Election 2012

Swing State Report: Race tightens in Ohio as Romney gains

Swing State Report: Race tightens in Ohio as Romney gains

To read prior swing state reports, click here.

In Colorado, Romney debates the debate

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was all smiles at a Colorado Conservative Political Action Committee on Thursday morning, basking in the glow of what many hailed as a victory in Wednesday night’s debate in Denver.

Standing on a stage with his four sons behind him, Romney spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of supporters, whom he surprised with his appearance.

“We need to win in Colorado,” he said. “If we do, you know what? We’re going to take back the White House.”

As the cheers in the room quieted, Romney spoke of the debate.

“I think it was helpful to be able to describe my vision,” he said. “I saw the president’s vision as ‘trickle-down government.’ And I don’t think that’s what America believes in. I see instead a prosperity that comes through freedom.”

Romney arrived in Colorado on Sunday Sept. 30, according to a volunteer at his campaign headquarters in Denver. Monday, Denver Broncos Hall of Famer John Elway introduced him at an event at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, and Tuesday he took a break from prepping for the debate to have a pork burrito bowl at a local Chipotle restaurant. President Obama arrived in Colorado on Wednesday afternoon from Nevada, where he had made a handful of campaign stops.

Meanwhile, Obama supporters braved a chilly morning at Sloan’s Lake Park in northwest Denver. A large crowd, estimated by the Denver Post and other newspapers at 12,000 people, waited a few hours for the president to arrive while recording artist Will.i.am worked as a deejay.

After what was widely panned as a poor performance during Wednesday night’s debate, President Obama showed a little more vigor in his remarks on Thursday morning at the park.

“When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” President Obama said, according to the Washington Post. “He does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what he’s been saying for the last year.”

During the debate, Romney made the suggestion the deficit could be cut, in part, by eliminating the federal subsidy to PBS, tempering the comments with “I love Big Bird.”

Thursday, President Obama quipped, “Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It’s about time. We didn’t know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit.”

— Mindy Seymour

FLORIDA

Romney has ‘senior moment’ in Sunshine State

The fight for Florida’s 29 electoral votes continues to ramp up in the last month of presidential campaigning. As miles are logged across the Sunshine State’s vast area, poll data becomes more frequent and voters tune in to the televised debates.

Mitt Romney visited the Tampa Bay area once more Friday, Oct. 5, emboldened by his Wednesday debate showing in Denver. The GOP nominee’s event was held at the St. Petersburg pier, and he banked on the enthusiasm of the senior-heavy crowd, one of the most important constituencies in the nation’s fourth-largest state.

With that in mind, a new volunteer coalition group, Florida Seniors for Romney, headed by vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s mother, has vowed to support the GOP ticket and its plan to reform health policy for elderly Americans.

“Florida seniors know that Mitt Romney and my son, Paul Ryan, will protect Medicare for me and my generation, and preserve it for Paul’s and my grandchildren’s generations,” said Betty Ryan Douglas, a south Florida resident, in a statement.

Obama, himself no stranger to the Sunshine State, will make his 15th visit in just three months when he swoops into Miami on Thursday, Oct. 11.

Poll Watch: The most recent polls to come out after the debate, Rasmussen and the WeAskAmerica survey, show Romney with a 49 percent to 47 percent and 49 percent to 46 percent lead, respectively, all within the margin of error.  The Real Clear Politics average over the past year has the race tied.

Florida will play host to the only debate between the two main candidates focused solely on foreign policy, to be held at Lynn University in Boca Raton on Oct. 22, moderated by CBS’s Bob Schieffer.

— Yaël Ossowski

 IOWA

Biden, Ryan take off gloves to spar in Hawkeye state

Vice President Joe Biden and GOP counterpart Paul Ryan threw sharper jabs last week during visits to Iowa.

Biden repeatedly mocked Romney in a speech to 450 people in Council Bluffs the day after the presidential debate. He offered stinging rebuttals to Romney’s debate claims, addressing the GOP candidate’s tax and deficit reduction plans and statements regarding Medicare. While President Obama steered clear of the “47 percent” controversy during Wednesday’s debate, Biden addressed that controversy head on.

Earlier in the week, Ryan launched a two-day bus tour through Eastern Iowa, speaking to crowds ranging from 300 people to more than 500. He used the opportunity to dig into Biden’s earlier remarks about the buried middle class. Ryan agreed with Biden, yet blamed Obama’s policies for middle-class woes. It was his latest attack on the president’s handling of the economy, foreign policy and a growing federal deficit.

Poll Watch: A Des Moines Register poll found President Obama leading Romney, 49 percent to 45 percent, in the battleground state. The poll also showed most likely voters in the Hawkeye State have already selected a candidate, with only 2 percent remaining undecided. Ten percent, however, said they could still be persuaded to vote for another candidate, according to the poll, which is a decades-old tradition.

— Sheena Dooley

MICHIGAN

Romney tries to create post-debate excitement in Great Lakes State

In October 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain pulled out of Michigan and effectively conceded the state’s 16 electoral votes to his opponent, Barack Obama, who later won the state by getting 57 percent of the vote.

But 2012 is a different story for Michigan.

The state GOP says it has collected more than 1 million voter contacts as of Oct. 1, a significant milestone considering that about 5 million people voted in the most recent presidential election. GOP representatives also have knocked on 11 times as many doors as they did in 2008.

The last time Michigan voted for a GOP presidential candidate was in 1988, when George H.W. Bush got 54 percent of the vote.

Michigan conservatives are hoping Romney’s strong showing in the first debate will improve his standing in state polls. The Romney campaign hosted 37 debate-watch events around the state.

Dennis Moore, director of the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus in Michigan, said he thinks Romney will easily win this state.

Wendy Day, president of Common Sense in Government, another Michigan tea party group, said a world of time is left before the election, especially with two presidential debates left. After Romney’s dismantling of Obama in Colorado, she is even more optimistic now.

“I wasn’t that excited about Romney (pre-debate),” Day said. “I’m way more excited about Romney now because we saw the fight in him and we saw how much he wants it. “We heard about this guy who turned around the Olympics and was this business leader, but we didn’t see it until the debate.

“I think we will be surprised by how well he does in Michigan,” Day said. “While Democrats aren’t likely to pull a lever for him, they are likely to stay home after being disappointed in Obama.”

Poll Watch: Polling by EPIC-MRA, of Lansing, Mich., had Romney leading Obama 46 percent to 41 percent in November 2011. But Obama took the lead in January in the EPIC-MRA poll and led 44 percent to 37 percent as of September.

Gravis Marketing has Obama holding a 50 percent to 46 percent lead over Romney in Michigan as of its Sept. 21-22 poll.

— Tom Gantert

NEVADA

The text books, as Obama says, are older, but … 

It was Presidential Spouse Week in Nevada as both First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney campaigned in the Silver State, in addition to President Obama hunkering down at a lakeside resort in Henderson for three days of debate prep, mixed with a couple of campaign appearances and a sightseeing trip to Hoover Dam.

It was the president’s eighth campaign stop in this pivotal swing state, and not everyone was happy about it. Every time the president comes to town the Federal Aviation Administration restricts airspace around Las Vegas — this time from Sunday night to Wednesday afternoon — which limits local helicopter tour companies.

Also campaigning in Nevada on the Surrogate circuit last week: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-Louisiana, both on behalf of Romney.

Nevada featured prominently in Wednesday’s presidential debate, as Obama mentioned a Las Vegas teacher who claimed to be using 10-year-old textbooks with 42 students in her classroom.  Local school officials, however, issued a written statement the next day clarifying the record.

The Clark County School District said, “New textbooks have not been purchased recently because we are beginning to adopt the Common Core State Standards, and it would have been irresponsible to waste taxpayer money on books not aligned with the new curriculum.” District spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson added that while some schools might be using some older textbooks, “you’ll also find schools on the cutting edge of technology and using iPads with continuously updated material.”

The district acknowledge that “CCSD had schools in some sections of town with unusually high numbers of students in classes” at the start of the school year, but “reallocated staff after the internal Sept. 7 count day” to rectify the situation. “In a district as large as ours,” Fulkerson said, “you could surely find some large classes and older books. But that is not the norm.”

— Chuck Muth

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Clinton takes aim at voter ID in New Hampshire; Obama maintains narrow lead

Anyone who tries to vote illegally in November can expect to encounter New Hampshire’s new photo ID law, approved by the U.S. Department of Justice in September. Approval came despite opposition from Attorney General Eric Holder to block voter identification laws in other states, claiming they are in violation of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, or VRA.

Under Section 5, the DOJ has the authority to approve or reject election law changes made in certain parts of the country. The jurisdictions covered under the VRA area are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, and New Hampshire. The law was initially set up as a safeguard against racial discrimination, but critics charge that Section 5 has been applied unevenly and unfairly.

In June, the Republican-controlled Legislature overrode the veto of Democratic Gov. John Lynch to pass the new voter ID law, which will be gradually phased in.

Voters who do not have a photo ID in the current election cycle will still be permitted to vote, but they must sign an affidavit. Letters will then be sent to any voters whose signature appears on the affidavit requesting confirmation that they voted. If state officials do not receive a response within 90 days of the time when the letter was sent, the attorney general will then conduct an investigation into voter fraud. After Sept. 1, 2013, voters must have a valid photo ID in order to vote.

“We do not see widespread systematic voter fraud,” David Scanlan, the deputy secretary of state, said in an interview. “But there have been isolated cases that have been cause for concern and there is a strong perception out there that it is a serious problem, and that if we don’t check ID’s we are not going to know whether it is taking place.”

Corey Lewandowski, the N.H. state director of Americans for Prosperity, said the new voter ID will help to root out college students who should not be voting.

“There has been a problem with college students who maintain a residence with their parents out of state, but then also get registered to vote here,” he said. “Thanks to the voter ID law, this means they will need to become residents if they want to vote. That’s very helpful.”

Former President Bill Clinton appeared at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, this past Wednesday, where he was critical of the state’s voter ID law. Clinton told students Republicans were trying to take away their right to vote, and they have a large stake in the election.

“Republicans in New Hampshire think it matters,” Clinton said. “That’s why they’ve worked so hard to keep you from voting.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld the constitutionality of voter ID laws in a case involving Indiana, the New Hampshire law is on solid legal footing. The court is expected to take up a challenge to the VRA’s Section 5 in its current term.

Poll Watch: The Real Clear Politics average now has President Obama up by six points. Only the Rasmussen Poll has Romney in front. Former Gov. John Sununu has told members of the press that most of the polls are skewed toward Democrats and that he anticipates Romney to win in a close election. New Hampshire is unique among swing states in that it does not allow early voting. This means the final weeks could be decisive.

— Kevin Mooney

 NORTH CAROLINA

Biden’s bumpy ride precursor to Obama’s rough night in Denver

Vice President Joe Biden visited North Carolina on Tuesday, and the trip got off to a, let’s just say, turbulent start.

Because of a thunderstorm in Charlotte, Air Force Two could not land, forced to circle Charlotte Douglas International Airport some 35 minutes until the weather settled, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Biden met with supporters in the Queen City before heading to Asheville, where he spoke to a packed gym at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.

“You all know about close elections in North Carolina,” he said. “This is going to be very close. Because, you know folks, we win North Carolina, we win.”

It happened in 2008, when Obama narrowly won the Tar Heel State. This time, again North Carolina is a virtual toss-up. The last Public Policy Poll sees the race as a dead heat, Obama and Romney each getting 48 percent from a field of 981 likely voters.

“The race in North Carolina couldn’t be much closer,” Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling said in a news release on its website. “Someone will probably end up winning it by less than a point. It’s likely to be a late election night.”

The money the campaigns are spending to advertise in North Carolina is testament to the tight race. In terms of dollars spent, North Carolina ranks fourth nationally — $59 million, including $11 million in the Triangle — according to the latest Washington post tally. Republicans have spent $35 million; Democrats, $24 million.

In Charlotte Biden remarked on the rough plane ride, which, he said, resulted in some queasy stomachs, the Citizen-Times reported.

It’s kind of how many Americans felt after Wednesday’s debate.

An editorial in the News & Observer of Raleigh was reticent to choose a winner, though it conceded Obama appeared flat and passionless.

“Romney’s experience and hard training showed, though it would be going too far to say he made a convincing case against President Obama, who waltzed to the Democratic party nomination for a second term,” the editorial writer said.

For its part, the Charlotte Observer, with the help of Wake Forest University professor and debate expert Allen Louden, instantly surveyed 150 students, who called the Denver debate for Romney, 56 percent to Obama’s 44 percent.

“It was surprising that Obama had very little star quality since his performances are consistently exceptional,” April Walsh, a junior English major at Wake Forest, told the paper. “After a powerful speech about moving the nation forward at the DNC, it seemed as though all Obama did during the debate was take a step backward.”

— John Trump

OHIO

Reference to coal helps Romney pull even in Buckeye State

Mitt Romney’s performance in the first presidential debate has gotten him back into the race in Ohio, in part because he raised an issue that resonates here.

“By the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal,” he said during the debate. “People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies.”

According to the Ohio Coal Association, almost half of the state’s 26 coal plants are due to close by 2015, thanks to Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Since the debate, Romney has released a new Ohio ad touting his “detailed plan to create 12 million new jobs, including producing our own energy in the ground in Ohio.”

There had been some discussion about whether Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson would be the Ralph Nader of this race, after a Gravis Marketing survey two weeks ago had found he had 10.6 percent support in Ohio.

Poll Watch: At the end of September, the GOP candidate was trailing by eight to 10 points in almost all of the statewide polls.

But two polls conducted Thursday, the day after the debate, showed a dead heat. One put Romney a point ahead, one a point behind. Both, admittedly, tend to favor Republicans.

In a survey of 500 likely voters, Rasmussen Reports showed Democratic President Barack Obama leading 50 percent to 49 percent.

We Ask America surveyed 1,200 likely voters Thursday, and found Romney leading 47 percent to 46 percent. We Ask America included Johnson in its survey, and found just 1 percent support.

— Jon Cassidy

PENNSYLVANIA

Former governor calls Obama’s performance ‘lethargic, disinterested, passive’

Like their national counterparts, Pennsylvania Republicans were buzzing this week about Mitt Romney’s decisive victory in the first presidential debate Wednesday in Denver.

Pennsylvania congressman Charlie Dent, a Republican, told reporters Thursday that Romney’s “serious and substantive” performance in the debate would make Pennsylvania more competitive, and would give independents and Democrats a reason to take a second look at the former Massachusetts governor. Newspapers across the state agreed Romney was a clear winner in the first face-to-face showdown between the candidates.

There were no new polls in the state immediately following the debate, so calculating the extent of Romney’s post-debate bounce — if there is one — will have to wait.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell made headlines when he called Obama’s debate performance “lethargic, disinterested and passive,” and he said Obama appeared to be trying to run out the clock by refusing to engage Romney.

Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was an outspoken supporter of Hilary Clinton during her 2008 primary campaign against Obama, and he has continued to express support for her to launch a future bid for president.

Meanwhile, more attention is suddenly being focused on Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith. An unknown before his primary victory in April, Smith was largely written off by national Republicans until last week, when two polls of Pennsylvania voters showed Smith had closed to within six points of his opponent, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

As Senate races across the nation have shifted — with Democrats looking more likely to retain seats once thought to be easy Republican gains this year — Smith may attract some last-minute attention from the national party as it tries to win the four seats required to re-take control in the chamber.

— Eric Boehm

VIRGINIA

Romney and Ryan ‘gun’ for Virginia votes

Several thousand supporters packed the Augusta County Expo to cheer Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan a day after the GOP presidential candidate squared off with President Obama in Denver.

The Shenandoah Valley crowd was revved up by country music star Trace Adkins and a blast from the National Rifle Association.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre decried the prospect of an “Obama cliff” at the Supreme Court, predicting that “one to three (more) Sotomayors or Kagans would mean kissing our right to own a firearm goodbye.”

Bolstered by his performance at the first debate, Romney was feted at the Fishersville venue with thunderous chants of “USA, USA.”

“I like that (Romney) moved more conservatively. And choosing Paul Ryan has been huge from my perspective,” 36-year-old William Beard of Lexington told the Harrisonburg News Virginian.

The former Massachusetts governor extended his stay in Virginia on Friday with a visit to southwestern Virginia, where the coal industry has been hard hit by falling natural gas prices and tightening environmental regulations from Washington.

Also Friday, Obama was campaigning in Fairfax County, where Romney spoke to veterans last week. The GOP standard bearer, who, with Ryan, has made more than 30 trips to the commonwealth, will be back again Monday to give a foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute.

Poll Watch: Taken on the eve of the Denver debate, the NBC News/Marist/Wall Street Journal poll showed Obama up 48 percent to 46 percent in Virginia — a statistical tie. Last month, Obama led 49-45 in the Old Dominion.

“The polling in September was right after the conventions,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. “We may be seeing a dissipation in some of that post-convention bounce that (Obama) enjoyed.”

Going into last Wednesday’s debate, a Suffolk University poll showed a decided majority of Virginians predicting that Obama would mop the Denver stage with Romney. But it didn’t turn out that way.

“Hey Pres. Obama: Cancel all golf games. You did miserably tonight. Lots of work ahead for you,” tweeted Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics in Charlottesville.

—Kenric Ward

WISCONSIN

President in Badger State to nurse wounds; questions whereabouts of the ‘real’ Romney

Bruised in the first presidential debate of the season, President Obama nursed his wounds in front of a crowd of 30,000 of his closest friends.

Obama stumped Thursday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in perhaps the Midwest’s most liberal city, in a swing state that polls show is moving further into the incumbent’s column.

The president used the campaign stop to go after Republican challenger Mitt Romney, whom, most pundits agreed, took it to the Obama in Wednesday night’s debate in Denver.

“I just flew in from Denver and I was telling folks there, when I got on the stage I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” Obama told the Madison audience. “But I know it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney. Because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy, and yet the fellow on the stage last night — who looked like Mitt Romney — said he did not know anything about that.”

Romney repeatedly checked Obama’s assertions that he would push for taxes on the middle class to begin reining in $1 trillion-plus budget deficits and a U.S. debt topping $16 trillion.

Badger State pundits said Romney was in need of a strong debate showing, particularly after the latest Marquette Law School poll, released hours before the debate, showed Obama still leading Romney by 11 percent – in Wisconsin.

Romney’s campaign has criticized the poll, pointing to its skew toward Democratic voters.

The Republican contender’s problem in Wisconsin, according to pollster Charles Franklin, is likeability. The poll found 53 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Romney.

“Governor Romney is suffering from … having the least net favorability rating, the lowest net favorability rating, of any presidential candidate since we’ve been keeping track of this in the early ’70s,” Franklin said.

But the former Massachusetts governor helped his cause in Wisconsin – a state electoral vote trackers say Romney must have – with his strong performance, said Marquette University political science professor John McAdams.

Angela Boozhoo was unmoved.

The 39-year-old Wisconsin mother of four is an undecided Mormon leaning toward Obama.

She remained undecided as of late Wednesday night.

“So far, what I’ve seen is really a lot of bickering going on back and forth,” she said. “…  I really have not made up my mind.”

— Wisconsin Reporter

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