US presidential elections: The importance of ‘Middle’ America
Harsh Desai 26 September 2012

The November election for next US President will probably be decided by six states Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana, located in the Midwest of America

 
The November Election, if it is close, is likely to be decided in one or more of the states in Midwest America. To win the election a candidate needs 270 votes in the Electoral College. A vote in the Electoral College is decided according to the population. The New York Times Electoral Map shows at present states with 237 electoral votes solid on leaning Obama and 191 electoral votes solid or leaning Romney, while 110 votes are a toss-up.
 
The toss-up states are Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio. Ohio has 18 Electoral College votes, Wisconsin has 10 and Iowa has 6.Together they add up to 34 votes which should be enough to swing any close election. Also, in the Midwest are two states (Michigan and Pennsylvania) leaning towards President Obama and one state—Indiana—leaning towards Governor Romney. So these are actually six states in play in the Midwest. President Obama is ahead at present in Ohio, Wisconsin as also Iowa but the margins are not very large and are clearly reversible. He leads by more than 10 points in the latest Michigan polls. However, as Jim Messina, President Obama’s campaign manager said recently, President Obama seems to be polling better in the swing state polls than in the national polls. 
 
President Obama is from the state of Illinois which is in the vicinity and Governor Romney grew up in Michigan which is also in the vicinity. Romney’s father was a governor of the state of Michigan. Representative Paul Ryan represents the 2nd district of Wisconsin in the House of Representatives and has put Wisconsin which President Obama won handily in the last election in play. There was a recall election for Republican Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker which was regarded as pivotal. However, Governor Scott Walker’s conservative policies of tax cuts, spending cuts and union bashing led to a very polarising election where there was a lot of outsider interest both from deep pocketed donors as also from trade unions. 
 
The state of Wisconsin in the process has become extremely energised. Governor Romney thinks he has an opportunity there and is ratcheting up his game in the state. Further the auto bailout, one of the signature achievements of the Obama presidency which helped to save Detroit, is a big issue in the election. There are a lot of ancillary industries to the auto industry in Ohio and President Obama has been tom-tomming his decision to save his auto industry. President Obama also claims that Governor Romney was opposed to a bailout and actually was ready to let the auto industry go under which is not exactly true. 
 
Governor Romney wanted a managed bankruptcy to save the auto industry. However, the problem with the managed bankruptcy is that it would have put a judge in charge of the bankruptcy and the auto companies and would not probably have been as efficient as the auto czar put there by President Obama. Further on there has been a nascent through distinct manufacturing revival in the Midwest and the state of Ohio has been a particular beneficiary of this trend. Up to a hundred thousand manufacturing jobs have come back to America for the first time since the nineties and President Obama is taking credit for that. To put the hundred thousand jobs in perspective, there are twenty three million unemployed people in America. 
 
But the Midwest economies seem to be doing better than the rest of America. Also, the selection of Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has energised the Republican Party in the Midwest. They are ready to put up a good fight. It is also important to note that no Republican candidate has ever won the presidency without winning the state of Ohio. In that sense it is a true bellwether state and that is how large the stakes are for Mitt Romney.   
 
The picturesque Midwest was immortalised by Saul Bellow and the American heartland is all in play. This election will be probably decided by the Midwest of America and the Middle East.
 
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)
 
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