Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s top advisers said Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign stop in Pennsylvania today is a “desperate ploy” in a state he can’t win in the Nov. 6 election. A Republican aide insisted the traditionally Democratic-leaning state is in play.
Both Obama and Romney conducted eleventh-hour searches for votes as a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows the nationwide race is still a dead heat. Democrat Obama’s lead over Romney among likely voters is within the poll’s 2.5 percentage point error margin, the Journal said.
Romney planned an early-evening stop in Pennsylvania, where a new Franklin & Marshall College poll showed that Obama’s lead has been cut to within the survey’s margin of error.
White House senior adviser David Plouffe said Romney’s plan to hold a rally in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, plus plans for the candidate or surrogates to visit Virginia and North Carolina, show “they are definitely in a weak position heading into election day.”
“This is a desperate ploy at the end of the campaign,” Plouffe said on ABC’s “This Week.” Romney plans to visit Florida and Virginia because “he’s at risk of losing those states,” Plouffe said.
Pennsylvania is “very fertile ground for us,” Romney’s political director, Rich Beeson, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “Campaigning in states we haven’t won since 1988” isn’t “exactly” an act of “desperation,” he said. “It looks like the map is starting to expand drastically in our favor.”
Both Plouffe and David Axelrod, Obama’s top political adviser, argued that Romney’s schedule in the final days of the campaign showed he is trying to find electoral votes in new places because he knows he can’t win Ohio, which has 18 electoral votes.
Romney’s campaign today was breaking away from the nine competitive states that have driven the candidates travel schedules for months. In addition to Romney’s rally in Morrisville, vice- presidential running mate Paul Ryan headed to Minnesota.
With polls showing both Ohio and Iowa leaning towards Obama, the Republican ticket is seeking alternate pathways to capture the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.
Romney’s itinerary shows he and his advisers “understand they are in deep trouble,” Axelrod said on the “Fox News Sunday” broadcast. “They have tried to expand the map because they know in states like Ohio” that “they are behind and they are not catching up.”
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, one of Romney’s leading surrogates on the campaign trail, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” it would be difficult for the Republican to win the White House without Ohio. “I wouldn’t want to risk it,” he said.
No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio. A Columbus Dispatch poll showed that Obama’s 50-48 percent lead over Romney in Ohio was within the mail survey’s 2.2 percentage point error margin among 1,501 likely voters.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday showed Obama led Romney 51 percent to 45 percent in the state, outside the survey’s 3.1 percentage point margin of error. In a Pew Research Center poll released today, Obama led Romney 48 percent to 45 percent in an Oct. 31-Nov. 3 survey. An Oct. 24-28 survey by Pew, conducted before Sandy hit the Northeast, showed the race was deadlocked at 47 percent apiece.
Romney’s trips to Virginia and Florida also show weakness because they “would assume by now they would have secured” victories there, Axelrod said.
Obama is “very competitive in Florida” and, “if they were comfortable in Florida, they wouldn’t be spending as much time and money down there as they are,” Axelrod said. He and Beeson both predicted a close race in Virginia for that state’s 13 electoral votes. Florida has 29 electoral votes.
Virginia is “going to come down to the very end,” Beeson said.
Obama campaigned in New Hampshire where a WMUR Granite State Poll showed the race for the state’s four electoral votes was tied at 47 percent among likely voters. The survey was taken Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.
The president told supporters in Concord, New Hampshire, that the election is “not just about policy. It’s also about who do you trust.” He said Romney has shifted positions on issues so much that he can’t be trusted. “You know where I stand,” he said. “You know what I believe.”
A Pennsylvania poll showed the race tightening for the state’s 20 electoral votes.
Obama led Romney in the Franklin & Marshall College Poll of registered Pennsylvania voters 48 percent to 44 percent. The survey, conducted Oct. 23-28, had a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points. The president’s lead was cut from 11 points in September.
A new poll in Iowa, another swing state, shows Obama leads Romney 47 percent to 42 percent among likely voters. The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll of 800 likely voters conducted Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Campaigning there this morning, Romney rallied thousands of Iowa supporters with promises that he would work with Democrats in Washington to change the country’s direction.
“You reach across the street to your neighbor with a yard sign,” Romney told several thousand voters in Des Moines. “And I’ll reach across the aisle to the people from the other party.”
The president was headed to Florida, where Democrats said they filed suit to force Republican Governor Rick Scott to extend early voting because of record turnout in South Florida, a Democratic stronghold.
“We encourage anyone who is in line to vote to stay in line,” Rod Smith, the Florida Democratic Party chairman, said in a statement. “As long as you are in line when the polls close, you can still vote.”
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