Michael Barone
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Back in May, I wrote a column laying out possible scenarios for the 2012 campaign different from the conventional wisdom that it would be a long, hard slog through a fixed list of target states like the race in 2004.

I thought alternatives were possible because partisan preferences in the half dozen years before 2004 were very stable, while partisan preferences over the last half dozen years have been anything but.

Now, after Mitt Romney's big victory in the Oct. 3 debate and his solid performances in the Oct. 16 and 22 debates, there is evidence that two of my alternative scenarios may be unfolding.

The list of target states has certainly not been fixed. Barack Obama's campaign spent huge sums on anti-Romney ads to create a firewall in three states that the president won narrowly in 2008 -- Florida, Ohio and Virginia. But post-debate polling shows Romney ahead in Florida and tied in Virginia.

National Journal's Major Garrett reported last week that Obama strategist David Plouffe omitted Florida and Virginia in a list of key states but mentioned Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Obama carried the latter three by 10, 10 and 12 points in 2008.

So much for the firewall. In addition, polling shows Romney ahead in Colorado, which Obama carried by 9 points last time, and the race closing in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, which Obama carried by 14, 10 and 16 points.

That tends to validate my alternative scenario that Mitt Romney would fare much better in affluent suburbs than Republican nominees since 1992, running more like George Bush did in 1988. The only way Pennsylvania and Michigan can be close is if Obama's support in affluent Philadelphia and Detroit suburbs has melted away.

This also helps explain why Romney still narrowly trails in Ohio polls. Affluent suburban counties cast about one-quarter of the votes in Pennsylvania and Michigan but only one-eighth in Ohio.

A pro-Romney affluent swing is confirmed by the internals of some national polls. The 2008 exit poll showed Obama narrowly carrying voters with incomes over $75,000. Post-debate Pew Research and Battleground polls have shown affluent suburbanite Romney carrying them by statistically significant margins.

In particular, college-educated women seem to have swung toward Romney since Oct. 3. He surely had them in mind in the foreign policy debate when he kept emphasizing his hopes for peace and pledged no more wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM