Election season: The final hours
|MANCHESTER, N.H. — The endless months of campaigning finally dwindled into hours and minutes late Monday as President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and their surrogates barnstormed across electoral battlegrounds for one final day, and both sides expressed confidence in a Tuesday victory.|
While 11th-hour polls gave Obama a slight edge, the race was perceived as so close that neither campaign was ceding any ground anywhere. Obama and Romney both appeared here in Columbus, Romney and Vice President Joe Biden stumped about 165 miles apart in Virginia, and Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan both campaigned in Wisconsin and Des Moines, Iowa. All together, the presidential and vice presidential candidates made stops in Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia and New Hampshire. Romney, according to a campaign official, will keep campaigning on Election Day, adding stops in Democratic-heavy Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and Ryan will join him in Cleveland.
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“I’m going to be flying with Bruce Springsteen on the last day that I’ll ever campaign,” Obama said in Columbus of the legendary blue-collar rocker who was part of his presidential entourage. “That’s not a bad way to bring it home.”
“Together we must lead America to a better place,” Romney said Monday night in Manchester, N.H. “We’re one day away from fresh start, one day away from the first day of a new beginning. My conviction is that better days are ahead and that’s not based on promises and hollow rhetoric but on solid plans and proven results, and on an unshakeable believe in the greatness of the American spirit.”
“Are you gonna help us win this thing Nevada?” Ryan asked at a 1,000-person morning rally in Reno. “We’re doing a barn burner today. We are crisscrossing the country Mitt and I are because we are asking you to work with us, to stand with us to get our country back on the right track. We know the kind of choice that’s facing us.”
After a stop in Lynchburg, Va. to court evangelical Christians - Jonathan and Jerry Falwell Jr., sons of the evangelist who founded nearby Liberty University were at his rally - Romney made his final foray into the Commonwealth in Fairfax. Romney drew a crowd of 11,500 to George Mason University’s Patriot Center in this D.C. suburb; he addressed 8,500 who made it inside and then went out to talk with an overflow of 3,000 more..
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Ann Romney rejoined her husband after missing the first two stops of the day, asking the cheering crowd rhetorically: “Are we gonna be neighbors soon?”
“It’s so exciting to have walked into a room like this and get greeted like that,” she said. “But the thing you don’t know: There’s as many of you outside as inside right now. And that’s the momentum we have been feeling. It’s not just in Virginia. It’s all across this country. And that’s what leads me to believe that I am standing next to the next president of the United States.”
“Now it’s time for our politics to be as good and as noble as our people,” Biden said at a Monday evening rally in Richmond. “It’s time we come together and realize the great potential of this great country. It’s time to replace unyielding ideology with principled compromise.”
Virginia is more integral to Romney’s path to 270 electoral votes, but it’s important enough to the Obama campaign that Biden had two stops planned here today — in Sterling and Richmond.
Obama’s team has taunted Romney for spending time in states like Florida and Virginia that are considered more critical to him winning 270 electoral votes.
“The numbers we’ve seen in Florida and obviously they think so too because Gov. Romney is spending an awful lot of time in states that they say they have won. So we, we’re looking forward to tomorrow,” Obama adviser David Axelrod said in Wisconsin. “We see many different paths to 270 and all those paths are attacked today. … We think that there are myriad ways for us to get there. We’re not throwing Hail Marys in states that we’re never going to win to try to get to 270. That’s the difference between the campaigns.”
To listen to the rhetoric from the two campaigns, one would think both have the election in the bag. Romney insisted he was eager for Election Day,and his team was upbeat too.
His team was upbeat, too. Press secretary Rick Gorka told reporters “we’re very, very optimistic about our chances tomorrow,” as senior strategist Stu Stevens fired projectiles at him from a small toy pig from the Machine Shed in Iowa.
The mood could hardly have been more similar Aboard Air Force One, where Obama’s team was certain that he will be reliving his “Glory Days” of 2008 come Tuesday. In case he needed a reminder, Springsteen, one of several celebrities who have punctuated the end of the campaign with performances at Obama events, traveled with the president for an itinerary including Madison, Wis., Columbus and Des Moines.
“It was pretty cool,” Springsteen said of his ride on Air Force One. He said he and Obama talked about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the rocker’s native New Jersey. “I’m feeling pretty hopeful” about recovery efforts, he said.
The story of this last day before the election is one of two competing campaigns that look at the same numbers, the same variables and the same maps and come to opposite conclusions about where the race stands. What it likely speaks to is a return to the narrowly divided presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 after Obama redrew the electoral map in 2008. No matter who is sworn in at the Capitol in January, he now seems likely certain to have to lead a polarized country with a split Congress — Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House.
“The polls that matter are the polls that are happening in the states,” Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Monday. “You know, it’s a close race, there is no doubt about that, but we have the advantage in critical states like Ohio. You know, no Republican’s ever won the White House without going through Ohio. And we feel pretty good about where we are right now.”
The nightmare scenario, for both campaigns and the electorate: Ohio isn’t decided on election night and the presidency hangs in the balance. If it’s close, the Buckeye State’s 18 electoral votes could be decided in a count of provisional ballots, a tally that by law wouldn’t start until 10 days after the polls close. Both candidates will spend part of the last campaign day in Columbus, where swing voters in the Franklin County suburbs have historically been an important constituency in close elections. Obama is almost sure to win the city and the county overall, but will he match the 100,000-vote advantage he racked up there in 2008? Romney’s hope is to keep the margin closer to the roughly 50,000-vote edge John Kerry had over George W. Bush there in 2004.
To listen to Obama’s team, the nation will have an early evening on Tuesday. Axelrod has wagered his trademark mustache on a victory, White House senior adviser David Plouffe said Sunday on NBC’S Meet the Press that he is “very confident” the president will win re-election, and Axelrod, Plouffe and Cutter have termed Romney’s efforts to swing Democratic-leaning states such as Minnesota and Pennsylvania “laughable,” “ludicrous” and “not based in reality.”
But while Obama made a swing through the Midwest on his final day on the trail, former President Bill Clinton hit the hustings for him in suburban Philadelphia, a region where Democrats need to pile up a big edge to win statewide elections in Pennsylvania.
Each candidate ended the day close to home: Obama’s last stop was in Iowa, next door to his home state of Illinois, and Romney wraps up in New Hampshire, not far from his Boston headquarters.
In Manchester, after Kid Rock introduced them and before they began speaking, the Romneys basked in deafening cheers for foru minutes from the rambunctious crowd of 12,100 at the Verizon Wireless Arena here.
The GOP nominee’s final pre-election rally – a play for New Hampshire’s four electoral votes – brought him full circle.
“This is a special moment for Ann and for me because this is where our campaign began,” he said. “You got this campaign started a year and a half ago at the Scammon Farm. And then your primary vote put me on the path to win the Republican nomination. And tomorrow your votes and your work right here in New Hampshire will help me become the next President of the United States!”
“Because we’re among family I wanted to introduce you to at least one of our sons. This is the one you don’t see very often. He’s a doctor that lives out West and he’s been out campaigning for me, my son Ben Romney.”
Ann Romney waxed nostalgic as she introduced her husband. “It’s been a long journey. It started in New Hampshire a year and a half ago. Our hearts are full, and what we have learned by going on the trail is we’ve seen the America that you all love that we all love we feel it’s in danger we feel it’s slipping away from us. I love this country I love the people I’ve seen in this country but more than anything I have loved hearing the voices of the women that I’ve heard all across this country. And I have to tell you so many women are hurting in this economy and I have some hope for you because guess what, hope is on the way and it starts tomorrow!”
— Reid J. Epstein contributed to this story from, Madison, Wis., aboard Air Force One and Columbus, Ohio; Hohmann reported from Manchester, N.H.; Sanford, Fla.; Lynchburg and Fairfax, Va. and Columbus; Jennifer Epstein reported from Sterling and Richmond, Va.; Juana Summers reported from Reno, Nev., and Allen reported from Arlington, Va.