Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of swing-state updates provided by reporters for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which publishes Watchdog.org. The writers report on campaign events, polls and media coverage during the preceding seven days in the presidential contest and select races in those states. Click here to read prior Swing State reports.
Prophetic poll says Romney will win presidency
Election experts are expressing growing alarm about the potential for voter fraud. A Watchdog.org analysis found Colorado has an inordinately high number of inactive voters — 1.2 million who have not voted in two federal election cycles or more — and 10 counties where more than 100 percent of the eligible population is registered to vote.
In what could be a flashback to the voter-registration shenanigans that marred the 2008 election, an undercover journalist caught Democratic operatives on film teaching volunteers to turn away applicants who seemed likely to back GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, according to a Watchdog.org story.
At the same time, Colorado’s secretary of state has launched an unprecedented voter registration drive, significantly boosting the number of Coloradans planning to vote. More than 3.6 million people are registered to vote — nearly 300,000 more than the number registered in 2010.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s efforts to clean up voter rolls, including a purge of noncitizens, has drawn the ire of the Colorado Democratic Party and other organizations. Mi Familia Vote and Service Employees International Union claim Gessler has removed 30,000 voters from the rolls — a violation, they say, of the National Voting Rights Act.
“For months, Secretary of State Gessler has been focused on diversions and purging lawful voters from the rolls instead of doing his job to ensure Coloradans have the opportunity to vote,” Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio said in a statement.
Poll Watch: A week after the University of Colorado debate, a Denver Post poll shows Romney leads Obama, 48 percent to 47 percent. An ARG poll puts Romney at a 50 percent to 46 percent advantage. That’s a significant bump from just a few weeks ago, when polls showed Obama was slightly ahead of Romney in Colorado. Building on the momentum, an updated forecasting model by professors at the University of Colorado at Boulder and University of Colorado at Denver predicted Romney would win the presidential race next month. The model has accurately predicted the presidential winner in the past eight elections.
— Troy Anderson
Romney pushing to lock up support in Sunshine State
It seems that a television debate and good press is all that’s needed to turn a presidential campaign around.
That’s the scene in Florida fewer than three weeks before the general election, as GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney pulls ahead of President Obama, capitalizing on his performance in the first presidential debate Oct. 3 in Denver.
Romney has an average five-point lead in the surveys conducted since the debate, putting the Obama campaign in offensive mode after riding high in the polls for several months.
Just last week, the Obama campaign announced it was ready to notch up its ambitious effort to encourage millions of citizens to send off absentee ballots — hoping to lock up support ahead of Election Day.
Thursday, Ann Romney made a quiet visit to Fort Lauderdale, touring the local children’s hospital and refraining from any big speech or post-debate victor celebration. Her sons have also been making the rounds across the state, trying to persuade Hispanic groups to keep concerns about the economy as their main focus, as well as to cast a ballot for their dad.
Poll Watch: The latest Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Mason-Dixon poll shows Romney up 51 percent to 47 percent. Romney’s lead hasn’t provided a boost to Senate hopeful Connie Mack, who is still struggling in his battle against incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
The latest Marist poll shows Nelson with a 13-point lead over his GOP challenger, with 6 percent still undecided. Their only live television debate is Oct. 17, in Davie.
— Yaël Ossowski
Romney opponents focus on Big Bird, Bain
Fresh off a solid debate performance that gave him a boost in the polls, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a stop in Iowa. He was greeted by supporters of course, but also ragtag gaggle of people dressed up like Sesame Street characters. Big Bird held a sign “Fight Big Banks, Not Big Bird.” Elmo’s sign read “Trickle does not tickle me.” The Cookie Monster stood next to him with a sign “99% of cookies are eaten by 1% of monsters.”
Amid the Sesame Street impersonators, anti-Romney activists held up signs, including one that read, “I was nice until Bain sent my job to China.” Bain Capital is the company Romney founded and headed for years.
Inside the campaign event, Romney talked about personal experiences and farm issues. He assured the crowd his presidency’s priority would focus on strengthening the middle class and lifting poor people into the middle class. The remarks seemed a response to secretly recorded video in which he said he wasn’t concerned with getting the support of the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes.
It was during his trip to Iowa that Romney also seemed to flip his position on abortion, sparking controversy across the nation. He told the Des Moines Register during an editorial board meeting, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” President Obama’s Iowa campaign immediately jumped on the comments, saying Romney softened his position on abortion and was trying to obscure his previous pro-life statements.
Poll Watch: As in every other state, Romney got a boost in Iowa polls following his first debate performance. He narrowed Obama’s lead to 3.2 percentage points, compared to the 4.7 percentage point advantage Obama had before the debate, according to a rolling average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.com, a nonpartisan group.
— Sheena Dooley
Romney refining battle plan, sending reinforcements to Great Lakes State
Michigan, it appears, is back in play, and the Romney camp is sending in the troops.
GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan stopped by Monday, campaigning with rapper Kid Rock. Ryan walked the halls of the private Cornerstone School in Detroit, appearing to tear up when talking with students, according to a pool report from the event.
Ann Romney also appeared in Michigan on Friday, telling personal stories about Mitt and what he does for people behind the scenes.
The Obama campaign, meanwhile, has kept a lower profile in Michigan. Perhaps it has something to do with the furloughs at LG Chem, the Michigan plant that makes batteries for the Chevy Volt. President Obama previously made several big publicity visits to the plant, touting the millions of dollars in subsidies for the plant and promising the investment would–some day–pay off.
Big-name Democrats, however, have not been absent from the state. Former President Bill Clinton was scheduled to be in Royal Oak on Friday night. But he was campaigning for U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow at a private fundraiser, not for Obama.
Poll Watch: The presidential debate wiped away half of the 14.2 percent lead Obama racked up after the Democratic National Convention. The margin is now 7.7 percentage points, according to The Detroit News/WDIV poll released Oct. 11. Interestingly, Romney has had his biggest impact on women: Obama’s 20-percent lead in that group in September is now just nine points.
— Anne Schieber
Senate majority leader may affect Obama’s chances in Silver State
At the close of online and mail-in voter registration in Nevada, Democrats have built a substantial edge over Republicans statewide, by about 125,000 — slightly better than the lead the party enjoyed in 2008, when Barack Obama won the state. The in-person deadline to register is Oct. 16. No one expects Republicans to improve their position much on this front.
An emerging storyline in Nevada is how involved and nasty Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid has been in the presidential race. Reid’s “scathing attacks on everything from Mitt Romney’s personal integrity to his devotion to his faith won’t be going away for one simple reason,” reports BuzzFeed.com: “people close to the Democrat say Reid personally, deeply loathes Mitt Romney.”
Reid’s antipathy for Romney, a fellow Mormon, could be a huge factor in the race next month thanks to a first-class grassroots ground operation Reid has spent a dozen years building here. Combined with the turnout organization provided by local unions, Reid’s involvement could be the difference between Obama winning or losing this key swing state.
On the surrogate circuit, former President Bill Clinton was in Las Vegas on behalf of President Obama. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin were in Las Vegas for Romney. And Craig Romney, a son of the candidate, campaigned in multiple venues in northern Nevada, the key swing region for the state.
Poll Watch: Rasmussen’s post-debate poll of likely Nevada voters shows the president and Mitt Romney tied with 47 percent apiece, with three percent preferring another candidate and another three percent undecided. SurveyUSA now shows Obama with 47 percent to Romney’s 46 percent. Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling shows Obama’s lead in Nevada shrinking by four points, to 51 percent 47 percent, and a Suffolk University poll shows Obama leading Romney, 47-45.
— Chuck Muth
New Hampshire Independents swing toward Romney, but race remains fluid
Before the first presidential debate, poll numbers showing President Obama with a significant lead over Mitt Romney in New Hampshire were plausible. Now, the momentum has shifted to the Republican challenger, just as it has in other parts of the country over the past week, according to activists and campaign operatives.
“I always thought some of the polls oversampled Democrats, giving President Obama a bigger lead than he actually had,” Sam Pimm, a Republican strategist said. “But even those polls show that Romney has gained ground.”
The WMUR-University of New Hampshire poll released Oct. 1 gave President Obama a 15-point lead, among likely voters, over Romney. The same poll also produced favorability numbers that suggested the race might be out of reach for the Republican ticket. Likely voters had a 56 percent favorable view of Obama, while 54 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Romney.
“The New Hampshire race has always been close, and I don’t believe Obama ever had a lead that was as big as what the UNH poll showed,” Pimm said. “But now even that poll shows that Obama only leads by single digits. No matter how you look at it, the momentum is with Romney.”
The latest WMUR-UNH survey shows that Obama’s lead over Romney is down to six points. It’s worth noting that most of the responses were recorded before the Oct. 3 debate in Denver. Romney has gained considerable ground among independents, according to the WMUR-UNH poll.
Corey Lewandowski, the N.H. state director of Americans for Prosperity, sees independents as the decisive factor in the race.
“There’s a reason why you see the presidential and vice-presidential candidates making multiple trips back to New Hampshire,” he observed. “There is a crucial block of voters that shift back and forth between the two major parties. And because Romney is a known entity — he was, after all, the governor of neighboring Massachusetts — I think it’s going to be difficult for the Obama campaign to redefine him.”
The vice-presidential debate in Danville, Ky., last week was not viewed as having any kind of major influence on the voting in New Hampshire. An unscientific “flash poll” conducted immediately after the debate found Democrats were slightly more enthused about Vice President Joe Biden’s performance than Republicans were about Rep. Paul Ryan’s. But those same New Hampshire Democrats acknowledged that Biden had more ground to cover in the aftermath of the first presidential debate, in which Romney was widely viewed as the winner.
The second presidential debate presidential debate Tuesday night at Hofstra University in New York could sway pliable voters.
“I’m actually more confident about the race for governor than I am about the presidential race,” Pimm, the Republican strategist, said. “But I still expect Romney to win New Hampshire in a close race.”
The Real Clear Politics average shows GOP gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne running ahead of Democrat Maggie Hassan, the former state Senate majority leader. But the Real Clear average also has Obama up by 4.5 points.
“A lot of voters are not straight-down-the-line party voters,” Pimm said. “That’s what makes it interesting in New Hampshire.”
— Kevin Mooney
Romney turns to religion in effort to secure Tar Heel State
Mitt Romney has turned to the Lord.
Thursday, he took that message to one of God’s most faithful servants, who just happens to live in North Carolina.
“Prayer is the most helpful thing you can do for me,” Romney told the Rev. Billy Graham, according to The Associated Press. Romney visited Graham and his son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, at the elder’s mountain home in the western North Carolina hamlet of Montreat, just days after the candidate told a newspaper he would not pursue abortion-related legislation as president. Further entrenching his connection to faith and religion, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, joined Romney for a rally in Asheville later that day, the Charlotte Observer wrote.
Billy Graham told Romney he would do “all I can” to help him win the presidency, the AP reported. “What you’re planning, what your son has shown me, is going to be very, very helpful. And I appreciate that,” Romney told them. “It’s going to be terrific.”
U.S Sen. John McCain, who campaigned for Romney in the Triangle on Tuesday, would agree.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham joined the 2008 GOP presidential nominee for the campaign events, which, the AP said, emphasized foreign policy and the military.
Celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, Graham said, but don’t celebrate the president, who has, overall, failed on foreign policy.
“Has it stopped people from coming after us?” Graham asked, referring to the killing of the al-Qaida leader. “Is anybody afraid of America?”
The president has fallen behind in North Carolina, which went to Obama by 14,000 votes in 2008. But the president isn’t giving up on the state, sending Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to Greensboro on Saturday.
Trying to appeal to women voters, Jill Biden told a crowd of more than 200 people at the campaign’s downtown office Obama and the vice president “have stood up for women every single day.” “It’s who they are,” she said, according to the News & Record of Greensboro.
Poll Watch: The latest Real Clear Politics poll average shows Romney with a lead of 3.3 percent among likely voters in the Tar Heel State. Rasmussen shows a similar margin, though SurveyUSA has Obama up by two points. A WRAL News poll shows the candidates are virtually splitting the Independent voter — Romney has a 45 percent to 43 percent lead, though 15 percent of Democrats queried say they won’t support the president’s re-election.
— John Trump
Buckeye State newspaper editors falling over one another to endorse Brown
If Sen. Sherrod Brown were running for president of kindergarten, his recent endorsement by the Cleveland Plain Dealer would make a lot of sense. The paper calls him “a good listener,” and presumably, he’s a great helper, too.
But the Plain Dealer’s bland endorsement reads like Junot Diaz next to the gibberish produced recently by three other Ohio editorial boards. The Plain Dealer, the Athens News, the Youngstown Vindicator and the Akron Beacon Journal all have endorsed Brown over his Republican rival, Josh Mandel.
The Athens News praised Brown’s “moderate-liberal stances on most of the issues.” This is a man who complains that The New York Times is too conservative on business and trade issues, a man who gets ranked to the left of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a socialist. Brown’s own website approvingly quotes a Columbus Dispatch op-ed that says he “remains a fiercely partisan liberal.”
The Athens News repeated one of Brown’s attacks on Mandel — that he hired some campaign staffers to work in his office after his last win. Is there an elected official in Washington who has done otherwise?
“However, our main reason for urging readers to support Brown is that unlike Mandel, Sen. Brown advances a reasonable and serious approach to addressing America and Ohio’s desperately serious economic, health-care, energy and foreign policy issues,” the News wrote.
There’s your reason: reasonably serious answers for the super desperately serious everything we’re facing.
The Vindicator starts its endorsement like this: “Some candidates run as ‘outsiders’ because they are just that — or even a little bit of that. And other candidates run as outsiders and claim to be something other than they are because they’ve calculated that voters like to think they’re voting for anyone but a ‘career politician.’”
But are the candidates who claim to be something other maybe just that — or even a little bit of that? Maybe a little other, even?
It continues: “These imaginary outsiders will say whatever they think the voters want to hear. If there were a dictionary entry for such political mendacity, it could carry the picture of Josh Mandel, Ohio’s current treasurer and the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.”
Yes. Dictionaries should include every possible combination of noun and adjective to save lazy writers from the senselessness of their clichés.
Then there’s the glorious Akron Beacon Journal, which writes, “The accusation frequently flies that Brown is just too liberal.”
Let’s just fly that bad English.
Brown “spent a good share of the 2006 campaign clubbing (Mike) DeWine about high gas prices. Today, they are high again.” Just when they got their one-year sobriety coins.
Brown “has added dimensions to the debate” and he “adds value to the debate (when the rhetoric cools somewhat, as it more often has).”
There’s your new yard sign. Sherrod Brown: Adding dimensions and value to the debate (when the rhetoric cools somewhat, as it more often has).
— Jon Cassidy
Keystone State grabs spotlight, for a minute or two
Pennsylvania jumped to center stage — if only for a moment — in the presidential campaign Thursday night, when Paul Ryan pressed Joe Biden about the Obama administration’s record on unemployment.
The GOP vice presidential hopeful used Scranton — Biden’s hometown — to illustrate a point about joblessness during the past four years. Ryan pointed out that unemployment in the northeastern Pennsylvania city of about 75,000 has climbed from 8.5 percent when Obama took office to more than 10 percent.
“That is happening all across America,” he said, broadening the point — and, that quickly, ended Pennsylvania’s brief moment in the spotlight.
Biden protested that unemployment is on the way down, which is true. Unemployment in Scranton reached a high of 10.5 percent in July 2010, but in August, the most recent month for which data is available, unemployment there was 9.6 percent.
The debate was widely regarded as a draw and is unlikely to have the same effect as last week’s presidential debate, which opinion polls show Romney clearly won. New polls in the Keystone State show that win may have put Pennsylvania back in play, though the state still leans to Obama.
Poll Watch: A Siena Research poll released Tuesday shows the GOP nominee to be within three points of Obama, trailing 43 percent to 40 percent among 500 likely voters. A second poll of likely voters, conducted by Pennsylvania-based Susquehanna Polling, gave Obama an even slimmer margin — 47 percent to 45 percent.
Meanwhile, polls remain divided over exactly how close Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith is in his bid to unseat first-term U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat.
An internal survey leaked by the Smith campaign had the GOP challenger within two points of Casey, but independent polls this week gave Casey leads of six points and 10 points. No debates have been scheduled between the candidates, and Casey’s campaign says they are waiting for Smith — a political novice who may benefit by avoiding debates — to make the first move.
— Eric Boehm
Predicting Obama’s defeat in Virginia, pollster pulls out
Though President Obama topped Suffolk University surveys in Virginia, pollsters declared this week the president cannot win the state and have pulled out of the Old Dominion.
“I think in places like North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, we’ve already painted those red; we’re not polling any of those states again,” Suffolk University polling director David Paleologos said on Fox News.
Suffolk’s most recent Virginia poll, issued Sept. 27, showed Obama with a 46 percent to 44 percent lead over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, with seven percent undecided.
Paleologos, noting that Obama’s lead was within the statistical margin of error, said at the time that the president maintained “a decided popularity advantage.” Obama’s “favorable” rating was 52 percent, compared with 42 percent for Romney.
“However, with job approval and head-to-head numbers stuck at 46 percent, it will be a significant challenge for Obama to convince the remaining undecided voters to re-elect him,” Paleologos cautioned.
Roger Stone, a veteran GOP consultant who supports Libertarian Gary Johnson, called Suffolk’s move “most unprofessional.”
Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said, “Virginia is a toss-up, and we still see the state as highly competitive for both parties.
“We need a lot more polling to determine whether the state has decisively swung to Romney, because that is far from obvious at this point.”
Suffolk’s pullout came just hours after the Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign announced the GOP had surpassed 4 million voter contacts in Virginia. Those contacts included seven times the number of phone calls and 11 times as many as door knocks at this point in 2008, according to the Washington Times.
Poll Watch: Two other pollsters split in the Old Dominion this week.
NBC/WSJ/Marist on Thursday showed Romney bouncing ahead, 48-47. But a Quinnipiac/CBS/NewYork Times poll released the same day found Obama maintaining the 51 percent to 46 percent lead he had before the Denver debate. The debate, widely viewed as a win for Romney, helped the former Massachusetts governor pull ahead of Obama among Virginia independents and voters 30 percent to 44 percent, Marist said.
Marist said Obama still holds a large lead among women, but now trails Romney by 15 points among men, up considerably from the three-point spread earlier this month.
Quinnipiac, however, found that Virginia’s relatively healthy economy could be a drag for Romney.
“Voters react to what they can feel and touch,” said Peter Brown, of the Hamden, Conn.-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “What they can feel and touch in Virginia makes them happier than their cousins who live in South Carolina or Oregon.”
Ironically, the Q-poll reported that voters think Romney won the first debate by a margin of four to one.
— Kenric Ward
Romney debate win swaying voters in Badger State
What a difference a debate makes.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney narrowed the gap in battleground Wisconsin to three points last week, and his strong showing in the first presidential debate earlier this month continued to resonate among voters.
President Obama led Romney 50 percent to 47 percent, within the margin of error, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll. Last month, the same poll found the Democratic incumbent up 51 percent to 45 percent.
Wisconsin Political strategist Mark Graul said Romney overturned conventional wisdom that debates don’t matter much.
“Usually debates are draws. They don’t really move the needle one way or another,” he said. “It’s not an understatement to say that 90 minutes may have saved the election for Mitt Romney.”
Romney running mate, Wisconsin’s own Congressman Paul Ryan was no slouch either, going head to head Thursday against the seasoned political pro Vice President Joe Biden in the first and only vice presidential debate of 2012.
Most pundits labeled the match-up a draw, contrary to the assessment of the pols. Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz ruled Biden the clear and decisive winner, while Republicans declared their conservative rock star the victor.
“Well, if it was Joe Biden’s job to rescue the Obama campaign, he would make a lousy lifeguard,” Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman jibed in an email.
Each side pointed a finger at the other, decrying lies, half-truths and misstatements.
In other words, a typical night at the debate.
Priebus said the reason for the turnaround was all due to Romney and his foot soldiers in the battleground Badger State.
“What we have here in Wisconsin is a ground game that will blow the doors off of political history,” the Kenosha native and former Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman told Wisconsin Reporter in a phone interview. “We’ve already made 60 times the door knocks we did in 2008, and six times the phone calls.
“We are crushing the Democrats on the ground, and having an army like that on the ground is like having a bigger, stronger and faster defensive line in football,” Priebus said.
— Wisconsin Reporter