President Obama is in worse shape in Montana than he was four years ago against John McCain. As part of his near landslide nationally, he lost this usually Republican state by only two points. Now, he trails Mitt Romney by five. But that is half the deficit Obama faced just five months ago, and by most standards makes Montana a marginal swing state.
Romney leads Obama 48-43, down from a 50-40 advantage when PPP last polled the state in November. Worse for Romney is that his soon-to-be-vanquished intraparty foe Ron Paul actually leads Obama by eight points (49-41). Obama is able to keep it relatively close here because he basically ties Romney with the plurality independents, while Paul leads by 22 points.
At this point, Romney is far more popular than Paul with Republicans, and has two-thirds of the vote in the caucus, while Paul only maintains the quarter of the vote he got in the three-way 2008 caucus. But with independents, Romney has a lot of work to do, and this is true and more problematic for him in swing states where Obama is doing just as well as he did in 2008 because of Romney’s toxicity with independents and Democrats. That is on top of lingering doubts with some partisan Republicans who were not behind him in the primary battle.
Paul’s libertarian brother Gary Johnson could also present a problem for Romney, particularly in the western states. Johnson’s presence on a third-party ballot line would bring Romney’s lead down to two points over Obama, with Johnson pulling 8%. That is because he lowers Romney’s share of the GOP vote from 92% to 83% while hardly touching Obama’s grasp of his party.
The president probably missed his best shot to win Montana in 2008, but luckily for him, he doesn't even remotely need its three electoral votes to win re-election.
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