CHICAGO—In the final hours of campaigning, the presidential candidates have crisscrossed the country, making their cases to voters in swing states while focusing on turnout.
President Obama campaigned in swing states Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa Monday, appearing before a fired-up crowd after performances by rock star Bruce Springsteen. He ended up in Iowa “where the journey began.”
“The state has always had a special place” for the President and first lady, according to campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki in a press briefing Monday. She added that the “hold room” at the event was actually the old Iowa campaign headquarters.
Obama campaigned about his record on the final full day of campaigning, noting that the last four years have been tough but gains have been made.
“In 2008, we were in the middle of two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” said the president at the Wisconsin campaign rally, according to a White House transcript.
“Today, our businesses have created nearly 5.5 million new jobs. The American auto industry is back on top. Home values are on the rise,” Obama said. “We’re less dependent on foreign oil than any time in 20 years, and we’ve doubled the production of clean energy across America.”
He acknowledged that there is room for improvement, and that there is more work to be done. He linked his strategies to those of the Clinton administration, which produced jobs and economic prosperity, and he compared Mitt Romney’s plans to those of the former Bush administration.
“So this should not be that complicated,” Obama said in Wisconsin. “We tried our ideas; they worked. The economy grew. We created jobs. Deficits went down. We tried their ideas; they didn’t work. The economy didn’t grow, not as many jobs, and the deficit went up.”
Obama asked for support in continuing on a path of change, calling on supporters to not only vote but to also encourage others: “Knock on some doors with me, make some phone calls for me,” he said.
Romney appealed to critical swing states, too, campaigning in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire Monday.
He also talked about change, albeit of a different kind. He argued that the country could not afford to go back to another four years of an Obama administration.
The race has been neck-and-neck ever since Romney stepped up to the challenge in the first debate.
“Unless we change course right away, we may be looking at another recession,” he said at a rally in Lynchburg, Va. “Tomorrow is a day to look into the future and imagine what we can do—put the last four years behind us.”
In a sign that the last days and hours of the campaign had come down to a numbers game, Romney also emphasized turnout with his parting words at the Lynchburg airport: “Make sure we get everyone we know out to vote on Election Day,” he said. “Every single vote.”
The race has been neck-and-neck ever since Romney stepped up to the challenge in the first debate. Obama, however, gained some significant boosts to his campaign over the fortnight. He received important endorsements: one from Republican Colin Powell, secretary of state under George W. Bush, and another from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Better-than-expected unemployment data last Friday and a well-perceived handling of the emergency following Hurricane Sandy also boosted Obama’s standing in the community, according to analysts from the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
“This has been a roller-coaster campaign, though very tight ever since Romney dramatically outshone Obama in the first debate in Denver on Oct. 3. Yet for a challenger to defeat an incumbent, the fates must be with the challenger again and again,” the Center’s political analysts wrote on its blog.
The Romney camp is not backing down, however, dismissing polls that show trends leaning toward Obama and highlighting the volatility of the electorate. The campaign has set its sights on voter turnout, announcing Monday that Romney will continue to campaign on Election Day, returning to critical swing state Ohio and also Pennsylvania.
“Close races are about turnout,” said Stuart Stevens, chief strategist for the Romney campaign, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Psaki said that Obama’s Tuesday will also be full, as the president is booked for local and state media interviews in the morning as well as a daytime return to Chicago for some special events before election night.
“There is a tradition to play basketball with friends and close advisers on Election Day,” said Psaki. “That’s something that we’re working toward and could be in the cards.”
She added that Obama will also be looking to express his thanks to “the bread and butter of this campaign … the volunteers and the neighborhood team leaders and people who have made this journey possible.”
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