Election 2012

Swing State Report: Weekly Briefing Sept. 24

Swing State Report: Weekly Briefing Sept. 24

In the prior seven days, Barack Obama pulled ahead of Mitt Romney in Wisconsin, but Romney held onto a slim lead in Florida, according to polls in those states. A kerfuffle ignited in Ohio over a part time mayor who is on food stamps, and in Michigan, Tagg Romney, the oldest of Mitt and Ann’s five sons, will be the keynote speaker Monday night, Sept. 24, at the 10th Congressional District’s annual Ronald Reagan Dinner in Macomb County to stump for his father.

COLORADO

Cockpit fire brings Ann Romney to Denver

The closest any candidate got to Colorado last week was when a plane carrying Ann Romney from Omaha to Los Angeles made an emergency landing Friday in Denver. A fire erupted in the cockpit and smoke entered the cabin, but no one was hurt.

Both candidates stumped in other states but will make additional visits in the weeks ahead. Meanwhile, the Republicans continue to open more offices to serve as headquarters, not only for Romney, but for the numerous state and congressional candidates, as well.

The New York Times says Obama has 50 Colorado offices, compared to Romney’s 12. The University of Denver at Boulder has an active student Republican coalition, and an office opened in that area, just north of Denver, last week, along with several in outlying counties.

“The team approach is much more successful in generating volunteers and enthusiasm; it’s a collective effort,” Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call said. “When Barack Obama comes to Colorado, he doesn’t share the stage. But Mitt Romney does share the stage with local candidates to support Congress and the state Legislature.”

Poll Watch: Mitt Romney’s videotaped comments about not campaigning for the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay taxes because they would vote for Barack Obama anyway appears to have had little impact on Colorado voters, who still keep this race a tight one.

Four polls conducted last week showed Obama up by a collective average of about two points, well within the margin of error. One of the three polls — Rasmussen — showed Romney ahead by two points.

“We haven’t seen any shift in the polls as a result of this video or other things,” said Call. “We understand this is a close race and will continue to be close over the next few weeks.”

Colorado Democratic officials could not be reached for comment.

— Tori Richards

FLORIDA

Video leak turns debate from Medicare and entitlement to taxes and foreign policy

What began as a battle over who could best uphold Medicare and tackle entitlement issues in the Sunshine State has now turned full steam into a debate rooted in taxes and foreign policy.

The shift began after a leaked video from a May fundraiser for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in Boca Raton, just 50 miles north of Miami, in which he said a significant portion of the American public — 47 percent — does not pay federal income taxes.

Seemingly at the ready, progressive and establishment press were quick to deride Romney’s comments, charging him with secret contempt for working people and with employing racial overtones.

The editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times, the biggest newspaper in the southeastern U.S., chided Romney’s “callous” remarks and charged him with inciting “class warfare.”

Poll Watch: The latest Purple Insights poll shows Romney carrying a slim one point lead in the Sunshine State, edging ahead with 48 percent support to President Obama’s 47 percent.

The battle for Florida’s Jewish voters was buoyed by a recent television ad featuring the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning of “Iran getting close to the nuclear bomb.”

The million-dollar ad buy, by Secure America Now, suggests tacit leadership on the issue by Obama, and it will play heavily in Miami, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach.

The level of attention on the presidential race, meanwhile, has allowed Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson to hold a steady lead over his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack. Though Nelson has supported all proposals by President Obama, he has shied away from large appearances with his party, even turning down the DNC to campaign in his home state and extend his lead over Mack.

— Yaël Ossowski

IOWA

Biden, Romney spin comments away from Romney’s remarks

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan were spending a few days in Iowa just as Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks became public.

Both tried to ignore the leaked video.

While other Democrats have pointed to the video as a smoking gun, Biden didn’t mention it during a three-stop tour of the state last Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 17 and 18. Instead, he repeatedly criticized Romney’s record in business, his plan for Medicare and tax breaks for the wealthy, and his proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program. In what might have been an oblique reference, Biden did end a speech in Ottumwa by saying it’s never good to bet against the American people.

Ryan, meanwhile, before a crowd of several hundred people in Des Moines, criticized President Obama for characterizing Midwest conservatives as wanting to cling to religion and guns, a reference to then-candidate Obama’s 2008 remark about Pennsylvania voters. Ryan also told the crowd the United States would face an economic calamity if Obama were re-elected, because he would keep borrowing money and increase taxes and government regulations.

Romney, he said, would help the nation avoid the kind of economic struggles facing many European countries. Biden and Paul stressed early voting, which begins Sept. 27 in Iowa, during their campaign stops.

Poll Watch:  A new Rasmussen poll shows Romney with a slight edge over Obama in Iowa. The poll shows Iowans favor Romney, 47 percent to 44 percent over Obama.

A rolling average of multiple polls, however, show Obama with an increasing lead against Romney, with a 47 percent to 44.7 percent edge, according to RealClearPolitics.com. Four years ago, Obama carried Iowa by a 54 percent to 44 percent margin over GOP candidate John McCain.

— Sheena Dooley

MICHIGAN

Tagg Romney says Democrats taking America on ‘frightening’ path

Top national Democrat and Republican operatives spent much of last week arguing over Michigan’s status as a swing state.

Robert Gibbs, a former spokesman for President Obama, told a group of business leaders it won’t take much more than $10,000 for Obama to win the state, according to the Michigan Information & Research Service.

“We’re spending $10,000 here and I bet we don’t have to spend a whole lot more here,” Gibbs said.

The remarks were met with groans from the crowd. Top GOP strategist Karl Rove said if Michigan wasn’t up for grabs, groups would not be spending millions of dollars to swing the race there.

“Trust me, by the end of the campaign they’re not going to be taking Michigan for granted,” Rove said.

Republicans, who two weeks ago heard that Mitt Romney was abandoning his home state, were greeted last week with news that Tagg Romney, the oldest of Mitt and Ann’s five sons, is the keynote speaker Monday night (Sept. 24) at the 10th Congressional District’s annual Ronald Reagan Dinner in Macomb County.

In a radio interview Wednesday, Tagg Romney talked at length about the state of politics today and particularly how Democrats, in his view, are demonizing core American values.

“The Democrats are doing their best to say that people who are successful ought to be punished … it’s unbelievable to me that they, that the length that they’re going to try and say that success is somehow something that you didn’t earn yourself, and that we ought to redistribute everybody’s wealth and make everybody the same … it’s frightening in a lot of ways the direction the Democrats want to take us in,” he said to Paul W. Smith on WJR-760 AM.

Now that he’s seen how the process works from the inside, the younger Romney says he has no aspirations to follow his dad and grandfather into politics.

By Jarrett Skorup

NEVADA

Silver State goes from toss-up to Obama, by just a little

Mitt Romney stopped in Las Vegas on Friday Sept. 21 for a private fundraiser followed by a public rally at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas on the same day that new unemployment figures for Nevada were released showing an increase to 12.1 percent statewide. Nevada has led the nation in unemployment since 2010.

That same day, the Romney campaign released the candidate’s 2011 tax return showing the Republican nominee paid almost $2 million in federal taxes in addition to dispersing more than $4 million in charitable contributions, including $2.25 million to his church.

Romney in his rally speech discussed neither his tax return nor his controversial “47 percent” remark.

The Nevada Secretary of State announced last week that Democrats now hold a 60,000-voter registration advantage over Republicans statewide and, as the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports, “it’s growing by the day.”

That news was followed by an announcement that the Republican National Committee was detailing two additional full-time operatives to Nevada.

In the surrogate campaign, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, came to Las Vegas last week and criticized Romney’s policies on housing. On the other side, Saratoga Springs, Utah, Mayor Mia Love, who spoke at the Republican National Convention, visited Vegas on behalf of Mitt Romney, while Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., campaigned at a “Women for Mitt” event in Sparks.

Ann Romney is scheduled to headline a fundraising event for her husband Friday at the Las Vegas home of mega-donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

Poll Watch: New Nevada polling results, released the day before Romney’s visit: Rasmussen shows Obama leading Romney 47 percent 45 percent, while CNN shows Obama up 49 to 46. Days before those results were released, Mike Barabak of the Los Angeles Times moved Nevada from “toss-up” to “lean Obama,” noting the president’s strength with Latino voters and Mitt Romney’s inability so far to “capitalize on the state’s grave economic circumstances.”

— Chuck Muth

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Romney gains ground despite negative coverage from legacy press

Mitt Romney appears to be gaining ground in the Granite State, despite negative press coverage attached to his recently publicized comments about government dependency.

In a state that has been trending back to the Republicans since the 2010 mid-term elections, the so-called “gaffe” actually presents Romney with an opportunity to clarify his message to voters largely receptive toward his policies, grassroots activists say.

“The central message standing behind Romney’s remarks of greater self-sufficiency, more autonomy and less government is a winner in New Hampshire,” said Sam Pimm, a Republican strategist. “I don’t think this particular media episode has much staying power, but Romney does have an opening here to go on the offensive and connect with voters who are not keen on the idea of expanding entitlements that we all know are not sustainable.”

Even establishment media outlets such as the Washington Post acknowledge this may be true. During a rally for Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Tuesday in Dover, the Post quoted a New Hampshire retiree who backed Romney’s statements.

“The 47 percent, they’re not paying any taxes, so they don’t have any incentive to support him,” observed Jim Pacocha. “Once it gets past the tipping point, we’re going to be as bad as any European socialist country.”

Vice President Joe Biden returned to New Hampshire for the second time in two weeks during a campaign stop at Dartmouth College on Friday. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., rallied war veterans on behalf of Romney during a visit to the Nashua VFW Post last week.

Since New Hampshire residents already know Romney, it’s difficult for the media to redefine him, Lewandowski said.

“Romney has a home here in New Hampshire and a personal connection with many people the state; he’s not an unknown entity,” says Corey Lewandowski, the N.H. state director of Americans for Prosperity. “It will be close race with a high turnout, but a high turnout that benefits Romney.”

Poll Watch: Romney is now up by two points over President Obama in the latest Rasmussen Poll, while The Real Clear Politics average has Romney down by about two points. For the past several weeks, the Real Clear average had Romney down by four points. By any metric, the Granite State has shifted somewhat in Romney’s direction.

This may be the result of internal state dynamics cutting against the Democrats. There is, for example, an anti-income tax amendment on the ballot that probably works to Romney’s advantage, Lewandowski suggests.

“We have not had an income tax in New Hampshire, and if this amendment becomes law, it will protect us from having an income tax in the future,” he said. “I feel instinctively that the people who turn out for this amendment will vote for Romney.”

— Kevin Mooney

NORTH CAROLINA

First Lady visits and steers clear of Romney comments

First Lady Michelle Obama last week made a couple of stops in battleground North Carolina. She used two like yet dissimilar venues — historically black North Carolina Central University in urban Durham, and East Carolina University, in the Down East part of the state, where bays and estuaries form the coastal plain. She spoke at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro earlier this year.

In Durham, the Herald-Sun wrote, Obama grabbed echoes from her convention speech. She talked about meeting her future husband, about his honesty and conviction, about the importance of continuing his policies for another four years.

But she never mentioned Mitt Romney by name. Nor did she reference — in so many words — the infamous 47-percent comment, according to the Herald-Sun and other news reports.

She repeated the performance at ECU in Greenville, again with no talk of Romney, instead, pleading instead for votes. President Obama won North Carolina by just 14,000 votes in 2008, an average of about five votes per precinct.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan visited Greensboro last week, too. He stayed several minutes and met with about 10 volunteers, the News and Record of Greensboro said, before heading to nearby Danville, Va., where Ryan did talk about the 47 percent. So did Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. He said he recognizes those 47 percent as students, police officers, firefighters and teachers, the Charlotte Observer wrote.

Poll Watch: Obama is maintaining slight leads over Romney in North Carolina, according to the latest polls from Purple Insights and High Point University. In the Purple poll of 600 likely voters taken Sept. 15-19, Obama leads 48 percent to 46 percent, with 6 percent “not sure.” In the High Point poll of 448 registered voters taken Sept. 8-18, Obama leads by four percentage points, 48 to 44.

– John Trump

OHIO

Small-town food-stamp mayor takes on Romney

Most Ohio Republicans greeted Mitt Romney’s 47 percent remarks with a bit of throat clearing and finger-tapping.

It’s hard to defend a line like, “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” It’s harder to find examples of what Romney was talking about — not cartoon welfare queens but a creeping sense of entitlement that affects even the young and ambitious.

One young Democratic mayor has volunteered for the role. Adam Brannon, 27, was elected mayor of the rural town of Bellefontaine after graduating from the University of Findlay, which offers “Brain-Based Learning,” according to its home page.

His part-time mayor’s job pays $26,840, and it’s the only one he has. The “position is considered a part-time position, however, the responsibilities and obligations that are asked of the mayor make it a full-time position,” he told us.

Brannon tried working outside jobs for a couple of years, but late-night shift work and interminable City Council meetings don’t mix.

He quit the last one in May 2011 after just four months but ran for re-election last fall.

The thing is, Brannon’s married with a child and has another on the way, and his wife stays at home.

Since February, his family has been receiving food stamps. As Brannon put it on Facebook, “I’m part of the 47%.” He talked about his mom getting all kinds of government help with housing, food, day care, and schooling, and now he is in a similar position.

“I have taken personal responsibility for my life, we purchased a house, we pay our bills, but we do need a ‘hand-up’ at different points in our lives and for my family right now, this is one of them,” he wrote.

The conservative blog Third Base Politics heard about the food stamp mayor and published a screen shot of Brannon’s Facebook post. That post is now deleted. Commenters marveled: In what world is buying a house on a part-time salary responsible? If it wasn’t working, why run for re-election?

The blogger tipped off a reporter at the local Bellefontaine Examiner, and got an earful rather than any thanks.

“Of course the post generated a lot of traffic and emotion, you threw a bunch of red meat at a group of judgmental, conservative bigots,” wrote Examiner reporter Nate Smith, who upbraided the blogger for writing about Brannon instead of “subsidies to oil companies, tax loopholes,” etc.

We checked with the newspaper’s general manager, T.J. Hubbard, on whether it was kosher for reporters to stereotype all conservatives as bigots. It’s not, and “the Examiner apologizes for the unprofessional and offensive personal remarks made by Mr. Smith,” he wrote. “Disciplinary action against Mr. Smith, up to and including employment termination, is being considered at this time.”

— Jon Cassidy         

PENNSYLVANIA

Keystone State race is tight, though Rove leaning now calling it for Obama

Republicans dispatched U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey to act as a Mitt Romney surrogate after a video leaked showing the former Massachusetts governor dismissing 47 percent of voters as being dependent on government and sure to vote for Obama.

Sen. Toomey attacked the president Wednesday for comments made during a lecture given by the future president in 1998, when Obama said he believed in “some redistribution, at least a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”

Toomey blasted the remarks as evidence of a “long-held belief in redistribution” on the part of Obama, while Democrats countered by saying Obama was merely calling for more efficient and effective government.

Pennsylvania remains just outside the core group of swing states likely to determine the outcome of the election, according to most prognosticators. Both national campaigns have pulled down television advertisements in the state, though Pennsylvania GOP chairman Rob Gleason said this week the Romney campaign would again advertise in the state.

Poll Watch: Four polls released this week make it difficult to tell which direction the Keystone State is trending, even though Republican campaign guru Karl Rove said the state is likely to fall in President Barack Obama’s column on Election Day.

Rove moved the state from “leans Obama” to “safe Obama” in a new analysis that put the president 10 points ahead of Romney.

But an internal poll made public by the Pennsylvania GOP on Thursday pointed in a different direction, showing Obama with a one percentage point lead, 48-47.

At the other end of the spectrum, a Rasmussen survey of 500 likely Pennsylvania voters released Friday showed Obama with a commanding lead, 51-39. Two other polls released during the past week gave Obama leads of six points and nine points, both well outside the margin of error.

— Eric Boehm

 VIRGINIA

Ryan tells depressed Danville that Republicans want to create wealth, not redistribute it

Paul Ryan can’t seem to get enough of Virginia, making his sixth appearance in the Old Dominion since Mitt Romney named the Wisconsin congressman as his running mate five weeks ago in Norfolk.

Ryan’s latest visit echoed a battle of media clips circulating on the Internet — a 14-year-old audio snippet in which President Obama verbalizes his support for wealth redistribution, and a video from a fundraiser in which Romney said 47 percent of Americans will vote for Obama “no matter what” because they pay no federal income tax and depend on the government.

“You know, President Obama said he believes in redistribution,” the ever-energetic Ryan told an American flag-waving crowd of several hundred people outside a machine tool plant near economically depressed Danville. “Mitt Romney and I are not running to redistribute the wealth. Mitt Romney and I are running to help Americans create wealth.”

Ryan also appeared in Arlington and Newport News during his two-day Virginia trip.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was among the first to fly to Romney’s defense over the “47 percent” remark.

“He would say it probably differently today, but it is a significant problem when you have this level of people that don’t pay significant amount of taxes because they can’t earn a good living,” said McDonnell.

But Republican George Allen, running against Democrat Tim Kaine in one of the country’s tightest U.S. Senate races, was less supportive when the 47 percent remark resurfaced Thursday in the candidates’ first televised debate. Kaine, dubbed an Obama clone by critics, called Romney’s comments “divisive,” while Allen separated himself slightly from Romney, saying he has his “own point of view” apart from Romney. Non-taxpaying citizens “don’t look at themselves as victims,” Allen said.

Poll Watch: The latest Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll showed Obama leading Romney 50 percent to 46 percent, maintaining the four-point edge he held in last month’s Q-Poll (49-45).

“That’s just outside the (2.6-point) margin of error,” said Jeremy Mayer of George Mason University. “So Obama’s better off than he would be if it was within the margin of error, but the real number could be eight. It could be two. It could be one. So, Virginia’s terribly close.”

When it comes to the economy — easily Virginians’ most important issue — respondents said they trust Obama over Romney, 49-47 percent, according to the telephone poll that surveyed 1,474 likely voters Sept. 11-17.

— Kathryn Watson

WISCONSIN

In a tough week, Wisconsin questions swing-state status

President Obama was set to make his first visit to Wisconsin since February, while Ann Romney campaigned for her husband in Milwaukee on Thursday.

“I think we can carry Wisconsin,” Ann Romney confidently told a crowd of “Women for Mitt” supporters.

A Republican presidential candidate has not carried the Badger State since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Poll Watch: It has been a tough week for Republicans in the battleground Badger State.

But with the poll numbers that rolled out last week, the question may be whether Wisconsin remains a swing state.

The latest Marquette Law School poll, Wisconsin’s read on the critical races, shows Obama pounding GOP challenger Mitt Romney by 14 percentage points, and U.S Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, up by nine points on former four-term popular Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Obama’s lead over GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney grew from 3 percentage points in mid-August to 14 percentage points in mid-September among likely voters, according to the new poll.

Thompson suffered a complete reversal of fortune from August, when he led Baldwin 50 percent to 41 percent.

“Independents are the group that clearly showed the greatest shift,” said Charles Franklin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist who directs the Marquette poll series.

A new Swing State Poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, the New York Times and CBS News shows the Senate race tied at 47 percent and Obama with a six-point lead in Wisconsin, 51 percent to 45 percent.

That’s despite the fact that Badger State voters say their families — and the country as a whole — are worse off than they were four years ago.

The poll questioned 1,485 likely voters surveyed by telephone from Sept. 11-17. That widens the 49-47 overall lead Obama had just weeks earlier Aug. 23, soon after Romney announced that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was to be his running mate.

Marquette’s poll of 601 likely voters was taken Sept.13-16, coinciding with the attack in Libya that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.

That poll did not include questions about the Middle East violence, and it arrived before the release of the secretly recorded video tape that showed Romney telling supporters that he’s not concerned about the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income tax. Romney’s Wisconsin campaign countered with a media blitz pointing to Obama’s comments several years ago about the redistribution of wealth.

—    Wisconsin Reporter

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