Nevada Is a Test for Mitt's Romney Campaign — And Right Now, It's Failing

President Obama is in Nevada this week preparing for tomorrow night’s debate with GOP rival Mitt Romney. Nevada isn’t a large state: It has just six votes in the electoral college. But it’s an important swing state, one that both campaigns are vying to win.

It’s also a state with a deeply distressed economy and a voting populace that has flirted with the idea of turning on Democrats it once supported. Which means that Nevada offers a test of the Romney campaign’s basic operating theory. And it’s a test that, at least for right now, the Romney campaign is failing.

The core premise of the Romney campaign is pretty simple. Swing voters who pulled the lever for Barack Obama in 2008 can be convinced to vote for Mitt Romney in 2012 because of the economy.

The pitch goes something like this: Obama is a decent guy, but he has failed to make good on his promises. His policies haven’t worked as well as we all hoped. The economy is still struggling to recover. And so it’s time for a change. Vote Romney.

That’s a message seemingly tailor-made for Nevada. At 12.1 percent, the state has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, almost a point and a half higher than any other state. The state’s housing values have plummeted, and its real estate market remains one of the most distressed in the nation. Fifty-five percent of the state voted for Obama in 2008, and has repeatedly elected the Democrat Harry Reid to the Senate. But in 2010, the state’s voters were ready to turn on the top Senate Democrat, whose approval ratings had plummeted; he only won because of the shockingly inept campaign run by his GOP opponent, Sharon Angle. 

A swing state. An unusually bad economy. Voters who have indicated a potential willingness to reject Democrats they’ve voted for in the past. All of these factors make Nevada a nearly perfect state in which to assess the effectiveness of the Romney campaign’s core message. 

And what we see is that so far it doesn’t appear to be working.

Obama leads Romney in the state by an average of 5.2 points, according to the latest RealClearPolitics polling average. One poll by the state retail association shows the two candidates in a tie. But all the other polls, including Rasmussen Reports, show the president up by at least 2 points. Obama has held his lead since at least March, and while Romney closed some of the gap between June and September, President Obama has started to pull away again in recent weeks.

That’s not good news for a campaign whose core message is primed to target voters in states like Nevada. And it suggests that Romney’s insistence on making an economic case against Obama without making a strong case for himself isn’t enough. Romney’s basic campaign strategy has been to argue that on the economy, President Obama has gotten it all wrong. And then when asked what he would do instead, Romney’s response usually boils down to: President Obama has gotten it all wrong. 

Right now, that’s not convincing enough people in Nevada for Romney to win. It’s not convincing enough people in the nation as a whole. With an average spread of just three points between the two candidates, it’s a closer race than a lot of the “it’s-all-over” punditry might lead one to believe, but Obama is clearly a stride or two ahead. And I suspect part of the reason why is that even though voters are well aware of Obama’s weaknesses, they’re still uncertain about Romney’s strengths. 

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  • Paul.||

    Biden 2016!

    And foist!

  • Hugh Akston||

    Wouldn't it behoove ROMNIAC to augment his campaign against four years of admittedly failed Obamanomics with, I don't know, some kind of coherent alternative?

  • Paul.||

    I dislike Romney (and laugh at his inept campaign) as much as the next guy... but there's evidence that if Romney did say something coherent, the media would simultaneously call it a gaffe. I really think it's a lose/lose. We're going to have Obama for eight years, the media wants it so. The only question left is can someone run a good candidate against Biden/Clinton in 2016.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Precisely.

    Romney's comments in the aftermath of the Libya attacks were totally spot-on, BO's reaction looked totally botched to me and every sane person, and BO wound up winning the narrative anyway.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Biden/Clinton?!?!

    She'll rip Biden's head off before she opts to be his running mate.

    It'll be Clinton in the top spot. she's waited her goddamn turn.

  • robc||

    Kerry 2004.

    Romney is making the same mistake.

    Actually, Romney was pretty clear up front that he was the "Anybody but Obama" candidate. As bad as Gingrich or Santorum are, they would have run on an actual message.

    Romney ran on "Vote for me, Im the default!"

    I know that some disagree, but Paul would be romping if he had been chosen.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Until the racist newsletters are front and center on every MSM newscast on Oct 15.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Unless there was new info, that sting lost its bite by the end of the primary. If it hadn't had an effect by then, nothing would have changed by now.

  • robc||

    Yawn.

    1. It never would have made it to 10/15.

    2. Been there, done that.

  • Paul.||

    Even if Paul had won the nomination but lost the election (which I suspect would have been the case) the campaign would have been much more satisfying. And given a real difference on major policy matters, I can only imagine the circus the media would have become once confronted with a candidate that actually differed in substance and style from Obama.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Just imagine the talking points Obama would have had to respond to. Paul doesn't have the "OMIGOD the focus groups responded negatively" filter Romeny has. He'd have been a much more entertaining presidential candidate and made Obama justify himself on a completely different level. People may have still voted for him, but the level of cognitive dissonance they'd have had to some up would have been epic!!

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Paul remained too rough of a candidate. The neocons would be writing in Guiliani before they'd vote for Paul. The republican party is pretty damn fractured.

  • robc||

    Bullshit. They would hold their nose and vote for Paul just like they are doing for Romney.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    The neocons like Romney, he promised bigger and better military. Its us libertarians that would have to hold our nose and despite the poll showing we are, I think libertarians really aren't doing so for him. The socons we can sometimes agree with at arms length, but the neocons are conservative democrats and really an antithesis to the libertarian wing of the party, so its hard to get both on board.

  • Paul.||

    I agree with Robc on this. It would have been a fascinating trip to hear people like Limbaugh beat the drum for Ron Paul.

    I think you'll recall that Limbaugh had a great disdain for McCain back in the 90s (when I paid any attention to LImbaugh at all) but while I didn't listen to him at all in the aughts, I'll bet he got on board with McCain in 08.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    it would be interesting, but I think you'd see neocons started making sympathetic noises for obama before they admitted nice things about Paul.

  • robc||

    Of course, based on the article last week, Romney can only get 3-5 EC votes from Nevada, as 1-3 will be going to Paul if he wins.

    I dont think this should effect his effort, as denying them to Obama is the most important thing, but it might.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    you really think Paul is going to get some electoral votes?

    I haven't been reading any details about that stuff, but I figured by announcing that in advance anybody who was going to do that must already be in the process of getting out-procedured and getting their status as elector removed.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Romney's strengths are things that play into BO and his dogwashers' narrative. His private sector management experience at Bain Capital is a losing issue for him because people are deluded, envious morons.

    The more I look at this situation the more I think people are going to vote for the govt they deserve. Unfortunately, people like me who are serious and informed on the issues are going to get the same govt.

  • Hugh Akston||

    What about people like me, O Srs One?

  • Tulpa Doom||

    I don't know you so I cannot evaluate. For all I know your glib behavior on this blog is just a character you play for fun.

  • Paul.||

    Unfortunately, people like me who are serious and informed on the issues

    Akston is as serial and reformed on the issues as anyone around these parts. I eagerly await is opinions on the matters.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Kind words, sirrah. For the record I am firmly in favor of the issues, and against those things that everybody hates.

  • Paul.||

    I concur. I too am more like I am now than I ever was before.

  • Hugh Akston||

    No I really am this clueless and apathetic. The brief flashes of angry lucidity I display on drone/torture/TSA threads is the character.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Matt Damon?

  • ||

    If only there were somebody in the GOP with alternative, more libertarian policies the party apparatus could have selected as its candidate. Alas!

  • Tulpa Doom||

    RP would be losing by 20 points. The neocons and many of the sociocons would have abandoned him, and there is no f-ing way any leftist would desert BO for him when the racist newsletters are brought up.

  • robc||

    Bullshit on both parts.

    He is a socon, they would be voting for him. To be fair though, Im still clueless how a baptist lost to a mormon and 2 catholics in SC.

    The newsletters are old news. They stopped mattering in 1996.

  • B.P.||

    Hell, they didn't even stop mattering on HyR. Imagine if the public at large got spoonfed that stuff by the media, night after night, in a general election.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    if Paul had won the nomination, it wouldn't have mattered because he'd be too big at that point to write off. people would actually start hearing what he had to say and the story would just look like the media was eating their own shit over and over again, even if some people would have called him racist to the end of time. the point is that the damage really could only hurt him in the primary and they covered it so extensively then that it would have been an echo by now.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    neocons maybe, socons hardly. I think he'd be in exactly the same position since more independents would feel comfortable snubbing Obama and voting for him. Entire subsections of the parties would be realigning.

  • Paul.||

    Obama embraced gay rights. No one else matters.

    I'm beginning to realize that move by Obama was fucking genius. He knew his constituency (and their massive, gaping weakness) better than I ever could have imagined. Hell, I didn't even know they were that weak. But apparently he did, and exploit it he did.

    As someone who counts a higher-than-average (I suspect) number of gay friends, family members and associates than the average American, the justifications they're making for Obama are both shocking and breathtaking.

    Some are quite literally convinced that Romney will be sending out squads of brownshirts in Mercedes Paddy Wagons rounding up gay people and jailing them.

    Obama's 11th hour switch to pro-gay marriage may have actually been the thing to turn his election around. Hell, no one's even talking about the Middle East any more, so that whole foreign policy angle is a dead letter, from where I stand.

  • B.P.||

    Ditto to that. A large portion of my facebook friends roster (I don't talk to anyone in person anymore) earnestly believes that the two most important issues are free contraception/abortions and gay marriage.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    if you're employed and not affected by afghanistan I can see how that would matter. Young people in manhattan could give two shits about who we bomb around the world, but have alot of gay friends and know women that want the pill. Obama knows that and knows however much he's failed, all his followers are looking for is a tiny bone their way. he gave it to them, time to rake in the votes and continue bankrupting us.

  • Srynerson||

    So your theory is that Obama is winning by running up his vote count in NYC? Epic electoral college comprehension fail.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    *sigh* does extrapolation mean nothing to you. think of all the people that were disappointed by him in every other regard around the US, but he's colesced them by giving them a little. He's not trying to be president of the US, he's trying to be president of 50.1% of the electoral college. and he just might.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    As someone who counts a higher-than-average (I suspect) number of gay friends, family members and associates than the average American, the justifications they're making for Obama are both shocking and breathtaking.

    This is common amongst liberals in general, not just gays. They'd vote for him regardless, DADT repeal /gay marraige endorsement or no, because they really do believe that Romney is going to make abortion illegal and take us back to the 1950s (without the tax rates).

    My liberal girlfriend won't even discuss Obama's record with me because I tear it up in seconds. The one time she tried to point out how awesome he was, I brought up "drone strikes," and that was the end of that.

  • Paul.||

    His drone strikes are awesome.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    I mean, many of us here have commented about how stupid and incompetent the BO campaign was. But it looks likely that they'll get the last laugh. Maybe they had their finger on the braindead pulse of the electorate more than we did.

  • Paul.||

    Where I live (a blue-er than blue found in nature blue city), there's been a noticable dearth of Obama '12 stickers and signs. I mean, they're there, and compared to the total of two (2) Romney/Ryan stickers, they're plentiful. Interestingly, since the beginning of the campaign, there are still a huge number of cars with Obama 2008 stickers, but will lack the '12 counterpart. It's almost as if the population here is implicitly saying they're still supporting Obama 1.0, but haven't really upgraded to 2.0.

    However, within the last couple of months, the Obama '12 stickers and signs are beginning to come out. Everyone's taken their peace/born to kill buttons of their helmets, jumped on the team and are coming on in for the big win.

    It's like they got a call from the DNC which warned them that Obama 1.0 will no longer be supported after November and so they'd better upgrade now!

  • Syd Henderson||

    I'm having the opposite experience. I live in what is one of the reddest states in the country, and I've seen lots of Obama signs, and only one Romney sticker and no Romney signs.

  • robc||

    It is incompetent. But Romney's is more so. And Romney still has a chance.

    "Anybody but Obama" would be dead in the water if Obama was running anything other than a "Anybody but Romney" campaign.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Romney has a chance, but this debate tomorrow night will see just how far his team will go to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  • Paul.||

    My guess is that some time during the debate, trying to seem "down", Romney will utter the n-word while quoting some hip-hop lyrics to the audience. That's just how inept this thing could get.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    can there be any doubt. these guys are from chicago...Chicago...if Daley taught them anything its how you get rubes to vote for you again and again and again.

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