Election 2012

Swing State Report: Romney saturates Colo.

Swing State Report: Romney saturates Colo.

COLORADO

It’s a busy week in Colorado … for Republicans

In a week leading up to the first presidential debate, the Mitt Romney camp has saturated Colorado with rallies and appearances to ensure the Republicans’ message is firmly entrenched in voters’ minds. President Obama campaigned in Ohio and Virginia.

“It’s been a really busy week for us in Colorado,” said Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

The biggest event was Sept. 23, when 7,500 people jammed into a Jefferson County high school to hear Romney’s five-point plan for economic growth. In particular, Romney focused on encouraging energy exploration and development in oil, gas, coal and renewables.

The next day Romney flew into Pueblo for a rally that had been canceled the week before due to an airport plane crash. About 2,000 people attended the event at the Weisbrod Aircraft Museum at the airport there. Pueblo is a mostly Democratic, blue-collar community, which also has a large population of military veterans and Reagan Democrats. It is seen as a key component in the fight to win the swing state.

“These are not liberal activists, they are good hardworking people who care about families,” Call said.

A day later, running mate Paul Ryan spoke to 3,500 people at a town hall meeting in Larimer County, the seventh most populated county in the state. The week ended with Romney’s son Craig walking precincts and meeting with supporters at a phone bank.

Television ads have flourished in this state, with President Obama’s presence twice that of his rival. Between Sept. 13 and 19, Obama aired 2,891 ads; Romney had 1,283. In Colorado Springs alone, Obama aired 634 ads compared to Romney’s 419, according to National Public Radio.

The number of ads and dollars spent increased dramatically from the 2008 election, when Obama ran 2,128 ads to John McCain’s 585. Romney spent $425,000 during that week; Obama spent double that amount, NPR reported.

— Tori Richards

FLORIDA

Voters dig in for tight race as candidates turn attention to polls, Cuban exiles

As candidates Mitt Romney and President Obama continue to rack up frequent flier miles across the Sunshine State in the last few weeks of the campaign, the focus now has turned to two very different groups of people: the exiled Cuban community and public opinion pollsters.

In addressing a Cuban-heavy crowd in Miami on Sept. 22, vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan voiced his newly “educated” stance on the Cuban embargo, admitting that Florida U.S. Reps. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera showed him “just how brutal the Castro regime is, just how this president’s policy of appeasement is not working.”

This marks a change for the Wisconsin congressman, who told his hometown newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, in 2002 “the embargo doesn’t work. It is a failed policy. It was probably justified when the Soviet Union existed and posed a threat through Cuba.”

Predictably, the Cuban exiles proved accommodating to his change of heart.

Poll Watch: Several newly released polls, on the other hand, have caused headaches for both camps, inciting a battle over the methodologies and political leanings of mainstream polling outfits that have themselves become campaign issues.

A CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll put Obama nine points ahead of Romney among likely voters, 53 percent to 44 percent, leading headlines across the state to paint the race as finally leaning Democrat. A Florida Times Union/Insider Advantage poll released days later closes that gap, however, showing Obama ahead by 49-46, within the margin of error.

The Quinnipiac poll met the ire of Florida Republican Party chairman Lenny Curry and several editorial writers across the state, leading them to criticize the poll’s methodology and its assumption of a heavy Democratic turnout in November. The Tampa Bay Times, writing on its on blog site, seconded Curry’s remarks on polling data, still advocating caution declaring any winner before the fall election.

— Yaël Ossowski

IOWA

Campaigns — though not necessarily the candidates — storm Iowa as president’s lead widens

Neither President Obama nor GOP challenger Mitt Romney came to Iowa in the past week, though Michelle Obama did, as well as other representatives for the Obama campaign. The first lady visited the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls on Friday to urge students to get out and vote early, and to volunteer. She also touted her husband’s middle-class roots and track record of helping students to pay for college.

A day earlier, actor Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame, where he played George Costanza, spoke to a group of 60 people in downtown Des Moines, urging people to cast their ballots for Obama. Romney’s son Josh visited the state Friday, speaking to a crowd in Council Bluffs.

Both Vice President Joe Biden and Republican counterpart Paul Ryan will visit Iowa this week. Biden will be in Iowa on Thursday, although the location of his visit has not yet been disclosed. Ryan will campaign in Dubuque on Monday. Biden and Ryan were in Iowa on Sept. 17 and Sept. 18, when a secretly recorded video of Romney characterizing 47 percent of voters as being dependent on the government aid was released.

Poll Watch: President Obama’s lead over GOP rival Mitt Romney widened further this week, with Obama taking a 3.6 percentage point lead in a rolling average of the polls, according to RealClearPolitics.com.

That compares to the start of the month, when Romney trailed Obama by an average of just 0.2 percent, the website reported. Obama also got a boost from early voters in Polk County who started casting ballots Thursday. By 4 p.m. of the first day, 550 people had voted. Of those casting early ballots, 401 were registered Democrats, 90 were Republicans and 57 were unaffiliated. Some voters waited an hour to vote, according to the Des Moines Register.

Sheena Dooley

MICHIGAN

Tide not with Romney in the Great Lakes State

Sorry, I won’t be attending, Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, told GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney this week. Cheney, citing a scheduling conflict, canceled a campaign appearance for Romney in Grand Rapids.

The weak explanation did little to calm nervous Republicans, taken aback by the worst Michigan poll numbers this election cycle. The Rasmussen poll last week showed President Obama with 54 percent of the vote, to Romney’s 42 percent.

Some national polls have been over-representing Democrats by as much a 15 percent, but Rasmussen isn’t one of them.

For Romney, the negatives inherent in the polling numbers create a troubling scenario for the campaign, which announced ad buys in eight states a couple of weeks ago. Michigan was not among them, leading to a widespread claim that Romney had conceded the state. Michigan Republicans were particularly sensitive because Sen. John McCain pulled out of the state in early 2008.

Playing on the controversy created by the inept NFL replacement refs, a new online ad from former Republican congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra calls incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow the worst senator ever.

The ad shows a referee officiating a barroom debate over whether Stabenow should be booted from the Senate because of the state’s unemployment rate, or for her voting record on taxes. The referee intervenes, declaring “after further review” Stabenow is the worst ever because of wasteful spending, not higher taxes or fewer state jobs. The bartender shrugs and says, “He’s a replacement ref.”

Jack Spencer

NEVADA

Las Vegas will host debate prep as Nevada pendulum swings toward Obama

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, injected some religion into the presidential race last week, claiming fellow Mormon Mitt Romney “sullied” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is “not the face of Mormonism” for Nevada.

Elsewhere in the valley, the Las Vegas chapter of the Culinary Workers Union dropped the pretense of sitting on the sidelines over its unhappiness with President Obama’s efforts, or lack thereof, on labor issues. Their grievances included holding the Democratic National Convention in a right-to-work state, North Carolina. The union — apparently feeling better now — announced it’s going “all in” for the president’s re-election. It has been effective in get-out-the-vote efforts among Strip casino workers here for many years.

On the surrogate circuit, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., campaigned for Romney in Fernley in the battleground region of northern Nevada, while former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman campaigned for Romney in Las Vegas. A Reno campaign stop by Ann Romney, the candidate’s wife, and son Craig followed those visits.

Poll Watch: The campaign for President Obama last week announced Las Vegas/Henderson was chosen as the venue for three days of intense preparation prior to the president’s Oct. 3 debate with Mitt Romney in Denver. The announcement comes just days before political prognosticator Larry Sabato moved Nevada from “Toss Up” to “Lean Obama.”

The status change came after a flurry of new polling results here. Public Policy Polling shows Obama up 52 percent to 43 percent, with 5 percent undecided. A poll by American Research Group shows the president up 51 percent to 44 percent, and a poll for the Retail Association of Nevada by Public Opinion Strategies shows the presidential race tied at 46 percent, with 2 percent undecided. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll of “likely voters” released late last week shows Romney trailing Obama in Nevada by two points.

— Chuck Muth

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Republican gubernatorial candidate runs ahead of Romney in New Hampshire

If Republicans can prevail over the power of organized labor in deep blue states, then they should have no problem electing a new governor in New Hampshire. That’s the thinking of GOP gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne, who describes himself as “Scott Walker on steroids.”

Lamontagne last week welcomed the Wisconsin governor, who served as the keynote speaker for the N.H. Republican Convention in Pinkerton. Walker led a successful charge to curb the collective bargaining rights for public workers through Act 10 — parts of which a court has since struck down — and survived a recall election earlier this year.

Lamontagne, a lawyer from Manchester, is hoping to capitalize on Walker’s popularity. Like his Wisconsin counterpart, he has not been reticent to take on union bosses.  Lamontagne, for instance, supports “Right-to-Work” legislation, which would allow workers to decide whether they want to join a union. By contrast, his Democratic opponent, Maggie Hassan, the former state Senate majority leader, has racked up a highly progressive voting record. Hassan favors anti-industry initiatives, such as “cap and trade,” and he supports gay marriage.

Hassan has described Lamontagne as a tea party radical too conservative for the state.

Corey Lewandowski, the N.H. state director of Americans for Prosperity, disagrees.

“Lamontagne is very much in step with the views of most New Hampshire voters, and I do see him holding the upper hand in the race for governor,” he said.

But Lewandowski also cautions against the idea that a victory for Lamontagne would translate into a win for Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate.

“People are very independent, and we do have ticket splitters,” he explained. “Still, I think Lamontagne and Romney both stand an excellent chance of winning in a close election.”

Incumbent Democratic Gov. John Lynch steps down in January.

Poll Watch: The Real Clear Politics average does show Lamontagne with a two-point lead, while Romney is now down by two points, according to the latest data. The presidential race has been volatile, with President Obama and Romney each capturing and then losing a small lead over the past several weeks. The union leaders opposed to Lamontagne’s policies could make the difference in voter turnout for the Democratic ticket. Vice President Joe Biden, who has already made multiple campaign stops in the Granite State, visited again about a week ago, in Merrimack, where he rallied Teamsters.

Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, led a campaign rally at Pinkerton Academy in Derry last week. Meanwhile, Romney has picked up critical support from state lawmakers closely connected with the tea party and well positioned to generate a high Republican turnout.

Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to visit the state Wednesday, the day of the first presidential debate.

Kevin Mooney

NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina flush with campaign visits

Send in the surrogates.

First Lady Michelle Obama visited North Carolina a couple weeks ago, as did GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who stayed a minute or two en route to Virginia.

Wednesday, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s eldest son Tagg and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took in the western part of the state, visiting, among other places, a tree farm.

Four years ago, when Obama won North Carolina by just 14,000 votes, John McCain won the northwest counties except for Watauga, which the Winston-Salem Journal called an anomaly in the more conservative mountain culture because of the influence of Appalachian State University.

“You have one side, the Democrats, putting forward the vision of more and more government control and them telling us what we can and can’t do, raising taxes, having the government take over more and more private industries,” Tagg Romney, the Journal wrote, told a group of Young Americans in Boone, home to ASU.

“On the other side, you’ve got my dad and the Republicans who are saying, ‘No, no, no,’ we believe in personal responsibility, we want a return to power for people, we believe in free enterprise, we believe in lowering taxes, in cutting unneeded regulations and letting businesses grow. The best way to invest in America is creating jobs.”

Next week the Tar Heel State expects a visit from Vice President Joe Biden, who last came to North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention. He also visited Durham last month.

Neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney has announced plans to visit the Tar Heel State, though they are absent only in the personal sense. Obama boasts 250,000 new registered voters in North Carolina since April 2011, an eye-popping number for a state, The Associated Press says, that has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate just twice in the past 40 years.

The race for North Carolina, the campaigns agree, will be tight.

Poll Watch: An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll taken Sept. 23-25 had Obama with a negligible two-point lead, and the Real Clear Politics average shows an even smaller edge for the president — a little more than a single percentage point.

John Trump

OHIO

In Ohio, all of the blame falls to Romney

If Mitt Romney loses Ohio, it will be his own fault.

If Republican Josh Mandel loses his Senate race here, it might also be Romney’s fault.

Romney was polling within or just outside the margin of error until the middle of the month. Then the “47 percent” video turned up in mid-September.

Washington Post and Quinnipiac/New York Times polls conducted since then have put President Obama’s lead at eight and 10 points, respectively.

Those same polls put Sen. Sherrod Brown ahead of challenger Josh Mandel by 12 and 10 points, respectively, after several polls showed Mandel had tied the race in late August.

The problem Romney creates for Mandel is his insistence on beating the anti-China drum. In presidential campaigns, it has been a standard pander for at least 20 years.

“When people cheat, that kills jobs,” Romney said Tuesday during an Ohio tour stop, according to The Associated Press. “China has cheated. I will not allow that to continue.”

At a Cleveland stop, he repeated a promise to label China a currency manipulator. His ads say the same.

This is nonsense. In real life, the renminbi has been steadily appreciating against the dollar since 2005, and a trade war is in nobody’s interest.

Nobody thinks Romney would do it, any more than Obama complied with his promise to so label China. But in addressing the issue, he’s actually helping Brown, whose signature issue is slowing trade with China.

Whatever the product, Brown is sure to be saying that China’s industry is cheating. Sometimes, the Chinese actually are, but it’s usually by providing some sort of subsidy Brown thinks we should provide our industries. Auto bailouts, anyone?

When Romney and local surrogates such as Sen. Rob Portman abandon their free-market principles to spout vague nonsense about China, or specific untruths about currency manipulation, the bipartisan lie becomes as good as truth to an incurious media and a resentful Rust Belt.

If Romney persuades people this is a big problem — not that they need persuading — the logical response would be to vote for Brown.

Obama has been running ads critical of China, too, but these are simply hypocritical. The Obama campaign ran one bragging about the centerpiece of its anti-China efforts, a tariff on tire imports. The tariffs cost consumers $1.1 billion, and cost the domestic poultry industry another $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs, a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found.

That ad aired Sept. 24. Two days later, the tariffs expired, quietly and unmourned.

Jon Cassidy

PENNSYLVANIA

Pols insist Pennsylvania remains battleground state, regardless of the polls

Pollsters may say the president is leading in Pennsylvania, but the state’s GOP isn’t writing off battleground status just yet.

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his campaign descended on the Keystone State Friday, seeking fundraising and support coming off new polls that show him still trailing President Obama. Real Clear Politics average poll numbers show Obama leads the state by eight percentage points, or 49.9 percent to 41.9 percent.

The Philadelphia visit was Romney’s first stop in Pennsylvania since July. Romney spoke at a private fundraising event in Center City before giving a public address at Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne. Headlines focused on Romney’s acknowledgement of his long-shot chance of winning Pennsylvania.

“We really would shock people if early in the evening of Nov. 6 it looked like Pennsylvania was going to come our way and actually did come our way. That can happen,” Romney said, as reported by The Associated Press.

Pennsylvania hasn’t swung Republican in a presidential election since 1988. Neither the Romney nor Obama campaigns are spending any money on television ads to woo Keystone State voters, for now. But on the day of Romney’s visit, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania released a brand-new television ad, entitled “Problems.”

The ad shows clips of Obama mixed with statistics on unemployment, foreclosures, wages and the price of gas. Some say one of Romney’s best shots at tightening the margin is a strong performance in the first debate next week.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, said as much in a speech to the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg, as did Gov. Tom Corbett during a Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce dinner last week week. Pennsylvania, Corbett said, remains a battleground state, despite the polls.

Melissa Daniels

VIRGINIA

Romney, Obama duel at opposite ends of the Urban Crescent

President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney were back in Virginia last week, playing to the state’s military base.

Romney appeared in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County for the second time in two weeks. Speaking to a group of veterans at American Legion Post 176, he warned that Obama-engineered defense spending cuts, scheduled to take effect in January, are “a kind of a gun-to-your-head opportunity.”

As the president spoke in the Navy town of Virginia Beach — the southern end of the commonwealth’s vote-rich Urban Crescent — the Obama campaign unleashed more TV ads reprising secretly taped remarks of Romney telling supporters that 47 percent of Americans believe they are “victims” dependent on government.

The Democrats’ not-so-subtle TV spots feature pictures of women with children, Hispanics, working-class women — and veterans.

Obama, Romney and their running mates have made more than 30 stops in Virginia this year, and the coinciding visits Thursday aimed to shore up support where their parties faltered in 2008. Four years ago, Obama carried Fairfax County by 109,000 votes; Republican John McCain won Virginia Beach by 1,400 votes.

Poll Watch: A new Suffolk University/NBC12 poll showed Obama leading Romney 46-44 among likely voters in Virginia — a tightening since separate surveys by Quinnipiac University and the Washington Post had Obama up by eight points the week before.

But Romney appears to be a prohibitive forensic underdog heading into next week’s first presidential debate. Suffolk found that 46 percent of Virginia voters believe Obama is the better debater, versus just 19 percent for Romney.

In Virginia’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, the Suffolk poll indicated Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine remain deadlocked at 44 percent among likely voters.

Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics thinks Kaine may be gaining the upper hand over his fellow former governor.

“We’re coming to believe that a small but noticeable crossover vote for Kaine is surfacing, which might allow him to win even if Romney comes back in the Old Dominion to win by a point or two,” Sabato said.

Kenric Ward

WISCONSIN

Wisconsin problem? Obama doesn’t think so

The week began with Mitt Romney’s campaign asking a pointed question: Does Barack Obama have a Wisconsin Problem?

Obama didn’t take the bait, preferring, perhaps, to let the latest mainstream media polling, which shows the president’s lead widening in Wisconsin, do the talking for him.

But Romney’s Wisconsin campaign kept hammering home the “Obama problem” message, pointing to some ground-level numbers that could present some trouble for the president.

Ben Sparks, spokesman for Romney’s Wisconsin campaign, claims the incumbent is playing catch-up in a state he won by 14 points in 2008.

“The momentum is only going in our direction,” Sparks said.

After a 240-day absence, Obama was back in the Badger State on Sept. 22, making his case to Democratic faithful – although probably not to as many supporters as the national media originally reported.  (The latest campaign cause celebre involved reports of inflated crowd numbers at the venue where Obama stumped.)

First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned Friday in Appleton, part of the critical Fox River Valley that could decide who wins this battleground state.

Despite the latest Marquette Law School poll showing Obama up by 14 points, the Romney camp asserts its base is more enthused than Obama’s.

Sparks asserts there’s a significant “enthusiasm gap” among the Wisconsin Democratic base. Election results in the past two years could point to a trend.

Hundreds of thousands of voters who cast ballots for Obama four years ago, what Sparks described as “low-propensity” voters, failed to show up at the polls in 2010 and during Wisconsin’s historic gubernatorial recall election in June — a contest that incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker won by seven percentage points.

A Romney campaign memo boasts of a surge in grassroots support in Wisconsin compared to 2008, when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, topped the GOP ticket.

Wisconsin Dems tell a different story.

Vicki Burke, chairwoman for the La Crosse County Democratic Party, said she doesn’t see any momentum slowdown for Democrats in her area.

“Quite the opposite,” she said. “We’ve had a constant stream of people coming into the office getting yard signs for all of the candidates.”

The latest Rasmussen Report daily Presidential Tracking polls show Obama and Romney virtually tied nationwide.

Wisconsin Reporter

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