Romney Camp Sees Upper Midwest Coming Into Play

Romney Camp Sees Upper Midwest Coming Into Play

By Erin McPike - August 22, 2012

Lost amid the daily uproar over embattled Senate candidate Todd Akin's refusal to drop his Missouri bid is a growing effort by the GOP to spotlight a tightening presidential race in the Upper Midwest.

The Republican National Committee has pounced on new polling data in Michigan and Wisconsin that show President Obama losing ground to Mitt Romney after the latter announced Paul Ryan as his running mate. And in what may -- or may not -- have been a coincidence, Vice President Joe Biden made a pair of campaign stops in Minnesota on Tuesday and will make several more in Michigan today.

To be sure, there’s a high degree of skepticism in some Republican circles about whether any of these states will truly be in play this fall. But given Romney’s growing fundraising advantage over Obama, the ultimate effect of this shift may simply be to force the president to spend more money defending his shrinking lead there.

Romney will visit Minnesota on Thursday but only to headline a pair of fundraisers. He has not campaigned publicly in the state since he lost the primary there in February. And yet, Biden’s visits on Tuesday did include a couple of rallies intended to bracket Romney coverage in the local press, perhaps as a preventive measure.

An Obama campaign official explained Tuesday that “Democrats have strong support and great volunteers across Minnesota, and the vice president is there today to fire them up for the final months of the campaign. He will also participate in two DCCC fundraisers while he is in town.”

Democratic strategist C.R. Wooters of Purple Strategies added, “Biden is going to Minnesota and Michigan this week because it's the end of August and not the end of October. He's giving some love to big states that Obama needs to win, and that's never a bad idea.”

Still, American Conservative Union Executive Director Gregg Keller scoffed: “I think the fact that Joe Biden has been dispatched to Minnesota, which was the only state to go against Reagan in 1984, tells you everything you need to know about where the Obama campaign really thinks this campaign is right now.”

Most Republicans wouldn’t suggest that Minnesota is winnable for Romney this fall, but Biden’s visit there this week meant a day not spent in, say, Ohio or other much tighter battlegrounds.

What may be more significant are Biden’s stops Wednesday in Michigan, where the race is tightening even more. There is the potential for a spillover effect throughout the region if one state becomes more competitive, and Republicans are eager to exploit that possibility.

Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller blasted a pair of memos to the press on Tuesday, and asserted at the top of one that Obama now has “Upper Midwest Problems” due to a pair of polls showing Romney ahead narrowly in Michigan and Wisconsin.

In the Wolverine State, the RCP polling average shows Obama leading, 48.4 percent to 43 percent -- a sizable advantage but one that has declined slightly.

Perhaps more significant is Obama’s diminished lead in Wisconsin, Paul Ryan’s home state. According to the RCP average, the president is now ahead by just 48.8 percent to 46.2 percent.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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