A Look at the 2012 Swing States

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Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at Otterbein University April 27, 2012 in Westerville, Ohio.
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This week President Obama is visiting Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states that are already pegged as crucial swing states in the 2012 presidential election. But although these two states are getting the majority of the attention, there are many states that could go to either candidate.

Anna Sale, reporter for our co-producer WNYC's It's a Free Country, provides a closer look at this year's swing states.

"Ohio and Florida are definite toss-ups," Sale says. In Ohio, "It's going to a fight to the finish." President Obama has been campaigning in Ohio on the strength of the auto industry bailout, which Republican candidate Mitt Romney had criticized in 2008, but then took credit for in May of this year. "His message primarily was 'jobs, jobs jobs,'" Sale says, "'and that jobs aren't coming back fast enough, but I am the leader to make more jobs come back.'" Florida is going to be just as tight of a race, as a recent poll shows President Obama leading Romney by 1.3 percent, well within the poll's 3 percent margin for error. 

What comes out of that uncertainty is the campaigns call their "western plans" — strategies to win over states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. 

The demographic shift in the west, especially in Nevada, makes Sale think that the Democrats will have an edge in that state. "That's a state where demographics are certainly looking like they're going towards Democrats' advantage," Sale says. "The Latino share and the black share of the electorate expanded in 2008, and the white share shrunk a little bit." La Raza, a prominent Hispanic civil rights group, is having its annual conference in Las Vegas this weekend, and Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to make an appearance. A recent poll there has President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney 48 percent to 42. 

North Carolina, on the other hand, is moving in the opposite direction. "President Obama won that state [in 2008] by just a sliver, and it's looking like it's moving from a toss-up state to a lean Republican state," Sale says. At the state level, the legislature has been actively pursuing Republican policies, including an overriding of Democratic Governor Bev Purdue's veto of a budget that strips Planned Parenthood of funding. Democratic Representative Becky Carney did her party no favors when she accidentally voted to override the governor's veto of a bill to allow shale oil exploration, or "fracking." 

Iowa and New Hampshire are two more states that are going to be toss-ups come November. WNYC's It's a Free Country will be heading out next week to talk to voters' across the country. "We're trying to get a sense of what people are saying in these key voter demographics," Sale says.