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Seven battleground states: Does economy help Obama or Romney?

Seven states have emerged as battlegrounds that may well determine the 2012 presidential election. President Obama won all seven in 2008, but the Great Recession and the slow and difficult recovery have changed all that – in sometimes surprising ways. The five states that have added the most jobs in the past year are solidly behind Mitt Romney, even though he's calling for change. Of the five states at the bottom of the heap, two are for Mr. Obama and one's a toss-up. Here's a look at seven battleground states and how their economic situation is shaping the presidential election:

By , Staff writer

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President Obama waves to supporters during a campaign rally in Denver last week. Colorado has one of the most buoyant economies among the battleground states, but even here the pace of recovery is slow. The president will have a tough time winning the state as he did in 2008.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/File

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1. Colorado

If elections were purely a matter of economics, Colorado would be leaning toward President Obama. It ranks No. 13 among the states in year-over-year job growth. It's had one of the most balanced recoveries in the United States, and it's one of only three states (Washington and Arizona are the other two) to see employment grow in eight broad sections of the economy.

Farmers have benefited from high crop prices. The oil and gas industry is thriving. Tourism posted a record last year. As a result, home sales are booming in the Denver area. By July, home prices were within 7 percent of their all-time high set in 2006, according to the S&P Case-Shiller home price index. Only Dallas is closer to its peak among the 20 US metros followed in the index.   

So why is Colorado a battleground state? One reason may be recovery fatigue among voters. While  Colorado's rise has been broad, it has also been abnormally slow. When the US unemployment rate peaked in October 2009 at 10.0 percent, Colorado had a much better 8.4 percent rate. But since that time, the national rate has dropped more than 2 percentage points and now stands at 7.8 percent. Colorado's rate has dropped less than half a percentage point, to 8.0 percent. For two months running, unemployment in Colorado has been above the national average. Housing prices, though booming now, languished and went nowhere for 2-1/2 years.

Given such sluggishness, Colorado voters might be looking for a change.

Advantage: a statistical tie, according to the latest polls.

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