. Obama’s approval rating in Pennsylvania is 51 percent approve to 43 disapprove.
The states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, were three of the top states where the Tea Party wave swept new constitutional conservative members into Congress. In Florida, four of the seven new Republicans were elected with significant Tea Party support, in Ohio the Tea Party backed candidates contributed five freshmen to the House Republican ranks, and in Pennsylvania four out of the five new Republicans in the delegation were elected with strong Tea Party support.
As Gallup noted, this enthusiasm gap is hurting Romney, “Obama's swing-state prospects also look a bit brighter than Romney's on the basis of voter enthusiasm. More than half of Obama's supporters, 55 percent, are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in this year's presidential election, up from 49 percent saying this in March. By contrast, 46 percent of Romney's supporters are extremely or very enthusiastic, unchanged from 47 percent in March. Today's figures reflect a reversal from January, when 55 percent of Romney voters were extremely or very enthusiastic, compared with 50 percent of Obama voters.”
In most of the so-called “swing” states, the recent progress made by the GOP has been powered by Tea Party enthusiasm and Tea Party backed candidates. Unfortunately for Romney, while liberal and moderate support for him has predictably waned, the Tea Party enthusiasm that has been winning elections for the GOP in those key “swing states” has yet to rub-off on him.