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In Romney’s swing state shuffle, Wisconsin becomes focus

Mitt Romney stepped off his campaign plane in Sterling, Va., Wednesday.

Jim Young/REUTERS

Mitt Romney stepped off his campaign plane in Sterling, Va., Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — Michigan and Pennsylvania are out; Wisconsin is in.

The presidential campaign has become a contest that will be decided in as few as nine states, creating a narrower and less forgiving path for Republican Mitt Romney to secure the 270 electoral college votes he needs to oust President Obama.

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The former Massachusetts governor and his allies have shifted television advertising dollars to reflect the state of play following the two parties’ nominating conventions.

‘‘We all know the presidential campaign is not a national election; it’s an election in individual states,’’ said Alex Vogel, a Republican consultant who is not working with Romney. ‘‘Around this time, the focus shifts from how much money the campaigns are raising to where they are spending and not spending.’’

Romney’s campaign spent $4.2 million this week on its first advertising blitz after the Republican convention in Tampa and the Democrats’ nominating session in Charlotte, N.C., according to a media buyer who tracks such purchases. The Republican’s 15 commercials, which carry messages tailored to each region, are airing in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, Nevada, Iowa, and Colorado. This week, Romney reserved time for a 16th ad in Milwaukee, according to FCC records. In response, Obama has begun running ads in Wisconsin.

Outside groups helping Romney, including Americans for Prosperity and American Crossroads, also have trained their advertising firepower on those same states, according to a review of data from Kantar Media’s CMAG, a firm that tracks political advertising.

Obama and supportive Democrats have scaled back resources in states where Romney and his backers are not advertising, suggesting both sides have settled on the same nine states, which have a combined 110 electoral votes.

In this environment, Obama could secure reelection just by winning Florida and one of the remaining eight battleground states. That is because the president is favored to win the 207 electoral votes from states that he carried four years ago by at least 15 percentage points. Michigan is among those. He also has the edge in Minnesota, which has 10 votes, and Pennsylvania, which has 20. That would bring Obama to 237 electoral votes.

Romney’s path is more difficult. His smaller base of 191 electoral votes includes states that the president lost in 2008, plus Indiana, where polls show Romney is favored to win.

Republicans need to win 72 percent of the electoral votes in the nine targeted states, which would require victories in five to eight of them. Florida and Ohio are the biggest prizes.

Facebook message to vote may have boosted turnout, study says

NEW YORK — A single message sent to 60 million people on Facebook by University of California researchers may have encouraged 340,000 more votes in the 2010 election, a study suggests.

The work, coauthored by two of Facebook’s data scientists, tracked the effects of the nonpartisan message from the point when it was first seen by individuals, through their personal network, and into the voting booth, using public polling information. When the first recipients passed on the message, it included their pictures, a note that they had voted, and a link that allowed the next in line to find a polling place.

The research, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, is the first in which scientists directly intervened in the lives of online subjects to measure social effects, said James Fowler, at the University of California, San Diego. It found that 80 percent of the people who voted got the message from someone they knew, rather than from the scientists. It’s a finding that may be important in the current presidential election, the researchers said.

‘‘If we’d only measured the direct effect on the recipients, we’d have missed the whole story,’’ Fowler said. ‘‘The network is key. This message that started online, that spread online, actually affected real-world behavior.’’

While it’s unclear from the data how many of the 340,000 voters might have done so whether they received the message or not, the statistical evidence, backed by voting records, strongly suggests the influence of the message grew and had a concrete effect as it was handed along, Fowler said.

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