WASHINGTON—Presidential candidates President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney hit the ground running Thursday after Hurricane Sandy brought a lull in the campaign storm. While both campaigns used the time to regroup, political analysts hit a wall, acknowledging that it was nearly impossible to predict a winner.
“Over the past week, everyone’s been asking me who’s going to win,” author and longtime political commentator Joe Klein wrote on his blog Swampland. “Beats me. I really don’t know. The polls seem stalled, hilariously inconclusive.”
Sean Trende, senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, blames the confusion on major differences in between national and state polls.
“Put simply, the national surveys point to a Romney win, while the state polls collectively point to an Obama win. Both can’t be correct,” he said.
There is no doubt that the race is close and both campaigns are ramping up for the home run.
After three days overseeing disaster management from the White House, including a high-profile tour of devastated New Jersey with Republican stalwart Gov. Chris Christie, President Obama resumed campaigning Thursday, attending campaign events in Las Vegas, Nev., and Boulder, Colo.
Friday, Obama moves on to swing state Ohio, campaigning in Hilliard, Lima, and Springfield. He will then “crisscross the country” over the weekend, attending events in Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado, the White House said in a statement Wednesday.
Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton have been filling the gap in battleground states, and will continue to campaign through the coming days.
Campaigns Talk Up Status
Sensitive to the devastation caused by Sandy, Mitt Romney also cut back campaign events during the storm. The Romney campaign then regrouped during the lull, announcing Wednesday that it would go on the offensive and “expand the map” of contested states.
The Romney campaign began an advertising blitz in perceived blue states—Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota—forcing the Obama campaign to defend the turf.
“President Obama is playing defense in states that were once considered safely in his column,” Romney campaign political director Rich Beeson said in a statement to CBS. “If the other side was on the move, they would be expanding into states that John McCain won in 2008; instead, they’re fighting to maintain turf in traditionally Democratic states.”
“This election is not in the bag for either major-party candidate.”
– Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics
In a press briefing via teleconference Wednesday, Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager Jim Messina accused the Romney campaign of desperation.
“The Romney campaign is trying to sell illusions and delusions,” Messina said.
Axelrod acknowledged the defensive strategy in the three states, saying the agreed strategy was not to “cede any states” and that there were contingency funds in the event of challenges.
The Romney campaign was losing ground in Ohio, and the move to blue states was an act of desperation, he said. Axelrod reasserted his confidence that Obama would win the three states. “I am so confident of that, I have put my mustache on the line—and I am very confident that I will still have this mustache on Nov. 8,” he said.
Messina said Obama is ahead by double digits among women voters and holds significant leads among early voters in key states. He did not believe there was much the Romney campaign could do to change the trend despite the talk, saying “the map is set.”
“We have the math and they have the myth,” he said, listing state-by-state the number of votes Democrats were ahead in early voting, including in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and Nevada.
The Romney campaign argues that early voter turnout will just mean fewer votes for Democrats on Election Day and notes that while Romney may be behind in women’s approval rating, he is equally ahead among males.
“This race is exactly where we had hoped it would be a week out. It is a close race,” said senior Romney adviser Russ Schriefer on Wednesday, according to CNN.
On Wednesday, the Romney campaign announced a major tour of 11 battleground states over the last four days. Romney and running mate Paul Ryan will be accompanied by their wives and up to 100 different key Republican identities, who will join them at selected events on the tour, CNN reported. Included are former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Beginning Friday from West Chester, Ohio, the tour will travel through Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
While both presidential campaigns claim the winning edge, political scientist Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, believes it is partisan distortion.
“In our private conversations with Democratic and Republican leaders, we see two diametrically opposed visions of the electorate—almost parallel universes,” he wrote on his blog Thursday.
Sabato says the presidential race is so close, it is virtually impossible to predict an outcome.
“This election is not in the bag for either major-party candidate,” he concludes. “It remains on the edge of the butter knife.”
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