The Sleeper Campaign

I’ve been in Ohio, Virginia, and Montana in recent weeks, as well as home base out here in California, and the contrast shows how there are two different campaigns going on right now.  In Montana and California, you wouldn’t know there’s a presidential election under way–there are no TV spots for either candidate since the electoral college outcome in those states is a foregone conclusion.  In Ohio and Virginia—”battlegrounds”—the presidential ads practically run over each other.

This has a consequence in the non-battleground states.  There’s a hot Senate race in Montana between Denny Rehberg and John Tester (one of the Power Line Pick Six), with lots of ads, and there are some closely contested House races out in California.  But none of the ads for these offices seem to connect with the presidential race, or even connect with larger national issues.  The local house race out here in California seems to revolve around whether the dimwitted Democratic incumbent, Lois Capps, can coast to re-election by being pro-puppy dogs and kindergarten kids, while slamming her opponent, Abel Maldonado, as a “Sacramento politician.”  In states uncontested by Obama and Romney, we’re back to the “all politics is local” kind of campaigns, and this usually isn’t helpful for Republicans. Republicans tend to do best when elections are “nationalized.”

Meanwhile, I’ve wondered for a while whether there might be a couple of sleeper states where Romney (or Obama) might break into the other guy’s supposedly solid territory.  How about Oregon?  Why not?  Oregon was very close in 2000, and Republicans have actually won legislative majorities over the last decade.  Plus, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s pro-pot position might siphon off some votes from the slackers of Portlandia (Eugene McCarthy’s independent bid in 1976 helped tip Oregon to Gerald Ford).  Or maybe Washington state, where a recent poll showed Obama with only a five point lead?  I saw a squib the other day suggesting Romney was quietly buying some ad time in Washington, but can’t find it now.

Or how about Power Line’s backyard, Minnesota?  Jim Geraghty notes this morning:

But wait, there’s one more “what the heck?” bit of news Wednesday night, from Chuck Todd: “Yesterday, Obama campaign added Minnesota to their national radio buy. Today, campaign announces Jill Biden will campaign there this week.”

Minnesota? Minnesota? I have never, for a moment, thought Minnesota would be in play this cycle — literally, as Joe Biden would say.

The polls have Obama up by less than I expected — a GOP poll has Obama up 4, PPP has Obama up 10 — but… really? Really?

JOHN adds: I’m not surprised that the Democrats’ polling apparently shows Minnesota uncomfortably close. A few weeks ago, polling in Minnesota’s 8th District–northeastern Minnesota, including Duluth and the Iron Range, a traditional Democratic bastion, although a redistricted one this year–showed Romney leading Obama by a point. But it is hard for me to believe that Romney could make it a tight race without running a campaign here.

SCOTT: Do not be deceived. I think the Minnesota ad buy is intended for its reach into western Wisconsin.

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