A new poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University, CBS News, and the New York Times took the pulse of this year's swing states, which now includes Wisconsin, the Badger State. Here are some of the key facts of the poll:
• Florida: Obama leads over Romney 49% to 46%, which is a slight tightening over Obama's August 1st lead of 51%-45%.
• Ohio: Obama is crushing Romney 50% to 44%, with no change from Augst 1.
• Wisconsin: Paul Ryan delivers a home-field bump, with Obama at 49% and Romney at 47%, a switch from Obama's August 1 lead of 51%-45%.
As the race tightens during these last days of summer before the Republican and Democratic conventions, what should the candidates be doing if they hope to claim a victory in November?
Each candidate has already secured his base; Obama by passing the majority of his agenda during his first term and Romney by picking a conservative running mate. Now is not the time to appeal to ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative voters. According to the CBS News analysis of the polls:
"Few likely voters are undecided in these battleground states, and nine in 10 say their minds are made up. Only one in 10 says they could change their minds about who to support."
There are still four critical voting groups who can sway the election: women, independents, the elderly, and youth voters. The key to this election is that the same handful of issues apply to all of these groups. The economy, health care, taxes, and jobs affect all Americans. The recent college grad and pensioner alike have to worry about paying off debt, the cost and quality of their health care, and how much of their paycheck will go to taxes over their lifetime.
These polls trace issues that will decide matters in the swing states:
• Caring: Obama leads 52% to 35% percent when polled on “care about the needs of people like you.” Those this may seem a trivial measure, it goes much deeper than "who you'd like to have a beer with." The issues people care about right now are major questions about country's direction.
• Obama has an astronomical lead over Romney with African-American voters. Again, the key here is for Obama to spend his time wooing independents, while Romney needs to appeal to food-on-the-table issues that appeal to all voters.
• Women. Obama holds a 13-point lead amongst women voters in Ohio. The "war on women" that has caused such controversy over the past several months actually hides the fact that women's issues are rather low on both candidate's agendas. This voting block can only be swung out of the liberal camp by a clear Republican enunciation of economic issues.
At this point, Obama's lead in the swing states looks conclusive. There is always time for surprises, however, like in the case of Carter's astonishing lead over Ronald Reagan that suddenly flipped to a Republican victory. Peggy Noonan's advice to Romney applies equally well to both sides: articulate why your plan for health care and the economy is better, and you can sway anxious voters.