President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney crisscrossed the election battleground states hunting for a path to 270 electoral votes needed to win on the final weekend of their campaigns.
The slim margins in the presidential race were demonstrated in their attention to Iowa, a swing state with just six Electoral College votes and where a closely watched poll showed the incumbent ahead there.
Obama leads his Republican challenger 47 percent to 42 percent among likely Iowa voters, according to the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll, which was released last night.
The newspaper’s survey also pointed to some reason for optimism for Romney in the state, even as time before the Nov. 6 election is running out. Seven percent of those surveyed say they could still change their minds. Among that small group, a plurality of 48 percent say they’re angry and pessimistic, double the average. Just two percent say they remain undecided, while five percent declined to share their choice.
“There are things that could happen today and Monday that would shape the final outcome,” pollster J. Ann Selzer told the newspaper. “Nobody need be over-confident.”
Both candidates have solidified their Iowa support, with 96 percent of Romney supporters and 95 percent of Obama supporters saying their minds are made up.
The survey of 800 likely voters was conducted Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
None of the roughly nine states that both candidates are focusing time and attention on has more sentimental appeal and symbolism for Obama, whose win in the 2008 Iowa caucuses put him on his way to the Democratic nomination and the White House. The president is scheduled to headline what will probably be the last campaign rally of his political career in Des Moines tomorrow, the evening before the election, before flying to Chicago where he will watch the results.
“Iowa, I started my presidential journey right here in this state. After two years of campaigning and after four years as president, you know me by now,” Obama told about 5,000 supporters last night in Dubuque. “You know I tell the truth. And you know I’ll fight for you.”
Earlier in the day, Romney pulled his campaign plane up to a rally in an airline hanger in Dubuque where several hundred people waited.
“I know most of you here have decided who you are voting for in three more days, but you have some neighbors who haven’t made up their minds yet,” he said. “I want to make sure that I give you the arguments you need.”
Most of Romney’s senior advisers joined him for part of the final campaign sprint, including former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, who’s been asked to oversee Romney’s transition if he wins. With the strategy set, there was little to do except watch the polls, voter turn-out, and the candidate.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters in a conference call yesterday that the president’s re-election would be aided by a turnout effort “unlike any other American politics has seen.” Messina said the campaign had registered 1.8 million new voters in the most competitive states -- almost twice as many new voters as the Obama campaign registered four years ago -- and that 28 percent cast ballots in early voting.
Romney started the day telling New Hampshire voters that they should vote for him “for love of country,” and not revenge. His comments were a rebuttal to Obama, who told supporters yesterday not to boo Romney’s name at rally in Springfield, Ohio. “No, no, no -- don’t boo, vote,” Obama said. “Vote. Voting is the best revenge.”
He closed it in Colorado, a state Republicans have long described as favorable ground. Romney packed a stadium in Englewood with 17,000 cheering supporters.
“The only thing that stands between us and some of the best years we’ve ever know is lack of leadership,” said Romney, who threw a windbreaker over his button-down shirt and tie for the appearance in the mountain state. “That’s why we have elections.”
The two states combined have a total of 13 electoral votes.
Romney, 65, has another packed day of campaigning planned for today, starting with a morning rally in Iowa and ending in Florida. His campaign added a stop in Pennsylvania, which last went to the Republican presidential candidate in 1988.
With Ohio and Iowa trending toward Obama, the Pennsylvania event is an indication that Romney is seeking to expand the battleground. He is skipping Nevada in the final days, dispatching former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the state instead, a sign that his chances have diminished there.
Obama began his day yesterday with a stop at the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a briefing on storm recovery efforts, using his role as commander-in-chief to present himself as rising above partisan politics by managing the response to Hurricane Sandy.
“There is nothing more important than getting this right,” the president said at the agency’s Washington headquarters.
At his first campaign event, outside of Cleveland, Ohio, the president continued to criticize Romney over an ad --called “inaccurate” and “misleading” by General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC -- that implies Chrysler, following the auto bailout, expanded Jeep production plants in China at the expense of jobs in the state.
Issue of Trust
“When you elect a president you don’t know what kinds of emergencies may happen,” Obama, 51, told 4,000 supporters at a high school in Mentor, a Cleveland suburb. “But you do want to be able to trust your president. You want to know that your president means what he says and says what he means.”
His campaign has been saturating Ohio airwaves with a rebuttal ad, as well, and former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden delivering the same message in the state, which has 18 electoral votes.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College survey of likely voters released yesterday put Obama ahead of Romney in Ohio, 51 percent to 45 percent. The survey had a 3.1 percentage point margin of error. No Republican presidential candidate has won election without carrying Ohio.
Suggesting a tighter race in the Buckeye State, a poll from the Columbus Dispatch showed Obama with an edge over Romney by 50 percent to 48 percent in Ohio. The poll surveyed 1,501 likely Ohio voters from Oct. 24 through yesterday and has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points. In the final 2008 Dispatch Poll, Obama led by 5.4 points. The 2004 survey showed candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry tied, with both receiving just under 50 percent of the vote.
Obama closed the day yesterday with a rally in Virginia with Clinton. The two praised each other and embraced on stage before a crowd of about 24,000 people.
Introducing Obama, Clinton highlighted the president’s response to Hurricane Sandy. He cited the endorsement of Obama by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, and his partnership with New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, as evidence of his commitment to bipartisanship.
“Cooperation works better when there is no disaster and if you don’t have cooperation you have the makings of disaster,” Clinton said in Bristow, Virginia, at the outdoor Jiffy Lube Arena. “Barack Obama is a proven cooperator.”
When Obama finished with his remarks, his usual closing song, Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered” was supplanted by Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” which was the theme song for Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 campaigns.