Swing state story: How the sonogram proposals and auto bailouts matter.

President Obama won the presidency with a two to one margin in the electoral college and 53% of the national vote.

As he and the Republican nominee pay attention to the swing states that will determine who will win the presidency, certain appeals and issues will matter (even as economic conditions and trends are hugely important).

Virginia’s sonogram and personhood policy proposals are unpopular

While abortion has played some role in presidential elections — usually based around promises candidates make regarding the judges they would appoint — this issue and even birth control have become more prominent.

After an uproar over Komen’s policy toward Planned Parenthood, Virginia’s proposed legislation drew controversy and looks like it is shifting the issue terrain on that state toward Democrats.

Obama won Virginia in 2008 with 52.6% of the vote, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1964. Virginia, however, then shifted sharply to the right in 2010, and elected very conservative Republicans to the statehouse and governorship.

With a very competitive Senate race on the horizon and Virginia an electoral college prize, Democrat Tim Kaine is going on the offensive:

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine held a conference call on Wednesday to draw attention to two divisive pieces of legislation the state legislature has taken up and to invite former Sen .George Allen to join him in opposing the measure that would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure before getting an abortion.

“What we’re seeing in Richmond now is not what Virginians expect from their leaders. What’s happening in Richmond right now is bad for Virginia women, it’s bad for Virginia’s image, and it’s bad for Virginia’s businesses,” Kaine said. Kaine criticized Allen for supporting “personhood” legislation that would define life as beginning at conception.

Why? Because in Virginia, this legislation is not popular among swing voters in this swing state.

A Christopher Newport University/Richmond Times-Dispatch poll of registered voters conducted earlier this month (well before the amended bill was passed) showed a majority opposed to both the ultrasound requirement (55 percent) and the personhood measure (52 percent) reference by Kaine on Wednesday. Kaine’s campaign is hoping to win over undecided swing voters — who are few and far between, according to recent polling showing Allen and Kaine running neck and neck with few voters up for grabs.

Beyond Virginia, most people — and women, by a 2-1 margin — support the Obama administration’s policy on requiring insurance companies to provide birth control. This could matter in states like Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, with swing independent women voters.

The auto bailout is popular policy

In Michigan and other U.S. auto-industry states, Democrats are already running ads on the auto bailout.

But beyond those states, the Obama policy has become popular in all demographic groups, as seen in this study from the Pew Research Center.

Public opinion on the auto bailout, Pew Research Center


Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.