Election 2012

Swing States Briefing: Last week was Romney’s

Swing States Briefing: Last week was Romney’s

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of swing-state updates provided by reporters for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which publishes Watchdog.org. The writers report on campaign events, polls and media coverage during the preceding seven days in the presidential contest and select races in those states. Click here to read prior Swing State reports.

COLORADO

Surrogates visit Centennial State as early voting begins

Mitt Romney and President Obama did not exactly avoid Colorado over the past week, but neither personally set foot in the Centennial State. Instead, the northwestern college town of Greeley played host to Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday and to Craig Romney, Mitt Romney’s youngest son, during the week.

The younger Romney spoke to a small crowd in a public park and reminded them of the importance of each and every vote in this swing state. “Fewer than 100 votes could decide Colorado,” he said, according to a story in the Greeley Tribune. “It is a critical state. If you reached out to just five friends each and asked them to vote, imagine what that would do.”

About the same time in another Greeley park, Biden told the crowd how impressed he was with Obama’s performance during the debate the night before. “How about … last night?” he said to cheers.

Early voting is already under way in Colorado, and during his campaign stops here and in Nevada this week Biden urged people to cast their votes.

In reference to Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, Biden said, “I’ve never seen two candidates for the two highest public offices in the land more negative about the state of the country, the prospects for the future and the determination of the American people. They talk about this culture of dependency. They talk about American decline. I don’t recognize the country they are talking about. America is neither dependent nor are we in decline.”

Responding to Biden’s visit, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call released the following statement:

“After more than 270 minutes of debates, the Obama-Biden ticket has yet to lay out a plan for real economic recovery. Their failed economic policies have left more than 200,000 Coloradans looking for work and pushed our state’s unemployment rate above the national average for the first time in seven years.
Pushing this country over a fiscal cliff isn’t moving forward. While Gov. Romney has outlined his Five Point Economic Plan to create 12 million jobs and strengthen the middle class, the President and Vice President have nothing but their failed economic record to offer voters.”

Students from Brigham Young University have been deployed to Colorado to “walk precincts for Mitt,” according to the Colorado Republican Party.

Thursday, Craig Romney met with activists from Juntos Con Romney Coalition in Colorado.

A spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party did not respond to an email request for a reaction to the campaign stops. There was also no comment from the party about a shot-out window at an Obama field office near downtown Denver on Oct. 12. A week later, an Obama campaign office in Evergreen was marked with a large swastika on a window.

Friday, the Denver Post endorsed Obama, and Romney and Ryan are scheduled to appear at a campaign rally Tuesday at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Poll Watch: In several recent polls, the margin of error between the candidates was never more than four points. Three polls showed Romney one point over Obama in the past week, including one done last week by We Ask America. Three other polls showed Obama three points ahead of Romney.

— Mindy Seymour

FLORIDA

Romney, Ryan, Biden in Sunshine State looking to persuade undecided voters

More uncertainty abounds in the race to capture Florida, with only two weeks remaining before the election and more miles due to be logged by the Republican and Democratic candidates.

Thursday, GOP vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan made stops in Ocala and Fort Myers, Republican-heavy areas, and met up with Mitt Romney in Daytona Beach after a few days of vital political fundraising.

Vice President Joe Biden stopped by Fort Pierce and Tampa Bay on Friday, once again urging the crowds to vote early and seal the deal for the Democratic ticket — pushing the re-election’s hopes of winning the biggest share of absentee ballots.

Sure to cause some upheaval, however, is the latest major endorsement by a major Florida newspaper, which gave its blessing to Barack Obama in 2008. The Orlando Sentinel, the largest newspaper in the vote-heavy Interstate 4 corridor, shocked many political observers across the nation by endorsing Mitt Romney. The paper endorsed Democrats in the past two presidential elections.

In the midst of heated events in the Middle East, the candidates will hope to make their case on foreign policy in the final debate Monday night in Boca Raton. They are expected to be questioned on policy toward Iran, Syria, Libya and the fate of the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

The state of Israel will most likely get heavy air time during the final debate, owing to the large percentage of Jewish voters both candidates are counting on to help lock up Florida’s 29 electoral votes on Election Day.

Poll Watch: Romney continues his upswing in the Sunshine State, as the last five major polls show him with an average three-point lead — but the president’s numbers remain strong. The Gravis Marketing poll shows Romney up 49 percent to 48 percent over Obama, keeping the race, and all expectations, within the margin of error.

— Yaël Ossowski

 IOWA

Obama won debate, Hawkeye State residents say, but his lead continues to shrink

President Obama’s lead in Iowa over his Republican rival Mitt Romney in the polls continues to narrow, despite voters saying he outperformed Romney in Tuesday’s debate.

Obama, on the heels of that debate, visited Iowa on Wednesday. During his speech at Mt. Vernon, the president outlined his second-term plans in an effort to quell Republican and media criticism. They focused on outsourcing fewer jobs by giving tax breaks to companies that remain in the United States, as well as furthering his administration’s efforts to expand renewable energy sources and recruiting 100,000 new math and science teachers in the next decade.

Additionally, Obama wants to use the money saved by ending the Iraq war and — winding down the one in Afghanistan — to upgrade the nation’s dated infrastructure and put more people to work. He also aims to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in the next decade by raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting federal government expenses.

Poll Watch: A rolling average poll showed Obama with an edge of 2.4 percentage points, compared with 3.4 percentage points a week ago, according to RealClearPolitics.com. Another survey by Public Policy Polling showed Romney with a one-point lead in the Hawkeye State. Despite that, 45 percent of voters in the state said they thought Obama won the second presidential debate, while only 36 percent saw Romney as the winner, according pollster Tom Jensen.

— Sheena Dooley

MICHIGAN

Obama’s ‘green’ companies falling by wayside as state becomes a toss-up

As recent polling shows a tightening race in Michigan and the state moving to the “toss-up” category, the question of whether the campaigns’ key players would spend more time in the state lingers.

Because of the debates and the rise of other new swing states, neither campaign visited the Great Lakes State last week. At the same time, PAC groups are moving some of their money into toss-up congressional seats to try to maintain the GOP majority in the House of Representatives, including an attempt by GOP Rep. Dr. Dan Benishek to hold off a challenge in as in the 1st Congressional District, which supported the president.

The president was hit by bad news in Michigan last week. One of his chosen “green” energy companies, A123 Systems Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection. The company, which makes batteries for electric cars, was working on a bailout deal with a Chinese company but failed to get it done in time. The federal government is investigating another Obama-favored company, LG Chem, for allegedly paying employees who are no longer working in the Michigan plant because of a low demand for electric car batteries.

Both businesses received hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal money and were visited and widely touted by the president as companies that would create jobs, boost the economy and give consumers what they supposedly wanted.

Poll Watch: A poll released last week by WXYZ and The Detroit Free Press showed President Obama holding a six-point lead over Mitt Romney. Earlier this month, the Free Press had Obama leading by 10 percentage points. Another poll of 600 likely voters showed a smaller gap. The survey by Michigan-based Denno Research showed Obama leading Romney in Michigan, 44.2 percent to 40.5 percent. The margin of error was 4 percentage points, meaning it’s basically a dead heat. Overall, the average of polls done in October show the president up five-points in Michigan, compared to some September polls that had the president up by double digits.

— Jarrett Skorup

NEVADA

Advertising lights shine on Las Vegas as Obama maintains slight lead

On Fox News immediately following the second presidential debate last Tuesday, pollster Frank Luntz featured a focus group of Nevada voters, most of who said they voted for Obama in 2008. The majority of these voters switched sides after the debate, and they now say they support Romney.

We’re No. 1 – in political advertising. According to a New York Times story, “More political commercials have been broadcast in Las Vegas than anywhere else, giving it the dubious distinction of being the most saturated media market in the most expensive year in American politics.”

A separate but related Times story reports the Obama campaign and its supporters have outspent the Romney campaign/supporters “nearly 2-to-1 on advertising on Spanish-language television stations in three of the most closely contested states,” including Nevada.

On the other side of the aisle, helping fund many of the pro-Romney commercials in Nevada is Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who, The Associated Press reported last week, has donated $34.2 million so far “to aid Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and organizations supporting Romney this election, making him the donor of donors for the GOP.”

Meanwhile, the group Tea Party Patriots reportedly is mailing to undecided voters in six key swing states — including Nevada — 350,000 DVDs with content criticizing Obamacare.

On the surrogate circuit, Vice President Joe Biden campaigned in Reno and Las Vegas last week, where he mistakenly confused Iran with Afghanistan. Mitt Romney’s son Josh campaigned in Las Vegas.

First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to campaign in Las Vegas again this week, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry was scheduled to campaign on behalf of Romney in northern Nevada.

Poll Watch: Two new Nevada polls show the president still leading in the Silver State. SurveyUSA found Obama ahead of Romney by three points, 48 percent to 45 percent, while Democrat pollster Lisa Grove’s poll shows Obama up by seven points.

— Chuck Muth

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Obama campaign getting comfortable in must-win Granite State

New Hampshire is the new firewall for President Obama.

After reportedly pulling back on its efforts in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, where Mitt Romney is surging, the Obama campaign has settled on New Hampshire as one of its must-win states.

But this is a tall order.

In the 2010 mid-term elections, the GOP captured veto-proof majorities in the state Legislature, took all five seats on the executive council, won both congressional seats and elected Kelly Ayotte as U.S. senator. That’s what you call a rout. The latest state figures show the state has 259,968 registered Republicans, compared to 226,720 Democrats. The Republican Party in New Hampshire is arguably strongest in the Northeast.

Unlike its counterparts in neighboring states, the state’s GOP has the money and the organization to compete with organized labor. This has been most evident in the gubernatorial race between GOP candidate Ovide Lamontagne and Democrat Maggie Hassan, the former state Senate majority leader. Lamontagne has greatly antagonized union bosses with his support for Right-To-Work legislation, yet he has maintained a narrow lead over Hassan.

There’s the rub. None of the candidates running at the presidential and state level has a large lead in the Granite State.

“We’re not looking at any big blowouts here,” said Sam Pimm, a Republican strategist. “Both parties are competitive, and New Hampshire voters are very independent.”

Pimm also cautions against the idea that a victory for Lamontagne will necessarily translate to a victory for Romney, the Republican presidential candidate.

“I think the momentum is with Mitt right now,” he said. “Even the polls that had Obama way up have tightened, so no matter how you look at it, the state is in play for both presidential candidates.”

The latest Real Clear Politics average has President Obama up by less than a point.

Just a few days after his second debate with Romney, Obama campaigned in Manchester.

“Listen, New Hampshire, you’ve heard of the New Deal? You’ve heard of the Square Deal and the Fair Deal — Mitt Romney’s trying to sell you a sketchy deal,” Obama told about 6,000 supporters. “We know better because the last time this sketchy deal was tried was in the previous administration.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., returned to New Hampshire last week to campaign for both Romney and Lamontagne. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., also plans to visit the state later this month on behalf of the GOP.

— Kevin Mooney

NORTH CAROLINA

Early voting begins as poll show Romney pulling away

The votes are in. About 150,000 of them, anyway.

Early voting in North Carolina began Thursday, and ballots cast surpassed the first day of voting in 2008, according to The Associated Press.

Obama in 2008 was the first Democrat to carry the state in 32 years. He also received more of the early votes than Republican John McCain.

Election officials say as many as 70 percent of voters might cast their ballots in the Tar Heel State before election day. Early voting ends Nov. 3.

The campaign for Mitt Romney apparently believes it has wrapped things up in North Carolina, at least thinking it’s secure enough to pack up the red tent and head to more volatile ground, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The campaign declined to specify how many people were involved in the move out of North Carolina, though it did acknowledge that its chief spokesman, Robert Reid, had been moved to Ohio, according to the News & Observer of Raleigh.

“With the increasingly widening polls in North Carolina, we will continue to allocate resources, including key senior staff, to other states,” Michael Levoff, a Romney campaign spokesman in Boston, told the paper.

The campaign to re-elect President Obama isn’t giving up.

Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama visited the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she reminded the roughly 5,700 students packing a basketball arena that her husband won the state four years ago by just 14,000 votes, which she said broke down to just five votes per precinct, The Associated Press wrote. She challenged each student there to personally round up five votes to help re-elect the president.

The first lady held a similar get-out-the-vote rally last month in a gym at N.C. Central University in Durham. Tuesday marked the 12th time Michelle Obama has visited the state as first lady.

Poll Watch: Things are looking bleak for the Democrats in the Tar Heel State. Romney leads Obama by 5.6 percentage points, according to the Real Clear Politics average, and the latest poll from Rasmussen Reports has Romney leading Obama by six percentage points, 52 percent to 46 percent, among 500 likely voters. RCP and Rasmussen have changed the state’s status from toss-up to leaning Republican. In the race for governor, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory leads Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton by 12.7 percentage points, according to the RCP average. Sitting Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, chose not to run for re-election. McCrory would become just the fourth Republican since 1897 elected governor of North Carolina.

— John Trump

OHIO

Brown out of touch, independent group says

Last time we checked, 12 of 26 coal-fired power plants in Ohio are due to close by 2015 because of new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.

But the war on coal is just some figment of the right’s imagination, according to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

“There is no war on coal. Period,” Brown said during a debate Oct. 15 with Republican rival Josh Mandel, the first of three debates in 10 days. The whole issue is the invention of “a coal mine owner in southern Ohio,” according to Brown.

It’s hard to imagine he persuaded anybody in coal country, where miners are holding news conferences to denounce “the numerous false statements and absolute lies” by Democrats who, like Brown, dismiss them as their boss’ puppets.

An independent group is already using the clip to show Brown as out of touch.

One wonders if he even believes it himself. For years, he’s worn a lapel pin of a caged canary as a sign of solidarity with the miners, who used the birds as early warning systems. Lately, that lapel pin has been strangely absent.

The second debate, held three days later, produced a moment that won’t soon be forgotten.

Brown accused Mandel of doing the bidding of the payday lending industry, as he has before.

“Senator, you are a liar,” Mandel said to audible gasps. “You are lying to the people of the state of Ohio. You are falsely attacking me, and I won’t stand for it. You might want to try to push people around in Washington, but you’re not going to push me around.”

The moneylender gibe wasn’t a new one, but it clearly triggered something in Mandel. Brown has already been criticized for calling Mandel “the candidate of the big lie,” as the origin of the phrase is Hitler’s critique of the Jewish people. Now he’s lumping in the Jewish candidate with Shylocks and moneylenders.

The fig leaf of policy covering the otherwise naked appeal is a four-year-old vote Mandel took to allow payday lenders to continue to exist.

One might think Brown really hates the payday lenders, and he’s just a brave man willing to risk offense to tell the truth. Alas, Brown doesn’t have the standing to accuse anyone, having recently accepted some $24,700 from the payday lenders, according to press accounts.

— Jon Cassidy

PENNSYLVANIA

Gap narrows in Keystone State, now a ‘toss-up,’ pollsters say

Mitt Romney is doing well in Pennsylvania, but he has yet to make an aggressive push to win the state’s 20 electoral votes.

Recent polls show the gap between Romney and President Obama has narrowed considerably since summer, especially since Romney’s debate performances. Real Clear Politics is calling the race “a toss-up.”

But others say Obama is still the favorite, and the Romney campaign seems to be investing only so many resources in a state that’s likely to come out blue on Election Day. Romney and Obama are not currently airing television ads in the state.

Pennsylvania, despite having a Republican governor and Republican majority in the General Assembly, has favored Democrats in the past five presidential elections.

Without spending millions to flip that pattern, the Romney camp’s appeals to win over Pennsylvania are subtler.

Early on in the town-hall format debate Oct. 16, Romney recalled a September trip to the Keystone State. He spoke of meeting a young woman in Philadelphia who was working three-part time jobs while answering the first question about how to put Americans back to work.

While the campaign isn’t shelling out ad dollars, it did send one of Romney’s top supporters to stump this week — his wife, Ann.

Ann Romney appealed to Pennsylvania’s voters, specifically the female electorate, at two stops, including a college in Lancaster County. Supporters waved signs proclaiming “Women for Mitt,” and she told the crowd that the campaign has not given up on Pennsylvania.

“This is an important state for us,” she told the crowd, according to The Associated Press. “We care about Pennsylvania, and we care about Pennsylvanians.”

The Obama campaign has shown a similar commitment to the race. Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, appeared at events in seven Pennsylvania cities, including Philadelphia in early October.

Biden, a Scranton native, suspended his own campaign stops this week to head to Penn Valley, where funeral services were held for former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who served in the Senate for 30 years. Specter, widely known for his moderate views and courageous spirit, died Oct. 14.

Poll Watch: Obama has the support of 50 percent likely voters in Pennsylvania with Romney at 46 percent, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. The poll surveyed more than 1,500 likely Pennsylvania voters with a margin of error of 2.5 percent. A poll from the Public Policy Polling institute shows the president with a 51 percent to 44 percent advantage over Romney. That poll surveyed 500 likely voters with a 4.4 percent margin of error. In mid-September, that gap was 12 points, according to data from the same institute. As of Oct. 18, poll aggregates showed Obama leading by five percentage points, 49 percent to 44 percent, according to Real Clear Politics.

— Melissa Daniels

VIRGINIA

In Virginia, Romney-Ryan take the offensive on defense

President Obama and Mitt Romney were back in Virginia after Tuesday’s debate, tuning up their messages for the final on-stage clash Monday night in Boca Raton, Fla.

Speaking to an energetic crowd of 3,500 in Chesapeake on Wednesday, Romney said, “Don’t you think that it’s time for (Obama) to finally put together a vision of what he’d do in the next four years if he were elected? I mean, he’s got to come up with that over this weekend because there’s only one debate left on Monday.”

Running mate Paul Ryan was in Lynchburg, where he again warned that looming defense cuts would devastate Virginia and the nation.

Hammering on the budget “sequestration” due to take effect in January, the Romney-Ryan campaign has run ads in Northern Virginia and the Tidewater region alleging that the administration’s “defense cuts will weaken national security and threaten over 130,000 jobs, lowering home values, putting families at risk.”

But Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau found that the effects of a sequestration may be overblown.

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, said that “2013 is the only year that there are actual (defense) cuts. After that, it’s a (budget) cap.

“Sequestration is totally in line with the drawdown in costs. Contractors cannot feed on this forever. The Defense Department is not a jobs program,” she said.

“The cuts will be more minor than people say, and there is a lot of unspent appropriated money laying around.”

De Rugy estimates that defense contractors are making “double” what they earned in 2000, and that the sector’s profits have quadrupled in the past decade. “It’s a myth to say it’s suddenly going to be recession time for these guys.

Obama, coincidentally or not, spoke at GMU’s Fairfax campus Friday. Speaking to a heavily female audience, the president skirted the defense issue and instead touted his record on women’s rights and the “right to choose.”

Fairfax County’s status as a crucial battleground was highlighted by the Service Employee International Union’s effort to “out” local election-watch volunteers.

An unabashed supporter of the president’s re-election campaign, SEIU filed a sweeping Freedom of Information Act request with Fairfax’s election board seeking the activists’ names, as well as “all documents, records and information received from True the Vote or Virginia Voters Alliance.”

The union’s gambit was rejected. “We had real concerns about privacy,” said general registrar Cameron Quinn.

— Kenric Ward

WISCONSIN

Romney, Obama pull even in Badger State

It’s back to even in battleground Wisconsin.

The latest Marquette Law School poll, released Wednesday, showed President Obama with a scant 49 percent to 48 percent lead over GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Two weeks before, Obama’s advantage was 11 percentage points.

“For those of us who like an exciting game, this has become an exciting game,” said Charles Franklin, the poll’s director.

Among the 1,007 registered voters polled, 870 said they were likely to vote in the presidential election next month. The poll had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points. Respondents were contacted after the first presidential debate earlier this month but before Wednesday’s second debate in New York.

Angela Boozhoo, an undecided Wisconsin voter who says she’s leaning toward Obama, didn’t find much clarity in the latest debate. She agreed with many voters that the candidates seemed more interested in attacking each other than answering voter questions.

“I had to turn it off,” Boozhoo said of the televised debate. “I got an hour into it and I couldn’t watch it anymore. They were getting a little bit brutal with each other.”

Perhaps the latest poll numbers have created a greater sense of urgency for the Obama campaign in Wisconsin. On Wednesday, the campaign confirmed First Lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton would stump in different parts of the state Friday.

Mitt Romney’s son Matt campaigned for his dad on Wednesday in southern and southeast Wisconsin. In an interview with Wisconsin Reporter, Matt Romney said he and his family have had to develop thick skin in the rough sport of presidential campaigning — a grueling year-plus for Mitt Romney, who had to first survive a bruising primary season.

“We all knew going into this it was going to be like this, that everyone is going to get dragged through the mud in the process,” Matt Romney said. “That’s the name of the game, the sacrifice of running. I think it’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality.”

— Wisconsin Reporter

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