So if you're looking for clues about what will be important to voters in the Midwest in two years or four, folks on both sides of the aisle will tell you â¿¿ perhaps not all that surprisingly â¿¿ to start and stop with the economy.
"Maybe the auto bailout was part of the shift, and maybe Romney's failures as a candidate," said pollster Paul Maslin, an adviser to Democratic Sen.-elect Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin. "But the biggest determinant is the lack of economic security, causing a constant reassessment of the two political parties."
Unlike the Northeast and South, where the political culture is deeply rooted in the region's history and is apt to change at a glacial pace, feelings about party are less engrained in the Midwest. That's a product of the high concentration of working-class white voters, whom polls show to be deeply focused on the economy and open to persuasion based on economic conditions.
That was evident Tuesday, when Romney's opposition to the federal bailout of the auto industry â¿¿ defined by an essay he wrote for The New York Times that the newspaper headlined, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" â¿¿ echoed loudly in Ohio, where car making and the related parts supply chain are keys to the state's manufacturing economy.It kept Romney from ever seriously competing for Michigan, a state where his father served both as an auto company executive and for six years as governor. Obama pounced on Romney's opposition to the bailout in Wisconsin and Iowa, two states less reliant on the auto industry but where manufacturing is a key part of the states' economies. According to exit polls, Obama did much better against Romney among working-class white voters in these states than he did nationally. Where Romney had a 26-point lead among these voters nationally, Obama was within 14 points in Ohio, 8 points in Wisconsin and eked out a 2-point advantage in Iowa.