For each of the last three days of the campaign, we’ll quickly note where Obama and Romney are heading, and why:.
Mentor, Lake County, Ohio.
Lake County is a white, middle class county including the eastern suburbs and exurbs of Cleveland. Four years ago, Obama won it by just one percentage point, a four point improvement over Bush's four point win. If Romney wins, Lake County will certainly flip and Obama is fighting to prevent such an outcome. According to Obama's schedule, this will be Obama's last visit to the Cleveland media market.
Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, WI
Milwaukee County includes the heavily Democratic city of Milwaukee and its more competitive inner suburbs. Obama won Milwaukee County by a 67-32 margin in 2008, a substantial improvement over Kerry's already impressive 62-37 win. For Obama to win Wisconsin, he'll needs to repeat his strong showing in Milwaukee to withstand what could be a drubbing in its deeply conservative suburbs, like Washington and Waukesha Counties.
Dubuque, Dubuque County, IA
Dubuque is the ninth largest city in Iowa, but it also rests along the border with Wisconsin, effectively allowing Obama to hit southwestern Wisconsin and eastern Iowa in one stop. A strong showing in eastern Iowa is critical to Obama's statewide chances, and the Obama campaign is trying to ensure that Obama's finish in Dubuque is more like his 60-39 victory from four years ago than Kerry's more modest 56-43 showing.
Bristow, Prince William County, VA
Prince William County is an affluent and diverse exurban county in northern Virginia, home to D.C.’s southern exurbs. Given Prince William's diversity and Obama's relative resilience with college educated voters, Obama will probably win the county if he gets a decent turnout. But with Virginia poised for an extremely tight finish, his margin in a swingy county like Prince William could prove decisive. Obama won Prince William by 16 points in 2008, even though Bush won it by 7 percentage points eight years ago.
Portsmouth, Rockingham County, NH
Rockingham County is moderate, middle class, white, and traditionally Republican county that Romney must reclaim to seize New Hampshire's four electoral votes. Bush won Rockingham County by a 4 point margin and the southern part of the county is home to a few Boston commuters, so Romney should be able to overcome Obama's one point margin of victory. Further driving up the score beyond Bush's standing will be necessary to prevail state-wide.
Dubuque, Dubuque County, IA
Colorado Springs, El Paso County, CO
El Paso County and Colorado Springs are widely regarded as one of the country’s conservative hubs, with a large defense industry presence, several Air Force installations, and many evangelical and socially conservative organizations. It's the heart of Colorado's conservative base and Romney will need to perform very well to overcome Obama's strength in Denver and Boulder. With a modest Hispanic population and plenty of independent voters, this conservative county still has quite a bit of swing: Bush won the El Paso County by 34 points, but McCain only won by 19. Romney needs something much more like Bush's 34 point victory, especially if the growing diversity of the Denver suburbs makes it tough for Romney to reclaim Jefferson and Arapahoe Counties.
Engelwood, Arapahoe County, CO
Arapahoe County is a diverse, middle class, and relatively well-educated county home to Denver’s southern suburbs. Bush won Arapahoe County in '04, but Obama won it by 13 points in 2008 and Romney probably won't take it back in a close race. Romney can withstand a narrow loss, but he can’t let Obama run-up the score as he did four years ago. Engelwood sits near Arapahoe's border with Jefferson County, perhaps the swing county with the most sway over the outcome of its state.