- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The tight race is getting tighter.

As Republicans head to Tampa, Fla., to nominate Mitt Romney for president, the contest with President Obama is narrowing in the 10 battleground states that likely will decide the election. Since Aug. 1, Mr. Romney has gained ground in eight of those states, and two of them — Wisconsin and Michigan — are now considered too close to call by some pollsters.

The president has expanded his lead only in New Hampshire, according to the Real Clear Politics averages of state polls.

RCP’s projection of the electoral college count now stands at 221 for Mr. Obama and 191 for Mr. Romney, with 126 electoral votes up for grabs among the 10 swing states. That tally represents momentum of sorts for Mr. Romney, who trailed the president on May 20 by 243 to 170. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

“What we’re seeing now is the tightening of the race that everyone predicted, which makes sense given the economy,” said Jason Johnson, associate professor of political science at Hiram College in northeastern Ohio. “It has to do with people’s frustration with Obama rather than an increased appreciation of Romney.”

Polls show the race narrowing nationally as well. An AP-GfK poll Wednesday showed 47 percent of registered voters supporting Mr. Obama, with 46 percent favoring Mr. Romney. The same poll in June had Mr. Obama with a 3-percentage-point lead nationally.

The states where the battle is mainly being waged are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia. Other states that come into play include Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

But the Romney campaign is still confronting the reality that Mr. Obama leads in nine of the 10 states rated by RCP as too close to call. Only in North Carolina, home of this year’s Democratic National Convention and a state that Mr. Obama won in 2008 by less than 1 percentage point, does the Republican hold a slight advantage.

A profusion of state polls shows mixed signals. Purple Strategies in Alexandria, which conducts a monthly survey of battleground states, said in its August “Purple Poll” report that Mr. Romney picked up 3 points overall since July. But that didn’t help Mr. Romney on the electoral map, according to their analysis.

“The story is mixed across the four most important states,” said Doug Usher, director of the polling firm’s research arm. “He gained in Ohio and Virginia, but lost ground in Colorado and Florida.”

The Purple Poll said Mr. Romney’s lead over Mr. Obama in Florida dwindled from 3 percentage points in July to 1 point in mid-August. A Rasmussen poll taken Aug. 15 showed Mr. Romney with a 2-point lead in Florida, 45 percent to 43 percent, well within the poll’s margin of error.

Republicans are encouraged with the shifting political landscape in the Midwest since Mr. Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate. Wisconsin is now rated as a tossup, after Mr. Obama led there by as many as 7 percentage points in late July. A Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday also showed Mr. Obama’s lead in Wisconsin eroding, from 5 percentage points before Mr. Ryan’s selection was announced to 3 points after the announcement.

“It makes sense that his addition to the ticket would have more effect in Wisconsin given that he represents one-eighth of the state in Congress, has connections to the state’s largest university, and is generally visible in the state,” said Barry Burden, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The race in Ohio, where Mr. Obama had been increasing his lead in the polls in early summer, has narrowed again to within polling margins of error. Mr. Johnson links Republicans’ resurgence in the Buckeye State with the fortunes of Gov. John Kasich, whom he said has enjoyed “an amazing comeback” amid an improving economy there.

“The guy was dead in the water for half of this year, and slowly but surely his approval ratings are up to the mid-40s again,” Mr. Johnson said.

In Michigan, a poll by a Democrat-leaning firm showed Mr. Romney leading by 4 percentage points last week, 48 percent to 44 percent. But some analysts said they want to see more data from Michigan; a different poll taken just a few days earlier showed Mr. Obama with a 5-point lead there.

In some key Senate races, Republicans are improving their positions, according to polls. In Wisconsin, former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson leads in two surveys over his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Baldwin — by 9 points in one poll, 5 in another.

In Connecticut, Republican Linda McMahon has taken the lead in the Senate race against her Democratic rival, Rep. Christopher S. Murphy. A Rasmussen poll showed her with 49 percent support, compared with 46 percent for Mr. Murphy.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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