What does it mean that Mitt Romney's campaign is spending money on ads in Minnesota and Pennsylvania? The Romney campaign says he's expanding the map, while the Obama campaign says Romney knows he can't win enough swing states to get 270 electoral votes. A new poll from The New York Times/ CBS News/ Quinnipiac suggests Romney still has work to do in the usual battleground states. The poll finds President Obama beating Romney by 48 percent to 47 percent in Florida, by 50 percent to 45 percent in Ohio, and by 49 percent to 47 percent in Virginia. Most polls have shown Romney leading Florida, but the candidates have been really close in Virginia. Aside from one poll this week from right-leaning Rasmussen, Romney hasn't been ahead in an Ohio survey since early October. A poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling out Wednesday finds Obama to have a 5-point lead in Iowa and Wisconsin.
But it's that time in the election where every poll gives you a number to seize on to believe whatever you want to believe. Many are pointing out that the Quinnipiac poll shows Romney winning independent voters by 21 percentage points. How could any candidate win while losing independent voters by that much? The independents can't just be Republican-leaning voters who won't call themselves Republican, The Hill's Christian Heinze writes, because the same Quinnipiac poll showed Obama winning independents by 2 points two weeks ago.
At The Washington Examiner, Conn Carroll suggests we ignore all battleground polls now. They "have become essentially worthless" because they have different findings on what turnout will look like. (The New York Times' Nate Silver has shown, historically, averages of swing state polls have actually been quite accurate at picking the eventual winner at this point in the election, especially if a candidate is leading by 2 points or more.) Carroll says that looking at blue state polls, which show Obama leading by a much narrower margin than he won the states by in 2008, shows we're seeing a "rising Romney tide" -- more voters everywhere looking for a change.
What do the campaigns themselves say? Romney's campaign put out a press release titled "Ever Expanding Map: PA," but Politico's Jonathan Martin says that "suggests that his campaign wants the idea that they’re competing there broadcast as much as they actually want to compete there." The campaigns are clearly in taunting mode. Romney's political director, Rich Beeson, told him "This is the path to 300. McCain wasn’t trying to get to 300, he was trying to get to 270" when he visited Pennsylvania in 2008. Beeson said of the Obama campaign, "If we were on the run in a way that they said we were, we’d be sitting in Indiana, Missouri or Arizona." On MSNBC Wednesday morning, Obama strategist David Axelrod said, "I will come on Morning Joe and I will shave off my mustache [of] 40 years if we lose any of those states," referring to Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. But the Obama campaign is sending Bill Clinton to Wisconsin Thursday, and Joe Biden to Pennsylvania later this week, just for extra insurance for Axelrod's facial hair.