Election 2012

Romney, Obama campaigns face-off in swing states

Romney, Obama campaigns face-off in swing states

These swing-state updates were provided by reporters for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which publishes Watchdog.org. To read reports from prior weeks, click here.

COLORADO

Politicians becoming rock stars in Centennial State

President Obama and Mitt Romney were in Colorado this past week, campaigning in venues usually reserved for large concerts and drawing thousands of supporters.

First up was Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, in town for a moonlit rally at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where they spoke to a sold-out crowd of 10,000, with hundreds more supporters lined up outside the venue. The crowd also got some of what makes Red Rocks so famous — music, from Kid Rock and Rodney Atkins.

Once he took the stage, Romney, all smiles, marveled at the scenery.

“What you’re seeing across this country, as we’ve had these debates and as Paul and I have gone across this nation, you’re seeing this movement growing, you’re seeing people coming together saying, ‘We love America. We recognize we can do better’,” he said. “I came in and some of the folks here were holding signs, ‘Democrats for Romney.’ I love that!”

Ryan had been campaigning across Colorado — from Durango and Grand Junction on the western side of the state to Colorado Springs and Pueblo south of Denver — for two days before the event at Red Rocks.

Justin Miller, a spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party, provided data to show, according to early voting totals, Republicans are showing a lead in the swing state.

“Republicans are leading Democrats in absentee ballot requests and early votes by more than 10,000 voters,” he wrote in an email. “Republicans are outperforming voter registration by 2.13 points. Republicans won the first day of early voting in Colorado. In 2008, Republicans lost early voting by nearly four points.”

Early voting began in Colorado on Monday, and by Wednesday the secretary of state’s office reported that 8.9 percent of the 3.6 million registered voters had voted.

Wednesday afternoon, Obama was in City Park, where jazz concerts are held weekly in the summer. He attracted some 16,000 supporters, where live music also kept the crowd rocking as they waited for the president to speak.

“The reason I want four more years is because I’ve got a plan that will actually create jobs,” said Obama. “A plan that will actually create middle class security. And unlike Mitt Romney, I’m not afraid to talk about what’s in my plan.”

A spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party did not respond to email requests for a reaction to the President’s 11th campaign stop in the state.

Poll Watch: Three new polls this week showed Obama still maintaining a lead in Colorado. A survey by Public Policy Polling had Obama ahead by four points, a Grove Insight and Onsight/Keating polls each showed Obama ahead by three points, and the NBC/WSJ/Marist poll showed a tie.

— Mindy Seymour

FLORIDA

McCain stumps in Miami as Romney pulls ahead in Sunshine State

With debates out of the way and a full accelerator on political advertising, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are in the last stretch to woo Florida’s independent, female and Latino, voting blocs that could end up delivering the White House.

Key to victory in Florida will be votes from independent voters and the Latino community, prompting Sen. John McCain’s visit to stump for Republicans in Miami’s Little Havana on Thursday.

Romney visited Kissimmee with Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday, hoping to beat Obama to the punch when it comes to Latino voters in the heart of the Interstate-4 corridor.

On Oct. 29, Obama is set to team up with President Bill Clinton to hit three key swing states in a row in one day, visiting Ohio and Virginia before ending with a rally in Orlando, hot on the heels of Romney.

Ann Romney provided some backup for her husband in Winter Park on Oct.24 and Daytona Beach on Oct. 25, capitalizing on a new AP poll showing Mitt Romney gaining ground with a 49 percent to 45 percent lead among female voters.

Poll Watch: The latest Sunshine State News poll shows Mitt Romney ahead 51-46 over Obama, the biggest single margin favoring the GOP presidential hopeful so far.

But even as the candidates strive to win over the last remaining undecided voters, the state parties are mounting their own efforts to help lock down the vote.

The Democratic campaign has spent most of its energy encouraging voters to hit the polls early, hoping to secure the absentee majority.

The GOP, on the other hand, has been drawing attention to allegations of voter intimidation as thousands of Florida residents, mostly Republicans, received bogus letters questioning their eligibility to vote.

The FBI opened an official investigation, and officials will release their findings before the election.

— Yaël Ossowski

IOWA

Obama, Romney visit Hawkeye State; Biden forgets where he is

President Obama and Romney began their final push to rally supporters in swing states with visits this week to Eastern Iowa.

Obama spoke to a crowd of about 3,500 in Davenport on Wednesday morning, coming out more forceful than usual and labeling Romney as an untrustworthy double-talker.

That night Romney landed in Cedar Rapids to rally supporters. His visit was part of a Republican barrage of Iowa, including visits by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chair.

Romney outlined his five-point plan, in which he promises to spur the economy and create jobs by boosting domestic energy, improving education, empowering small business, addressing the federal debt and streamlining job-training programs.

While in Iowa, Prebius announced the state’s caucus would retain its first-in-the nation status during the 2016 election.

Poll Watch: The candidates ended the week with Obama polling ahead of Romney 49 to 46.7 percentage points, a difference of 2.3 points, according to a rolling average of polls from RealClearPolitics.com. That figure has largely remained unchanged in the past week, the website showed.

Vice President Joe Biden spent Monday and Tuesday in the Hawkeye State before heading to Ohio, where he said, “I mean literally, ladies and gentlemen, this is the guy who’s running all of the ads here in Iowa saying he’s going to get tough on China.”

— Sheena Dooley

MICHIGAN

Is it a Republican ploy or the real McCoy?

On the night of the final presidential debate, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers told a panel of TV reporters President Obama has a problem in Michigan.

Obama “hasn’t hit 50 percent in Michigan in all the polls,” Rogers said. If that’s correct, Obama is in danger of losing Michigan.

The question is: What was Rogers talking about? If he was referring to polling released to the public, his statement was inaccurate. If he was hinting that internal GOP polls showed the president below 50 percent, well, that could mean something else.

Recent polls in Michigan have shown Obama slightly above 50 percent; others have shown him slightly below. Reasons exist to be skeptical about all of them.

A couple days after Rogers’ comment, a Fox 2 Detroit poll showed the race tied at 47 percent. So, is Michigan really up for grabs, or are Republicans just trying to create that impression?

Late in the 2004 election, the John Kerry campaign rushed to Michigan after polls showed a tightening race. This diverted the Democrats’ time and money away from Ohio, where the election was ultimately decided.

If Michigan swings to Romney, it would be a huge coup for the GOP and follow the trend of undoing Big Labor’s stranglehold on the state.

Obama, however, hasn’t forgotten about Michigan, or how to use every TV opportunity as a chance to claim he’s a man of the Michigan people.

“I will say, I’ve spent a lot of time in Detroit lately,” the president told Jay Leno last week, before telling viewers he would support the Detroit Tigers against the San Francisco Giants in the World Series (California is already is solidly in Obama’s camp).

The only problem with the president’s claim is that he hasn’t visited Detroit since September 2011.

— Jack Spencer

NEVADA

Nevada machine, powered by Reid, gearing up for Obama win in Silver State

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan campaigned together in Henderson last Tuesday, and the president followed them into the state Wednesday. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and his running mate, Jim Gray, campaigned in Las Vegas on Friday.

On the surrogate circuit, First Lady Michelle Obama was in Las Vegas on behalf of her husband, and Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry was in Reno for Romney. Sen. Al Franken campaigned in both Las Vegas and Reno on behalf of Obama, and entertainers Eva Longoria and Katy Perry campaigned in Las Vegas, also for Obama. Comedian Paul Rodriguez held an event for Romney.

The New York Times reports that President Obama’s ace-in-the-hole in Nevada is the “political machine” built over 10 years by Sen. Harry Reid. The Reid machine, writes journalist Adam Nagourney, “is a large reason that Mr. Obama is favored by many analysts to win narrowly in Nevada, despite what may be the worst economic climate in the nation … .”

On the first day of early voting, turnout in Clark County — where more than two-thirds of the state’s population resides — was more than 31,000. That compares to 25,000 four years ago. The partisan breakdown had 18,388 Democrats casting ballots, versus 9,588 Republicans.

Not a good start for the GOP. And the bad news continued…

By the end of the week, more than 250,000 early and absentee votes had been cast in Nevada, about a quarter of the voting population, with Democrats building a lead in excess of 22,000 votes statewide; 36,000 in Clark County.

Poll Watch: The latest Rasmussen poll has Obama leading, 50 percent to 48 percent. Public Policy Polling has it 51-47, also for Obama. An NBC/Marist/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama up 50-47 among likely voters; 51-45 among registered voters. That poll also shows Romney getting crushed by Hispanics, a large minority bloc in Nevada, 74 percent to 23 percent.

— Chuck Muth

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Ayotte counters Democratic overtures to women; Romney hits Obama on shipbuilding

Women voters could make all the difference in New Hampshire on Election Day, according to top campaign strategists for President Obama. The campaign has held hundreds of events in the Granite State set up to grab the female vote, including “Women Wednesdays” and several high-profile visits from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair.

Up until a few weeks ago, polls showed President Obama with a lead among women over Mitt Romney, both nationally and in New Hampshire, but the edge has evaporated. Even liberal-leaning news outlets acknowledge that whatever “gender gap” existed in the early months of the campaign is “all but gone.”

Moreover, the Romney campaign is not without some key assets. New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte has campaigned vigorously for Romney in the state. She was elected by a wide margin in 2010 and helped other GOP candidates appeal to woman voters. Ayotte recently appeared opposite Gov. Martin O’Malley, the Democratic governor of Maryland, on “Fox News Sunday” to make the case for Romney. She reminded viewers Obama had control of both houses of Congress during his first two years.

“So, they had full charge of the first two years, and the policies that this president put into place actually made it worse,” she said. “The middle class is buried under this administration.”

If the Democrats were to run the table and win all of the state’s big races, New Hampshire would become the first state to have women in control of the entire congressional delegation and the governor’s office, according to a report from National Public Radio. In the congressional races, Rep. Frank Guinta is against Democrat and former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, while Republican Rep. Charles Bass is facing Democrat Ann McLane Kuster.

Maggie Hassan, the former Democratic Senate president, appears to be in trouble in her race for governor against Republican Ovide Lamontagne, who has maintained a steady lead. Hassan racked up a highly progressive voting record during her time in the state Legislature, which puts her at odds with swing voters on key questions.

“I think the critical swing vote may come from New Hampshire libertarians,” Sam Pimm, a Republican strategist, observes. “They may agree with Hassan on issues like gay marriage and even abortion rights to some extent, but they’re not going to vote on those issues. They are going to vote on taxes and finance. That’s where she’s vulnerable with both male and female voters.”

The state branch of Americans for Prosperity has released a series of ads claiming Hassan, based on her record in the Legislature, is “open to higher taxes.”

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign has released a new campaign commercial entitled: “Our Navy – New Hampshire,” hitting President Obama for weakening national defense.

“The state of our Navy — the state of the entire US military — is crucial for America,” a narrator says. “Our freedom depends on it. But so do many of our jobs — 3,600 in New Hampshire alone.”

The shipbuilding industry is a crucial component of the Granite State’s economy.

Poll Watch: The Real Clear Politics average has Obama up by less than point in a state that he carried by almost double digits over Sen. John McCain in 2008. But most of the recent polls, including Rasmussen, now show Romney with a two-point lead.

— Kevin Mooney

NORTH CAROLINA

Tar Heel State still tough to predict as surrogates continue rolling in

President Obama hasn’t bothered to visit the state for several weeks, and Mitt Romney has, theoretically at least, packed up the state’s 15 electoral votes en route to more turbulent regions.

Yet the surrogates march on, through Greensboro, Raleigh and points west.

Friday, Alicia Keys and Jesse Jackson rallied in the Triangle, urging, according to the Charlotte Observer, people to vote early and to vote for Obama.

“We need to think back to the times when us as a people never even had an opportunity to vote,” Keys, according to the paper, told 1,000 people at an event held near a traditionally black neighborhood in Raleigh.

Also on the weekend docket: LeToya Luckett, formerly of Destiny’s Child; comedian Kevin Hart; Jill Biden, wife of the vice president; and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.

The Republicans planned to haul in their own contingent, including Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin.

So far, more than a million residents have cast their votes, and registered Democrats are out-voting registered Republicans by a 2-1 margin, according to a CNN blog. Of those voters, 72 percent are women, youth, African-American or Latino, the Obama campaign says.

Nevertheless, the outcome of the coming presidential election in the Tar Heel State is as tough to predict as the latest assortment of polls are to decipher. It depends on who you ask or, more appropriately, which poll you choose to believe.

Poll Watch: The latest Real Clear Politics aggregate shows Romney leading, 50.3 percent to 46.5 percent. Gravis Marketing has Romney up by 8 percentage points, according to the poll of 1,723 likely voters. Public Policy Polling, which polled 880 likely voters, is calling it a tie, and Civitas shows a dead heat, with Romney leading my a mere point, according to 600 likely voters. Rasmussen, with 600 likely voters polled, has Romney up six percentage points, 52-46.

A new Elon University poll of 1,238 likely voters show voters split in their support of the candidates, each with 45 percent.

“The economy is the most prominent issue of the election and is an important reason why Mitt Romney is in a tight race with the incumbent president,” Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon poll, said in a news  release. “But respondents also seem to have a growing optimism about the economy. More people believe the economy will improve over the next year, and those optimists are more likely to vote for Barack Obama.”

— John Trump

OHIO

No bailout for Obama, Brown in Buckeye State

Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel, 35, looked a little green on TV during his final debate Thursday night with Sen. Sherrod Brown.

It was more of an olive pallor, really, but then the glaringly obvious metaphor doesn’t work.

When he stepped offstage during a commercial break for a makeup touch-up, Brown’s people had a fit about some broken ground rule.

Dan Bradley, the general manager of WCMH Columbus, which was carrying the debate, popped into the backstage media area with the announcement. Brown’s folks had asked that the debate be interrupted so that moderator Chuck Todd could inform viewers, but somebody had the sense to shoot that down.

Brown looked great, by the way — lots of color, his famous voice at full rumble, bursting with answers so quick and decisive it hardly seemed to matter they were wrong. (Those Medicare cuts approved in Obamacare? Just a “$700 billion myth,” in Brown’s words.)

But anyone watching a little closer may have picked up on a number that really screws up the dominant narrative of the campaign — yay for the GM bailout! — and makes a couple of other numbers look ridiculous.

That number is $25 billion. It’s what the Treasury Department estimates the auto industry bailout will end up costing taxpayers, and it’s gone almost entirely unreported by the local press corps.

They’re writing about the General Motors bailout, sure, but in glowing terms, using words like rescue and save so that you’d think the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had been involved. Much of the coverage is so sloppy that it calls Treasury’s equity stake a loan. You know, those things that get paid back.

But Colleen Marshall of WCMH Columbus, who cares about more important things than her boss does, asked Brown the only question about the bailout that matters.

“Is that a fair price to pay?” she wanted to know.

“I don’t entirely agree with the presumption that the federal government stands to lose,” Brown said before muttering something about long-term issues. There’s nothing to argue; the estimate is based on GM’s stock price, which would need to double and then some for taxpayers to be repaid.

Brown mentioned some new jobs that $25 billion had bought.

In Sharonville, “they hired 180 people recently,” he said.

Is that what you get for $25 billion — 180 jobs?

Brown insists that the bailout helped save some 850,000 jobs. You get that figure by taking every Ohioan who has owned a car or ridden in one and dividing by pi. Or something.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has the real numbers. As of July, there were 17,800 jobs in auto manufacturing, plus 54,200 in auto parts. Just a fraction of those are with GM.

And that’s one reason the auto bailout may save neither Brown nor President Obama.

— Jon Cassidy

PENNSYLVANIA

Candidates saturate state airwaves in lead up to election

Tom Smith’s impressive run in the final stretch of the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania has Democrats scrambling to the defense of first-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa..

Majority PAC, a super PAC run by the former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, bought more than $500,000 in television ads in the Pittsburgh media market this week. The ads are an attempt to stop a last-minute surge from Smith, the Republican challenger in the race.

Smith, who is mostly self-financing his campaign, has dominated Casey on the airwaves. A former farmer and coal mining executive, Smith has spent more than $15 million of his own money on the campaign so far — including $5 million to rise from obscurity to win the Republican primary in April.

Polls show Casey is still leading the race, from one to five points. But that lead has dwindled significantly in the past month.

The outcome could determine the balance of power in the Senate. Republicans must win a net of four seats to take control of the chamber.

The two candidates held their first and only debate of the campaign Friday in Philadelphia — and media accounts gave generally negative reviews to both candidates.  Casey stressed the need for bipartisan agreement on issues while Smith attacked the senator for supporting President Obama’s health-care reform law and failed economic policies.

On the presidential front, two Democratic-backing super PACs announced ad buys in the Pittsburgh market this week, briefly giving observers hope that Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes could be back in play.

Alas, those ads — sponsored by Patriot Majority and Workers’ Voice, the AFL-CIO’s super PAC — are actually targeted at Ohio voters, as the Pittsburgh market spills across the border into the eastern edge of the Buckeye State.

Poll Watch: Polls continue to show Obama with a comfortable lead over Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania.

— Eric Boehm

VIRGINIA

‘Dead even’ in polls, campaigns press hard in Old Dominion

The Obama and Romney campaigns are putting a full-court press on Virginia as the clock ticks down to Election Day.

Thursday, the president rallied an exuberant crowd of 15,000 in Richmond. The capital city gave him the second-largest winning margin in the state in 2008 and helped put the Old Dominion in the Democratic presidential column for the first time in 44 years.

“I’m asking you to keep believing in me,” Obama hoarsely told the downtown throng.

Romney, who has made multiple visits to Virginia in recent weeks, will be back for appearances in Prince William County, Richmond and Virginia Beach.

Obama raises the stakes in Prince William this week, when he is scheduled to be accompanied there by former President Bill Clinton.

The vice presidential candidates are weighing in, too. Rep. Paul Ryan spoke in the southwest city of Bristol as well as Charlottesville on Thursday, attracting crowds of 2,000 at each venue. 
\Vice President Joe Biden will campaign Saturday with son Beau — Delaware’s attorney general and a JAG Corps officer in that state’s Army National Guard — in Virginia Beach and Lynchburg.

Poll Watch:  Larry Sabato, at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, says the swing state “might be tilting toward Romney, but only by a hair.”

“On a good day, Romney appears to be up a point or two in his own campaign’s private polling, and the public polling is dead even.”

Romney led Obama 46 percent to 45 percent in the latest survey by UVA and George Mason University. Two percent were undecided, while another 2 percent back other candidates.

The poll, which had a four-point margin of error, found room for an electoral shift before Election Day.

“Slightly less than three-quarter of the voters backing each candidate say their support is very strong, with a large majority of undecided voters unwilling to report leaning toward a particular candidate,” said Thomas Guterbock, director of UVA’s Center for Survey Research.

Despite the quadrennial scare over Social Security, a NewsmaxZogby online poll reported Friday that Romney is crushing Obama among Virginia’s older voters: 58-39. Some 63 percent of respondents older than 65 said they “somewhat” or “strongly” disapprove of Obama’s job performance; only 36 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” approved.

“Both candidates have some work to do to shore up their own bases,” concluded pollster John Zogby. “And the seven-point Obama lead among independents can be erased very quickly.”

— Kenric Ward

WISCONSIN

Romney leads polls in Badger State, tainted by allegations election violence

While the polls tightened in battleground Wisconsin last week, a state known for its bitter, divisive politics boiled over into political violence, according to reports.

The Real Clear Politics poll average put President Obama up 49.5 percent to 46.8 percent for Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the Badger State.

Looking to keep the pressure on, the Romney campaign dispatched U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to rally the troops in Republican enclave Waukesha.

Rubio, a rising GOP star, took aim at Obama’s claims the Romney team has alienated the Latino vote at its own peril.

“I don’t think we’ve alienated Latinos. I do think we need to do a better job of talking about what we’re for,” the senator told a crowd of about 400 on Thursday.

In Wisconsin, the Marquette Law School poll pegs Obama’s Latino support at 55 percent, compared to 39 percent for Romney.

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, the Obama campaign was turning up the heat in Wisconsin. Vice President Joe Biden made a couple of campaign stops Friday, and Obama was expected to be in Green Bay on Tuesday.

The week in political warfare was marred by reports of politically related violence.

An openly gay campaign worker claimed he was brutally beaten Wednesday morning for his politics and sexual orientation.

Kyle Wood, a full-time volunteer working for Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District GOP candidate Chad Lee, was hospitalized for injuries suffered during what he said was an assault at his Madison home, according to a story in The Daily Caller.

“I opened (my door), and a guy wrapped a ligature around my neck, slammed my head into the doorway, and smashed my face into a mirror, telling me, ‘You should have kept your … mouth shut,’” Wood emailed The Daily Caller.

Wood said someone had earlier painted the phrases “house trained republican faggot,” “traitor,” and “ur like a jew 4 hitler” on his car.

Lee is running against state Sen. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison. Baldwin is vying for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Pocan, too, is gay.

The incident is the second reported politically related assault in the past week in the battleground Badger State.

Sean Kedzie, son of state Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, said he was choked and beaten by two men after he confronted them about taking his Romney/Ryan yard signs.

— Wisconsin Reporter

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