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The 10 states that will decide the presidency

New Gallup numbers tracking President Obama’s job approval rating in each of the 50 states makes clear that the 2012 election will almost certainly come down to ten swing states. In each of those ten states — Iowa, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, Ohio, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado — the President’s approval rating is somewhere between 44 percent and 49 percent. (You can see all of Gallup’s data — in map form no less! — at the bottom of this post.) All told, the states will dole out 148 electoral votes, more than half of the 270 total that either nominee will need to claim the presidency next November. In 2008, Obama won nine of the ten — losing Arizona due in large part to Sen. John McCain’s homestate appeal. While the Gallup numbers are lower than Obama would like, they reveal that each of the ten states is rightly regarded as tossup between the president and the eventual Republican nominee at the moment. And the toss-up nature of so many swing states suggests that the campaign to come will matter as Obama seeks to find ways to convince voters that he has earned a second term. The Gallup data, which was taken from tracking polls conducted by the organization over the first six months of the year, makes clear not only where the presidential race is likely to be fought but also swing states in past elections that might not see as much action this cycle. Obama’s job approval rating in Indiana and Missouri — he won the Hoosier State and narrowly lost Show Me State in 2008 — are at 42 percent, territory that will make it difficult for him to recover in time for November 2012. Perhaps the biggest shocker of the data is that Obama stands at just 40 percent job approval in New Hampshire, a state that moved heavily toward Democrats in 2008 but saw Republican gains across the board in 2010. Given the primacy of the Granite State in the GOP presidential fight and the state’s record as a swing state, it’s uniquely possible that it could wind up in our final list of swing states when all is said and done. The news is better for Obama in Minnesota, a state that is regularly targeted by Republicans but hasn’t been won by a GOP nominee since Richard Nixon in 1972. In Michigan, Obama stands at 50 percent despite the massive struggles of the state’s economy. (George H.W. Bush in 1988 was the last Republican to carry the Wolverine State.) Wisconsin is not currently included in the ten states that will decide the presidency but may well jump into that category eventually given that Obama is at 50 percent approval in the state and it has emerged as a national lightning rod given the fight earlier this between Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) and organized labor over collective bargaining rights. (The recall elections in the Wisconsin state Senate are set for tomorrow.) What the Gallup data confirms that 2012 is likely to feature a smaller number of true swing states than we saw in 2008. That’s good news for the Republican nominee who almost certainly won’t have the financial might that Obama has already demonstrated in the early days of the 2012 campaign. The smaller the number of targeted states, the easier it will be for the Republican nominee to match — or come close to matching — the incumbent dollar for dollar on the ground and on the television airwaves. Expect Obama to spend the vast majority of his time between now and next November in these ten states. He and his political team know that his presidency rests on his performance in them.

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