All these are states Barack Obama carried by 10 points or more in 2008. Why is the electoral map scrambled this year?
One reason, which I wrote about last week, is that Mitt Romney seems to be running better in affluent suburbs than other recent Republican nominees. That's one reason he made big gains after the first debate in Florida and Virginia -- target states where most votes are cast in relatively affluent suburban counties.
The tightening race in Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Obama carried by 16 and 10 points in 2008, seems to reflect a move toward Romney in the affluent suburbs surrounding Detroit and Philadelphia.
In contrast, Romney has been struggling in Ohio, where the Rasmussen poll released Monday is the first survey in three months that shows him ahead there.
Only one-eighth of Ohio's votes are cast in affluent suburbs. Traditional Republican strength there comes from small industrial counties where the barrage of Obama ads castigating Romney for opposing the auto bailout clearly had some impact.
Another significant shift from 2008 has come in what was once America's Northwest -- Wisconsin, Iowa and, perhaps, Minnesota.
These three states are part of what I call Germano-Scandinavian America, settled in large part by immigrants from Germany, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
This region, which also includes the Dakotas and Nebraska, has always been the most pacifist, isolationist or dovish part of America.
Consider two elections 44 years apart. In 1944, both Iowa and Wisconsin voted for Thomas Dewey over Franklin Roosevelt. In 1988, both these states voted for Michael Dukakis over George H.W. Bush.
One time they were more Republican than the nation; the other time more Democratic. What links the two? Dewey's party was the more isolationist in the years leading up to World War II. Dukakis was one of the most dovish nominees of a party that has been dovish ever since Vietnam.
Obama had a big comparative advantage over John McCain on war and peace issues in this region in 2008. Obama was an early opponent of the Iraq War. McCain strongly supported it and urged the ultimately successful surge strategy before George W. Bush adopted it in late 2006.
Obama's comparative advantage on war and peace issues seems to be gone. His campaign and his convention boasted constantly of how he ordered the attack on Osama bin Laden.
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