The Midwest is more receptive to attacks on Romney's business experience; Westerners are more likely to see the president as a big-government liberal.
DENVER -- As I've written before, President Obama is depending for reelection primarily on a "coalition of the ascendant," composed of young people, minorities, and college-educated (and especially female) whites. In an unexpected reversal, though, as Obama struggles to repel the surging challenge from Mitt Romney, he appears to be relying less on the dynamic Sunbelt states, where this coalition is driving population growth, than on the graying industrial Rustbelt, which is less demographically favorable for him.
Although the race remains close on both fronts, Obama's prospects today look slightly better in Midwestern Rustbelt swing states like Wisconsin, Iowa, and above all Ohio than in Southeastern and Mountain West Sunbelt states like Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Colorado. While not conceding the Sunbelt states, Obama's campaign increasingly seems to view the three Rustbelt swing states, especially Ohio, as its castle keep: the last line of defense in its plan to reach the 270 Electoral College votes required for victory. "In some ways," acknowledges one Democratic strategist close to the Obama campaign, "the Rustbelt states are better than they were for us four years ago and the Sunbelt states are tougher." One measure of the shift: An NBC analysis of television advertising found that the Rustbelt contributed seven of the eight markets receiving the most spending last week, with only Denver cracking the list from the Sunbelt.
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This unanticipated alignment is rooted in the contrasting economic experience and attitudes of the two regions. Those differences have created a greater receptivity in the Rustbelt for Obama's attacks on Romney's business experience, and in the Sunbelt for Romney's portrayal of Obama as a big-spending government liberal.