Are your finances better off now than they were four years ago?
If you live in a hotly contested "battleground" state, your answer
may have special significance to the presidential race.
To gauge how swing-state voters may be feeling about the
economy, MoneyRates.com examined household finances in these places
to measure how conditions have changed since 2008. The premise here
is that if these states' conditions have fared better than the rest
of the U.S. economy during that time, it may be a good sign for
President Obama. And if conditions in these states have slid
compared to the nation, it may bode well for Republican challenger
Naturally, there are countless factors that go into determining
a presidential election, and the measures below will hardly be the
only things on voters' minds on November 6. But in a contest that
has focused largely on economic issues, it's worth noting how these
indicators have changed for these states relative to the rest of
Challenges to the incumbent
Based strictly on this look at household financial conditions in
eight battleground states, President Obama's chances of winning
another four years in the White House may hinge on whether he can
make the election more about the future than the past: Conditions
in three-quarters of those states have fared worse than the
national averages in a majority of categories surveyed.
The analysis looked at three factors that hit home when it comes
to personal finances: unemployment, average salaries and median
. Out of the eight battleground states, six seem to be having a
harder time than the rest of the country in two of those three
categories. Only one battleground state, Virginia, beats the
national average in all three categories.
Here's a state-by-state breakdown of how these battleground
economies have performed in the last four years:
Colorado's nine electoral votes may be lost or won based on the
job market. According to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics
, unemployment there is higher than the national average, and
average wage growth since 2008 has been slower.
The one area in which Colorado was doing a little better than
the rest of the nation was credit scores. Based on figures from
MyFico.com, median credit ratings in all the battleground states
have deteriorated since 2008, but in the case of Colorado, the drop
has been slightly milder than the national average. Still, that's
two out of three factors counting against the president in this
With 29 electoral votes, Florida offers the biggest prize of all
the battleground states. Unemployment there is higher than the
national average, but it was already higher than average in 2008.
Since then, unemployment has actually risen less sharply than in
the rest of the country.
The real problem in Florida is credit scores, which have slipped
more than the average U.S. score. Coupled with anemic wage growth
in the state, that's two out of three factors in Romney's
Economic conditions are relatively strong in Iowa, though this
state only has six electoral votes in play. Iowa's unemployment
rate is much lower than the national average, and average salary
growth since 2008 has been stronger than for the country as a
whole. The only drawback is with regard to credit scores. While
Iowa's median credit score is still higher than the national
average, it has suffered a sharper decline since 2008.
The biggest problem in Nevada is unemployment, which is much
worse than the national average. Credit scores have also taken a
beating, though surprisingly, wage growth has been relatively
strong. All-in-all, that makes two out of three financial factors
working against Obama's capturing Nevada's six electoral votes.
Like Iowa, New Hampshire is blessed with relatively low
unemployment. However, wage growth has been weak, and the median
credit score has suffered a worse decline than the national
average. Those factors could be tip the state's four electoral
votes toward Romney.
With 18 electoral votes, Ohio is one of the high-stakes
battleground states. Unemployment is not only below the national
average, but it has actually declined since 2008. Unfortunately for
the President, wage growth has been below par, and the median
credit score has seen a bigger-than-average drop.
Virginia offers 13 electoral votes, and that might be a lucky
number for Obama, because this state seems the strongest
economically of all the battleground states.
is low and wage growth has been high. Perhaps thanks to those
factors, the median credit score has held up better in Virginia
than in any of the other battleground states.
Wisconsin's unemployment rate is a bit lower than the national
average, but that's the only positive factor here. Wage growth has
been below average, and credit scores have suffered a
bigger-than-average decline. Those negatives could help nudge the
state's 10 electoral votes in Romney's direction.
Voting with their wallets
Again, a multitude of factors decide presidential elections --
even ones that focus largely on economic issues, as the 2012
contest has. But if people were to vote strictly according to their
wallets in 2012, this analysis indicates that these battleground
states would deliver 76 electoral votes to Romney and 19 to
Average credit scores and salaries tend to evolve gradually,
leaving unemployment as the only factor that could improve
meaningfully before the election. So unless job creation picks up
-- and picks up in the right parts of the country -- this analysis
of battleground economics favors Mitt Romney over Barack Obama.