Romney spent the last few days barnstorming the region, hitting Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio — all states President Obama carried in 2008. The presumptive GOP nominee was joined by Portman, Ryan and Pawlenty during various legs of his tour.
(...) Saul Anuzis, a senior Michigan Republican strategist who was an early Romney backer, said the Midwest provided a big opportunity for Romney — and that if he chose one of his three recent road-trip partners as vice president, it would solidify his standing in the region.
“There’s renewed opportunity in the Midwest that hasn’t been there before,” said Anuzis. “I’d prefer him to pick someone who appeals to the Reagan Democrat, the cultural conservatives who are all over the Midwest. We have a natural constituency if we can make an argument to them. Pawlenty has that natural working-class background and would be vey useful and powerful in that regard, and Ryan and Portman have their own assets. Those guys play into the Midwestern strategy and should definitely be considered if the polls stay where they are.”
(...) Romney victories in the Midwest, which has larger proportions of the older, culturally conservative white voters who have been the most resistant to Obama, could offset possible losses in the West, where burgeoning Hispanic populations and his hard-line immigration rhetoric during the primary have made it harder for him to win.
“A Midwest strategy is where they’re headed, and those three give them the strongest possible standing in the Midwest,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “They were figuring out whether they were going to push harder for the Southwest or Midwest, and Obama made that choice for them with his immigration move.”
A Romney spokesman refused to write off the Mountain West or speculate on the possible vice presidential shortlist, but indicated the candidate would work hard at winning in the Midwest.
“We’re competing in every battleground state,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. “We obviously recognize there are extremely important Midwestern swing states. including Michigan, Ohio and Iowa.”
While immigration is helping Obama in the Southwest, energy issues are hurting him in parts of the Midwest, especially in coal country in Ohio and western Pennsylvania, another region with a high number of culturally conservative Reagan Democrats.