Romney prospects improve in key swing states
Editor’s note: This is the eighth 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 the state of the presidential race, polls, campaign events 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.
Romney camp confident about Sunshine State win
Though it is certain to remain a nail-biter into the wee hours of election night, at least one of the candidates is feeling more confident about a Florida advantage.
Mitt Romney enjoys a slight lead in the latest polls in the Sunshine State, and he has received a bump from certain polling agencies already calling the state in his favor.
This is quite a turn of events from earlier consensus in Florida, as many saw the surging registration of Democratic voters as a sure indication the race was Barack Obama’s to win again.
But with polling advantages and momentum on his side, the Romney camp remains confident the South’s most precious swing state and its 29 electoral votes will be declared theirs Nov. 6.
Poll watch: The Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Herald poll gives Romney significant advantage before Election Day, placing him ahead with 51 percent to Obama’s 45 percent.
The Mason-Dixon polling company all but pulled out of the state last week.
“Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,” Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research said last week in its last conclusive statewide poll. “Unless something dramatically changes — an October surprise, a major gaffe — Romney’s going to win Florida.”
In early October, Suffolk University’s polling operation pulled out of the state, declaring Florida was destined to “be painted red on Election Day.”
Former President Bill Clinton made a solo trip to St. Petersburg on Friday, hoping once again to push the crowd toward early voting in the last available hours.
Wednesday, Romney held a brief rally at the Tampa airport before jetting to Coral Gables and Jacksonville. He was joined by popular conservatives from the Sunshine State, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, searching for momentum in his race for the U.S. Senate.
— Yaël Ossowski
Obama back in Hawkeye State, but things are different compared to ’08
Presidential campaign activities in Iowa are just gearing up as Election Day draws near.
Celebrities and candidates have inundated the state and plan to continue to do so until Monday, when campaign events will culminate with President Obama visiting the state that gave him the momentum to eventually win the presidency in 2008.
But things are different now. Obama holds a narrow 2-percentage point lead over GOP rival Mitt Romney, compared to a double-digit win four years ago.
Iowa started as a battleground state and will end the campaign season as one. The two candidates have polled closely throughout the campaign, with Obama holding a slight edge over Romney, according to Real Clear Politics.
Campaign officials for both Romney and Obama have said in the past week their lawyers plan to stake out polling places in battleground states, like Iowa, to monitor activities and ensure nothing illegal takes place.
A group that won’t be allowed into the polls is the international Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said this week he will not allow members of the group, which has been observing U.S. elections since 2002, into Iowa polling places. If they show up, they will face arrest and criminal charges, Schultz said.
Romney ended his Iowa campaign Saturday with a visit to Des Moines. The visit came on the heels of the Des Moines Register’s surprise endorsement of the challenger. Three of the state’s other largest papers also are supporting Romney.
— Sheena Dooley
Keystone State in play as ad money rolls in at crunch time
After months of watching from the bench, Pennsylvania was sent back into the game as crunch time approaches.
Both presidential campaigns and their related super PACs withdrew all advertising from Pennsylvania in early September to focus elsewhere. But this week, both were back on the air in the Keystone State as Romney made a last-second push to pull an upset here, and Obama’s team was forced to play defense with ad buys of it own.
In all, the GOP has announced more than $12 million in advertising during the final week of the campaign in Pennsylvania, while Democrats are planning to spend about $1.6 million, according to ad trackers.
Meanwhile, polls show Obama’s lead in the state is slipping, but he is still holding on for now. A poll released mid-week gave the president a four-point edge over Romney.
Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan visited Harrisburg on Saturday and Romney was in the Philadelphia area on Sunday. In response, Democrats dispatched Bill Clinton to Pennsylvania, where he was scheduled to make three appearances Monday.
So is Pennsylvania finally achieving “swing state” status in the final days of the race? Depends on whom you listen to, as both sides have their spin-machines in top gear.
Republicans claim the last-gasp efforts in places such as Pennsylvania — along with Minnesota and Michigan — are a sign of weakness from the Obama camp in those supposedly blue states.
Democrats argue Romney has reached desperation mode after realizing he will not win Ohio and needs to find a new path to victory in the Electoral College.
It’s worth noting that Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes are two more than Ohio’s — only California, New York, Texas and Florida are bigger prizes.
Experts say turnout would determine whether Romney can pull the upset in Pennsylvania. Turnout figures that come close to 2008 for Obama in Philadelphia and its suburbs will likely be enough to carry the state for the president, but the deluge of advertising in the final week of the race could put Pennsylvania in play if turnout is closer to 2000 or 2004 levels — though Democrats won the state in each of those years.
— Eric Boehm
Sandy messes with campaigns in Centennial State
As Hurricane Sandy approached the Eastern seaboard, scheduled campaign events in Colorado featuring President Obama and Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, were canceled.
Monday and Tuesday, Craig Romney, one of Romney’s sons, made campaign stops in Denver and Longmont, where he said, “It is a privilege to go out and represent my father.”
Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, was on hand to drum up support for Democrats; she made a stop at Colorado College in Colorado Springs on Monday before heading north to the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins.
President Bill Clinton was also stumping for Obama in Colorado, where he spoke at high schools in Commerce City and central Denver.
Ryan returned to the campaign trail with rescheduled events in Greeley and Montrose on Thursday and Friday. To a crowd of 1,000 supporters in Greeley, Ryan held up one hand to count down the remaining five days before the election and asked people to donate to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy.
Also Thursday, Obama spoke at a rally in Boulder to an audience of 10,000 people, mostly college students.
“For the past few days all of us have been focused on one of the worst storms of our lifetime, and we are awed and humbled by nature’s destructive power,” he told the crowd. “We’ve also been inspired these last few days, because when disaster strikes, we see America at its best. The petty differences that consume us in normal times, they all seem to melt away … In moments like these, we are reminded that there are no Democrats or Republicans, just fellow Americans.”
Ann Romney was scheduled to join her husband at two events in Colorado on Saturday.
Poll Watch: In six new polls, support for the candidates was split. A survey by Public Policy Polling shows Obama ahead by four points in Colorado, the We Ask America and Grover Insight polls show the president leading by three points, and the CNN poll gave Obama a two-point lead. The Ipsos/Reuters poll showed Romney with a one-point lead, and the Rasmussen poll showed Romney with a three-point lead.
— Mindy Seymour
Romney works to get out the vote in close race that leans toward president
Republican Sen. John McCain’s visit to Michigan on Oct. 30 to campaign for Mitt Romney highlights how much the state’s political leanings have tilted in four years.
While running for president in 2008, McCain angered many state Republicans when he pulled out of Michigan in October. At that time, McCain trailed Obama in state polls by anywhere from 3 to 13 points.
But Romney’s Michigan workers will tell you much has changed since then.
On Oct. 28, Ann Romney came to Detroit to watch Game 4 of the World Series. Then she campaigned the next day in her home state. Former First Lady Laura Bush campaigned in Michigan, also on Oct. 28.
The Detroit News and the Grand Rapids Press have endorsed Romney.
The Free Press, however, endorsed Obama for the second time. The Free Press claimed in its endorsement that the economy has “been restored to health.” The national unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent in October. The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when Obama took office in January 2009 and reached as high as 10 percent in October 2009.
The Free Press endorsement was in stark contrast to endorsements by other liberal editorial boards that switched to endorse Romney. Notably, the Des Moines Register endorsed its first GOP candidate since 1972. More than 20 newspapers that endorsed Obama in 2008 now endorse Romney.
Kelsey Knight, spokeswoman for Romney’s Michigan team, said the workers knocked on their one-millionth door Oct. 31.
“Today is pretty historic,” Knight said Oct. 31. “We never thought in a million years that would be possible.”
The Romney team has contacted 3.5 million residents, Knight said.
And the polls are showing the work is paying off.
Poll Watch: A Baydoun/Foster poll has the state is deadlocked. A Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll has Obama with a three-point lead, while EPIC-MRA has Obama up by six points. By comparison, Obama won Michigan by 16.4 percentage points in 2008.
— Tom Gantert
Conventional wisdom says Nevada will again vote Obama, but by a slimmer margin
President Obama made one final campaign stop in Las Vegas on Thursday, featuring entertainer Eva Longoria as his opening act. The same day, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan made a campaign stop in Reno.
While both campaigns believe Nevada winnable, Democrats built a considerable lead of well more than 60,000 votes in early voting in Las Vegas and Clark County. The GOP will have to depend on a strong Election Day turnout, especially in northern and rural Nevada to offset a big advantage for Democrats in the south.
Recognizing the problem with early voting — and after coming under some criticism for his lack of public support and campaigning for the GOP presidential nominee, as well as down-ballot Republican candidates — Nevada’s popular Gov. Brian Sandoval cut a last-minute 30-second web/TV commercial urging support for Romney and Ryan. Many, however, fear it was too little, too late.
On the surrogate circuit, actors Ed Helms, Ken Jeong and Zach Galifianakis of “The Hangover” films stopped by an Obama headquarters after attending a campaign rally in Las Vegas featuring First Lady Michelle Obama. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire headlined a “Women for Mitt” event in Reno, while Congressman Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a Nevada native, campaigned in Las Vegas. Josh Romney, the candidate’s son, also campaigned in Reno.
In the end, Nevada ended up exactly where it started … a legitimate Top 10 swing state. Conventional wisdom says it will go for Obama, but by a much slimmer margin than in 2008.
Poll Watch: Democratic pollster Lisa Grove for Project New America/US Action showed Obama up by six points, with a margin of error of 4.4 percent. SurveyUSA had it Obama 50, Romney 46, but with Romney leading 52-46 among early voters.
— Chuck Muth
Romney ends campaign where it began; Clinton joins Obama on trail
Mitt Romney’s campaign for the White House ended on the same spot it began — on the farm of Doug and Stella Scamman, in Stratham, N.H. This is the same venue Romney used when he announced June 2, 2011, that he was running for president.
Doug Scamman is the former Republican New Hampshire House speaker. His wife previously served in the state Legislature as a Republican.
During the speech that officially launched his campaign, Romney told a crowd gathered at the Scamman farm that President Obama failed to deliver on the economic renewal he promised Americans. Romney cited rising unemployment, high consumer prices and an exploding national debt.
“A few years ago, Americans did something that was, actually, very much the sort of thing Americans like to do: We gave someone new a chance to lead; someone we hadn’t known for very long, who didn’t have much of a record but promised to lead us to a better place,” Romney said. “At the time, we didn’t know what sort of a president he would make. It was a moment of crisis for our economy, and when Barack Obama came to office, we wished him well and hoped for the best.”
On Friday, Romney returned to the Scamman farm, where he brought his message and his presidential aspirations full circle.
“America is a land of opportunity,” he said. “But lately, for too many Americans, opportunity has not exactly come knocking. We’ve been mired in an economic slowdown that has left millions of our fellow citizens unemployed. The consequences in dreams shattered, lives disrupted, plans deferred and hopes dimmed can be found all around us. It hasn’t always been this way. It certainly doesn’t have to be this way in the future. We’re all in this together. And together we can emerge from these troubles.”
While Romney trailed President Obama in the Granite State for most of the campaign, it’s clear that he has moved into a narrow, but steady lead, Corey Lewandowski, state director with Americans for Prosperity said. He points to Romney’s strong performance in the debates and the electoral appeal of Paul Ryan as key factors.
“When Romney picked Ryan, I think that solidified support from Evangelicals and Catholics, Lewandowski said. “Romney’s Mormon religion has been a non-issue. I’m out on the ground every day, and I’ve heard absolutely nothing about it. I also think it suddenly became cool to say you supported Romney after he did so well in the debates, especially the first one.”
Obama was set to return to New Hampshire on Sunday with former President Bill Clinton, according to his campaign. Caroline Kennedy also campaigned on behalf of Obama over the weekend. Romney will visit the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Monday, where singer Kid Rock is expected to perform.
Poll Watch: The Real Clear Politics average has Obama up by two points, but Lewandowski points to the more recent surveys that have Romney leading by two points. Lewandowski is also expecting a high turnout in the southern counties of Rockingham and Hillsborough, the most conservative parts of the state. Not everyone agrees with Lewandoski’s assessment of the polls. A new poll from New England College showed Obama has a five-point lead. Dr. Ben Tafoya, director of the Polling Center in the college’s Center for Civil Engagement, sees the president with an advantage among women voters.
— Kevin Mooney
Campaigns send in second teams to secure up-for-grabs Tar Heel State
In swing-state North Carolina, neither presidential candidate can afford to sit on the ball and run out the clock.
Each is seeking to pull out a win in a state that Obama won by 14,000 votes in 2008, a state in which Romney led by several percentage points after the first debate. A state that now, according to the Real Clear Politics aggregate, is a virtual toss-up.
But the Tar Heel State’s 15 electoral votes, though important, apparently aren’t enough to warrant an appearance by the first team.
Neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney plan to visit in the days before Election Day. Rather, North Carolina will see First Lady Michelle Obama — yet again — Jill Biden and Bill Clinton, as well as at least three out-of-state Republican congressmen who visited last week on behalf of Romney, The Associated Press says.
The Elon University Poll, a leading indicator for North Carolina, has the race even, with each candidate getting 45 percent of respondents in the latest survey.
But, the Elon pollsters say, more respondents think Obama is better able to handle issues such as “national security, health care, foreign relations, and immigration. In addition, more voters said Obama has a clearer plan to address the country’s problems, is honest and trustworthy, and shares their values more closely.” But nearly 52 percent of the 1,238 likely voters polled by Elon said Romney would better handle the economy if elected, compared to 42 percent for the president.
The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, contends, based on a 3.8 percent advantage in the RCP aggregate, that Romney would win the state, a theory promulgated mostly by the debates.
“More so than any election in the past several decades, these debates have mattered,” Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State University, told the paper.
“If these debates hadn’t ever happened, I think Obama would be a really strong favorite leading into Tuesday — but he isn’t.”
Peter Feaver is a political science professor at Duke University. He told The Daily Tar Heel: “The first debate created a vivid contrast between the cartoon image of Romney created by the Obama campaign and the man voters saw in that debate that won decisively.”
— John Trump
Candidates driving home the China lies
In Ohio, everybody’s favorite political game is lying about China.
Mitt Romney has been trying to play, too, and got a rude surprise last week when the press actually called him on it, creating what may be the final story of the campaign.
Romney said Jeep was moving its American manufacturing to China, drawing a rebuke from Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat, Jeep’s parent company.
“Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand,” Marchionne said in a companywide email. “It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”
The increase in China production was just for the Chinese market, he said.
The press was unanimous and vociferous in denouncing Romney.
“Mitt Romney is desperate to convince Ohio voters that he’s the candidate most committed to the U.S. auto industry — no matter how much confusion he must sow to do it,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote in an editorial.
That question – who’s Detroit’s BFF? – is the level of sophistication most of the Ohio press has demonstrated this year.
It’s why other China lies never even register, and why no local reporter has yet noticed that Obama administration policy does deserve blame for subsidizing the export of U.S. auto jobs.
The biggest lie the press fails to notice is the charge that China is manipulating its currency, when the truth is that the renminbi has been steadily appreciating against the dollar for five years. Even Paul Krugman, who two years ago was calling for anti-China tariffs, now agrees that “this is an issue whose time has passed.”
Romney and President Obama both surely know the truth, but claim otherwise and never get challenged. Likewise, Obama and Sen. Sherrod Brown endlessly complain about Chinese subsidies while supporting billions in taxpayer dollars for favored industries. Can anyone think of an example? (Hint: they make cars.)
The funny thing is Romney’s facts were wrong, but his point is right. In 2009, Obama imposed tariffs on Chinese tire imports. He’s been talking about them in speeches, ads, and the debates, but the press never bothers to mention them.
They’re actually quite important, not just in economic value – one study found they cost consumers $1 billion and the poultry industry another $1 billion in retaliation – but because they kicked off a little trade kerfuffle.
Last December, China announced tariffs of 21.5 percent on all American-made cars and SUVs with an engine larger than 2.5 liters. The move was widely seen as both a protest of the tire tariffs and a response to the $79.7 billion subsidy the U.S. government gave its auto industry.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told Motor Trend that American companies exported around $3 billion worth of vehicles covered by that duty in the previous year, including the Jeep Wrangler.
Now, Jeep is shifting production to China to avoid paying tariffs, and none of the journalists yelling gotcha has a clue.
Oh, and they also missed stories in Bloomberg and the Detroit Free Press last week reporting Fiat’s announcement that it will build a small Jeep in Italy for export starting in 2014.
Not to worry. As one Davide Tomasi tweeted, it’s just “One jeep model produced in Italy for Europe, maybe it will never arrive in the US.”
Romney closing the gap with Obama and women in Virginia
While Virginia remains a toss-up, Mitt Romney has new reason for hope and change in the Old Dominion.
President Obama, who carried the commonwealth in 2008, held a lead in the summer polls prior to the national conventions. The University of Virginia had Obama at 47.3 percent versus 46.7 percent for Romney.
But things shifted after the debates, and University of Virginia’s Center for Politics now puts Romney slightly ahead, 47.9 percent to 47.4 percent.
That barest of margins has Virginia partisans spinning their way to Election Day.
“Our best, frankest sources are emphatic, but in opposite directions. Republicans insist Romney will win Virginia, and Democrats appear almost equally sure in the other direction,” said Kyle Kondik, political analyst at the University of Virginia center.
“We’ve had this race as a toss-up for nearly the whole cycle, though it was ‘leans Democratic’ from September 27 through October 11. Obama had taken a pretty solid polling lead in many states in late September, but those leads evaporated in some places following the first debate,” he said.
Poll Watch: A Quinnipiac Poll released this week showed Obama’s lead shrinking to a statistical tie: 49 percent to 47 percent — down from 51 percent to 46 percent on Oct. 11. The latest Q-Poll found that the former Massachusetts governor had begun to close the gender gap among Virginia’s female voters — from 16 points to 10 points — and was reclaiming some of the white and independent voters who had abandoned John McCain in 2008.
A new Roanoke College poll offered the brightest prospects for the top of the GOP ticket. That survey, released the same day as the Q-Poll, had Romney up 49 percent to 44 percent and showed Republican George Allen leading Democrat Tim Kaine 47 percent to 42 percent in the U.S. Senate race.
No other poll has shown either Republican holding those types of margins. Virtually every other survey has reported a three- to five-point lead for Kaine, which would suggest an unusually high degree of ticket splitting — if the presidential race here is as close as most prognosticators say.
— Kenric Ward
The Boss, Katy Perry join candidates for closing arguments in Badger State
In the closing days of the presidential campaign, Wisconsin has to feel a little bit like Sally Field at the Academy Awards in 1985, when the former flying nun won a best actress Oscar for Places in the Heart. “You like me, right now, you like me!” Field excitedly told academy voters.
Battleground Badger State certainly felt the campaign love as President Obama, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a who’s who of surrogates heaped attention on Dairyland and its 10 important electoral votes.
Romney made his “closing arguments” in suburban Milwaukee on Friday, while Obama was joined by pop diva Katy Perry in Milwaukee and was expected to close his Wisconsin campaign with The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, in Madison on Monday.
Most polls showed Obama with a slight edge, but Romney certainly was within striking distance.
Republicans appear to have the edge in ground game in Wisconsin. A Marquette Law School poll, released Wednesday, found significantly more respondents had been contacted by a GOP supporter.
“We’ve got the energy and momentum on the ground. State by state … (the Obama campaign) are underperforming what they did in 2008, and in our numbers, we are over performing,” Rich Beeson, Romney for President campaign political director, said in a mid-week conference call.
But the Marquette poll found Obama with a commanding eight percentage point lead in Wisconsin, thanks to a switch in Independents’ allegiance. Romney supporters blasted the poll as an anomaly, an outlier of several polls pegging a much closer race.
Romney’s people continued to hammer on Obama’s “Wisconsin problem,” asserting the president and Vice President Joe Biden have spent a lot more time of late in the Badger State because they fear it slipping away.
Asked at a stop in Green Bay on Thursday whether the campaign was second-guessing its early absence in Wisconsin, Obama campaign Traveling Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed no regrets.
“We always knew this state would be harder than it was for us in 2008,” she told the pool reporter. “Obviously, when Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, he’s a native son. He’s basically moved into the state and put a great deal of time in there.”
— Wisconsin Reporter