Democrats evaluating the 2012 map are confident President Barack Obama can win enough battleground states to earn a second term, but via a far less aggressive path than what he forged in 2008.
Party strategists, Obama aides and top Democrats see multiple routes for the president to reach the 270 Electoral College votes that he needs on Nov. 6, 2012. But some Democrats splash cold water on the big talk of outreach in all 50 states, saying it is obvious the president will focus on traditional swing territory.
It’s not the ambitious strategy that the hopeful Team Obama once showcased to psych out opponents.
In 2008, then-campaign manager David Plouffe often would boast about playing offense and seeing potential on a map that at one point even included Alaska, North Dakota and Georgia.
A Democratic official familiar with the still-forming re-election campaign told Roll Call that the focus will be on holding the 2008 pickups of Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina, winning over Latino voters in the West and flooding the traditional swing states of Ohio and Florida with resources. The Democrats feel good about winning New Mexico and Nevada, especially given the population growth among Hispanics.
While it’s early and strategies will surely evolve based on who becomes the GOP nominee, there are several paths for the president to win re-election.
As the campaign shapes up, this map translates into frequent Obama trips to the heartland and western battlegrounds and maintaining popularity with the black voters who can help Obama win Virginia and North Carolina a second time. It means the president must keep Latino voters interested in the election to help him lock down Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado — and, as is the talk in some optimistic circles, Arizona.
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said that when he led the party in 2008, his strategy accounted for Obama losing Ohio and Florida but still winning the White House. Obama exceeded his expectations by running the table with swing-state victories, and Dean feels even more confident today.
“The West is a big cushion. If we win Florida, we win the whole thing, and Florida is very, very winnable,” Dean said in an interview.
The Democratic official noted that in Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina and even Iowa, Hispanic voters were “a factor” in 2008, and their numbers “are more pronounced now.”
“It won’t swing the state, but it will be a factor,” the official said.
Indeed, it’s no accident that Obama has continued to push immigration reform as a campaign issue despite remarkably little chance for its legislative success on Capitol Hill.
“We have a lot of different states that we need to win in order to get to the 270,” DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, predicting Obama will win her home state.
“He sent a very strong signal by asking me to chair the DNC about how important a priority Florida is,” the Congresswoman said.