WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the final week of the long presidential election campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney lavished advertising time and personal visits on three Midwestern states: Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa.
He fell short in all three states Tuesday, a failure that scuttled his chances of winning the White House.
In Ohio, where Obama held a narrow two-point margin, almost two of five voters said someone in their household had been laid off in the past four years. Yet Romney could do no better than manage a split with Obama among those voters, according to NBC exit poll data.
Only three out of 10 Ohio voters said their family’s financial situation was worse than it was four years ago. Romney won those voters by better than a 5-to-1 margin, but there weren’t enough of them for him to carry the state.
And Obama was boosted in the state by the 24-point advantage he enjoyed among labor union households, about a fifth of the Ohio electorate. The two rivals split the non-union vote almost evenly, with Romney winning 50 percent and Obama 48 percent.
Obama also benefited from his role in the bailout of the auto industry, a decision that had been sharply questioned by Romney.
Based on exit polls, three out of five Ohio voters approved federal aid to the automakers. Those who approved of the bailout voted for Obama by a 3-to-1 margin.
Even as Romney was losing the state, 10 House Republican incumbents in Ohio were headed for re-election, so the outcome in the state didn’t reflect a broad anti-Republican backlash but more specific factors that doomed Romney.
Likewise in Iowa Romney lost even as two House GOP incumbents -- Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham -- won expensive, hotly contested races.
In Iowa the gender gap worked even more dramatically to Romney’s disadvantage than elsewhere, with nearly 60 percent of Iowa’s women voters rejecting Romney – compared with 55 percent in the national exit poll sample. Romney was also hurt in Iowa by the perception that his policies would favor the rich – an idea that 54 percent of Iowa voters agreed with. Among that group, Obama won by better than 7 to 1.
Finally in Wisconsin, Romney fell short, even with native son Rep. Paul Ryan on the ticket. Romney had good reason to hope Wisconsin would flip into the GOP column, especially after Republican Gov. Scott Walker was elected in 2010, battled successfully to curb the power of public sector labor unions, and then triumphed in a recall election last year.
But Romney won a favorability rating of only 46 percent in Wisconsin, lagging Walker’s by 10 points.
Union households accounted for about a fifth of the Wisconsin electorate and Obama won their vote by about 2-to-1, based on exit polls. The candidates split the non-union vote in Wisconsin.
And as in Ohio the Wisconsin voters who favored the federal bailout of GM and Chrysler backed Obama over Romney, 79 to 20 percent.