Whither the Battleground Counties?

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From TIME’s Amy Sullivan:

Barack Obama is going to win by such a comfortable margin—flipping what looks to be nine states into the Democratic column—that the battleground counties we profiled in TIME over the past few months weren’t exactly pivotal to the outcome. But how and why they broke does give us some sense of why these states ended up going for Obama, as well as what problems Republicans may have going forward in trying to win them back.
·     Oakland County, Michigan narrowly went to John Kerry in 2004 by 50 to 49 over Bush. This year Obama won the county 57 to 42—the largest margin of the three battlegrounds.

·     Arapahoe County, Colorado was on its way from red to blue in 2004 when Bush captured just 51% of the county’s vote. Obama’s 55-43 margin here over McCain was significantly larger than local political observers had expected.

·    Hamilton County, Ohio was the least likely to flip this year—I believe my editor told me “Hamilton County will NEVER go Democratic.” It’s only voted for the Democratic presidential candidate four times in the last 100 years and Bush won here in 2004 by 52 to 47 over Kerry. Obama now joins LBJ, FDR, and Woodrow Wilson on that list of rare Democratic victors. He matched Bush’s margin 52 to 47 over McCain, and helped Democratic challenger Steve Driehaus upset six-term GOP congressman Steve Chabot at the same time.

One thing all of these counties have in common is a healthy percentage of fiscally-conservative but socially-moderate voters. They are independents, and in some cases Republicans, who have crossed over to support Democratic candidates in recent years in a reaction against the more aggressive social conservative positions of the GOP. They were inclined to like John McCain because he didn’t seem to fit that mold. But Sarah Palin pushed them into the Democratic camp.
Dan Gilgoff recently wrote about the growing “God gap” within the GOP. It may not have been the determining factor in McCain’s loss. But it caused a lot of swing voters to consider the Democratic alternative and poses an ongoing problem for Republicans.