12:47pm September 25, 2012

Obama vs. Romney in VA, OH, FL… and Swing-State Economies


The old adage that politics is local remains true in 2012. While most polls spout out national projections, as I wrote earlier, it is best to pay attention to state-level polling. In several states, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida and Nevada, the economies have much in common, but also important differences with national trends. These differences are important to follow.

The national unemployment rate is 8.1%, while the August unemployment rates in these six swing states is as follows:

Virginia, 5.9%

Ohio, 7.2%

Wisconsin, 7.5%

Colorado, 8.2%

Florida, 8.8%

Nevada, 12.1%

In 2008, Obama won each of the six and their 84 total Electoral College votes and Obama cannot afford to lose them in 2012. This is because North Carolina (with its 9.7% unemployment rate) looks like it will flip to Romney and Iowa (5.5% unemployment) is =teetering on indecision.

In the 2010 midterm elections, House Democrats lost 17 seats in these six states. Clearly, voters in these states will hold a party responsible and will insist on change if they feel it is warranted.

Yet, Obama currently leads or is in a statistical tie in all of these states. Why is this happening?

Many voters, especially where the unemployment rate is lower than the national average believe that Obama’s policies are working somewhere even if they are not working everywhere just yet.

So, what was peak unemployment in each of those six states during the Great Recession?

Virginia, 7.3% (January 2010)

Ohio, 10.6% (July 2009 – January 2010)

Wisconsin, 9.2% (June 2009 and January 2010)

Colorado, 9.0% (September-November, 2010)

Florida, 11.4% (January-February, 2010)

Nevada, 14.0% (October, 2010)

Notice that that their peak unemployment was in 2010 and consequently Obama and congressional Democrats felt the voters’ wrath in 2010. In November of that year, many voters did not see an economic turnaround coming and Democrats were punished. Since then the unemployment rate has dropped:

Virginia, -1.4%

Ohio, -3.4%

Wisconsin, -1.7%

Colorado, -0.8%


Nevada, -1.9%

That progress, slow and incremental as it may seem, is enabling Obama to remain competitive despite the political punditry’s belief that a bad economy should wreck Obama’s reelection chances. The reality is that all politics is local and voters in these six swing states see improving local economies. Therefore, Romney’s claim that Obama “does not understand” the economy fails to register given 30-straight months of job growth.

About the Author

Marvin King
Marvin King
Marvin King received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of North Texas and his B.A. from the University of Texas. Now, he is an Associate Professor of Political Science with a joint appointment in the African American Studies Program at the University of Mississippi. He conducts research into how political institutions affect African American politics. Marvin is available for public speaking engagements and you can follow him on Twitter @kingpolitics



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