White House senior adviser David Plouffe said Republican Mitt Romney is “disingenuously” hiding his positions from voters as polls show the U.S. presidential contest deadlocked in the campaign’s final days.
“He’s trying to be dishonest about what he intends to do as president,” Plouffe said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “He’s not switching positions; he’s trying to hide them.”
Plouffe, a chief engineer of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, said that, if the election were held today, Obama’s early-balloting advantage would win him the popular vote and the Electoral College votes that determine the presidency. He repeatedly cast Romney as a candidate voters couldn’t trust, a theme Obama will be sounding as the Nov. 6 election draws closer.
“He’s kind of trying to have a masquerade ball here at the end,” Plouffe said, referring to the former Massachusetts governor’s stances on economic and social issues.
The Romney campaign responded by saying Obama is hiding his second-term agenda, dismissing a 20-page booklet of policy proposals that Obama’s campaign distributed earlier this week.
‘State of Denial’
“President Obama’s campaign is in a state of denial over the widely panned brochure they have tried to pass off as a second-term agenda,” said Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman. “Americans already know what the president will deliver if he’s given another four years in office: skyrocketing debt, fewer jobs and higher taxes on middle-class families and small businesses.”
Both campaigns are vying for the electoral votes of nine states that have supported both parties in recent presidential elections.
Piecing together the 270 electoral votes needed for election is “like a Rubik’s Cube,” Plouffe said, adding that Obama has a “plausible pathway” to win the states both campaigns have targeted.
Plouffe expressed confidence in Obama’s prospects to win Ohio, and its 18 electoral votes. Recent polls have shown the president maintaining an edge over Romney in that state. Plouffe attributed Obama’s slight lead there to his bailout of the auto industry.
“It’s clear the Romney campaign understands that they’ve got big problems in Ohio,” he said.
Rich Beeson, Romney’s national political director, and Scott Jennings, the campaign’s Ohio director, said in a memo this week the Republican ticket is poised to win the state, citing gains among independent voters. “Our view is that the race is a dead heat with Romney on an unmistakable upward track,” the memo said.
A CNN/ORC International poll released yesterday found Obama ahead of Romney, 50 percent to 46 percent, among likely voters in Ohio. No Republican presidential nominee has been elected without carrying the state. The Oct. 23-25 survey of 741 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Virginia, which has 13 electoral votes, “is going to be a very close race,” Plouffe said.
As for Florida, Plouffe said that, while Republicans traditionally have an advantage among absentee voters, Obama’s campaign has made inroads.
“The real premium is for people who aren’t reliable voters, frequent voters, to get them to vote early is very important,” he said, “and that’s where our focus is.”
In Iowa, one of the swing states where the election will be decided, Romney yesterday laid out his closing argument for the campaign’s home stretch. He said Obama has relied on personal attacks to distract from economic policies that won’t restore economic growth.
Plouffe said the “change” Romney is promising would hurt the middle class.
“All it is is a big relapse to the same economic policies that devastated the middle class and our economy,” Plouffe said. “That’s the choice in front of people, which is we are beginning to make progress.”
The U.S. Commerce Department said gross domestic product rose at a 2 percent annual rate in the third quarter after climbing 1.3 percent in the previous three months. The median forecast of 86 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 1.8 percent gain.
Plouffe called “nuttiness” from Romney’s camp a suggestion by a former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu that retired Army General Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama’s re-election was racially motivated. Plouffe likened the rhetoric to that of real estate developer Donald Trump, who has repeatedly questioned whether the president was born in the U.S.
“John Sununu, you know, says things kind of in the Donald Trump category it seems like, from time to time,” Plouffe said. Trump, a billionaire real estate developer and reality television star, sought to reignite debate about Obama’s birthplace and earlier this week challenged him to release his college records.
Sununu, a co-chairman of Romney’s presidential campaign, said on CNN, “When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder if that’s an endorsement based on issues, or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.”
Your Own Race
Asked by CNN’s Piers Morgan the reason, Sununu, 73, said: “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”
Hours later, Sununu stepped back from his comment about Powell’s endorsement, issuing a statement to National Review Online saying, “I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president’s policies.”
Plouffe said Powell’s “comments about why he’s endorsing the president probably are going to be more impactful with all voters.”
“That’s more just the kind of nuttiness from their side.” Plouffe said.
With under two weeks until Election Day, Plouffe is already looking ahead to the next battle. He said attention would “immediately” turn to the looming fight over the $607 billion in mandated spending cuts and tax increases, the so-called fiscal cliff.
While Plouffe declined to describe the president’s negotiating posture, he said Obama is committed to a balanced approach that includes letting tax cuts for top earners expire at the end of the year.
“At the end of the day, these things are never easy, but, you know, the attention is quickly going to turn from the election to these fiscal challenges that are facing us, immediately probably,” he said.