Fox News has released a poll of the nation’s various “swing” regions, testing both President Obama’s job approval in those regions, as well as his head-to-head numbers against each of the remaining GOP contenders. Full results can be found here. The poll split the nation’s swing states into three regions: the Rust Belt (IA, WI, PA, OH), the Southeast (FL, NC, VA), and the Mountain West (CO, NV, NM). Interestingly, the poll shows that President Obama is most popular in the Southeast, with his job approval reaching 50% in the formerly red region, while the once reddish Mountain West gives the president a 47% approval rating. Meanwhile, the Rust Belt states, which George W. Bush once struggled to win, give the president only a 41% approval rating.
In the head-to-head matchups between the president and the two Republican frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, the president absolutely obliterates both candidates in both the Southeast and the Mountain West. The president breaks 50% in the Southeast against both candidates, and only Romney holds Obama under 50 in the Mountain West, but just barely. Meanwhile, Santorum actually ties the president in the Rust Belt, while Romney trails the president by a single point in the same region, a statistical tie to be sure. Additionally, the president is having trouble breaking out of the lower 40s in the Rust Belt, which means, for all intents and purposes, that the Republican nominee has a good shot of taking one or more Rust Belt states if the undecideds break for the challenger as they often do.
As such, we could yet be treated to a new template this fall, even if President Obama manages to win a second term. If the president were to win the Southeastern states of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, as well as the Western states of Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, and if the GOP nominee managed to pull in the Rust Belt states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Wisconsin, the president would win the Electoral College with 293 electoral votes to the GOP’s 245 electoral votes, provided that all other states returned to their red/blue status from 2004. This would signal the end of the electoral map of the Bush years, with cultural battle lines drawn on the Ohio River and on Mason-Dixon, and would be the beginning of a new dichotomy, one which would see the parts of the country dominated by the young, the educated, the multicultural, and the creative class complete their shift into blue territory, while the parts of the country that are older, whiter, and more working class become more red.
It should also be noted that the parts of the country that have best adapted to the realities of the new economy are naturally going to give credit to the party presently in power, which is why regions like the New Economy Southeast are warming back up to Obama, while the economically stagnant Rust Belt moves towards the Republicans as the party out of power. This would also serve to illustrate the challenges that face Republicans in the years ahead, given that the nation’s leading demographic and economic indicators appear poised to fall on the blue side of the divide, putting Republicans in a position where they must attempt to grab the low hanging fruit of the Old Economy Rust Belt without putting forth policies antithetical to the growth that is taking place throughout the Sun Belt.