At this stage of a tight presidential race, a refreshing transparency reveals itself to even the casual observer. How campaigns actually view the state of the race emerges in plain sight from the long-cloaked inner sanctum of polling, focus groups, and micro-targeting of voter preferences.
When President Obama suddenly rolls out a 20-page pamphlet summarizing his second-term agenda, voters know it was because the campaign discovered a hole in its data dug by GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s month-long criticism. Presidents don’t dance to a challenger’s tune unless the polling data dictate they must.
Similarly during the last debate, Romney ran away from previous confrontations with Obama over the terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans—the reddest of red meat for conservatives right now. Instead, he spoke plaintively of “peace” and of war with Iran being the absolute “last resort,” because he knew he needed votes from nonaligned suburbanites—especially women.
In short, Obama is acting like a slightly irked incumbent who needs to make up ground on a challenger he thought he had put away last summer. Romney is acting like a challenger who can’t afford to risk losing what he gained in the first debate, trying to siphon off voters still loosely attached to Obama.
The central question is whether Romney is surging to victory, or merely merging into a lane of GOP support observable in previous presidential elections but insufficient to overcome Obama’s built-in demographic and ground-game advantages.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
CNN Poll: Obama 50%-Romney 46% in Ohio
[CNN, 10/26/12] Obama had a double-digit lead among those who have voted or plan to do so before Election Day. Obama’s four-point lead among likely voters falls within the poll’s margin of error.
Romney Cancels Virginia Beach Rally Because of Storm
[Washington Post, 10/26/12] With Hurricane Sandy threatening to make landfall on the East Coast by the end of the weekend, Romney has cancelled the third of three campaign stops scheduled in Virginia on Sunday.
Obama Goes on the Air in Minnesota, Countering Romney Campaign Move
[CNN, 10/25/12] The Romney campaign had taken out a $30,000 ad buy in the blue state early Friday, seemingly to generate media buzz about campaign momentum. The exact size of Obama’s small ad buy has not been announced.
Romney Vouched for Low Price on Staples Stock that Traded Significantly Higher a Year Later
[Boston Globe, 10/26/12] In 1991, Romney testified that in 1988, there was no indication that Staples stock would increase 10 times in value by the day of its 1990 IPO. The revelation comes from unsealed testimony from a post-divorce lawsuit brought against Staples founder and Romney surrogate Tom Stemberg by his ex-wife.
GDP Number a Relief for Obama
[Politico, 10/26/12] The economy grew at an annual rate of 2 percent during the third quarter, reports showed Friday, handing Obama better than expected news in the final economic growth report to come out before the election. Romney’s team was quick, though, to highlight the sluggish pace of growth.
Republicans Spending More, But Obama Is Advertising More
[National Journal, 10/26/12] Romney and his Republican allies are significantly outspending Obama in the last stages of the election cycle: In the first half of October, Romney outraised the president by $21 million. But Obama has actually run more TV advertising, due to a combination of early strategy and federal rules that give candidates an edge over outside groups.
In Echoes of Obama, Romney Seeks to Adopt Mantle of Change[Reuters, 10/26/12] Romney borrowed rhetoric from Obama’s 2008 campaign and painted the president as the champion symbol of the status quo at a rally in Iowa on Friday, a shift that has marked his speeches in recent days. "This election is a choice between the status quo — going forward with the same policies of the last four years — or instead, choosing real change,” he said.
On One Ohio Street, Voters Weary of Election Promises
[Wall Street Journal, 10/26/12] Conversations on a middle-class block in a working-class town of 20,000 just north of central Cincinnati suggest that many fear that neither Romney nor Obama can end their economic worries. Even so, both candidates — particularly Romney, who is following George W. Bush’s 2004 road map guide to winning Ohio — are stepping it up in the Buckeye State.
A Status Quo Election? Could Be
[Washington Post, 10/26/12] What if Obama wins reelection, but Democrats are unable to put much of a dent in the GOP’s big House majority, and Republicans fail to win back the Senate? It’s an increasingly real possibility, as the Post’s Aaron Blake writes.
Obama Not Such a Nice Guy When it Comes to Romney
[National Journal, 10/26/12] If Obama is trying to widen his advantage with women voters or improve his likability numbers, Thursday was a low point: The president was caught casually referring to Romney as a “bulls---er.” The Romney campaign is hoping this more aggressive tone might help further narrow the gender gap.
Will White Men Sink Obama?
[CBS News, 10/26/12] For all the talk about the “war on women,” white men are providing the biggest drag on the president of any voting bloc as he tries to win another four years. Even if Obama gets his expected 80 percent from minority voters, he is unlikely to win the election if he can’t get more than one in three white men. And he might not.
Father of Slain Navy SEAL: Obama ‘Totally Insincere’ in Apology
[Weekly Standard, 10/25/12] In a radio interview Thursday, the father of a Navy SEAL killed in the attack at the U.S. mission in Benghazi slams Obama for an apology he deemed “totally insincere, more of whining type, ‘I’m sorry.’ ” Conservative media have pounced on the comments.
Evangelical Support Grows For Romney
[Los Angeles Times, 10/26/12] Republicans and leading evangelicals say they are optimistic that the percentage of evangelicals who vote for Romney — and, perhaps more importantly, the number who turn out to vote at all — will be high. If they do, particularly in key swing states where they are a significant force like Colorado, Iowa, and Ohio, it will be no accident.
The Momentum Behind a Misleading Narrative
[Columbia Journalism Review, 10/26/12] Political scientist Brendan Nyhan argues that campaign reporters have continued to push the Romney momentum story even though several indicators suggest the race is at a standstill. He argues that reporters should visit poll-aggregator sites.
Valerie Jarrett Versus the Haters
[BuzzFeed, 10/26/12] A lengthy profile on the rise of Obama’s powerful senior adviser, who, as BuzzFeed puts it, “is not going to take any s--t, from anyone, including the president.”
John Sununu Comments Spark Controversy
[National Journal, 10/26/12] John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate, suggested on Thursday that former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama was motivated by race. After appearing to walk back the comments a few hours later, Sununu on Friday canceled a scheduled interview with NPR.
Networks, AP Changing Exit Strategy for Election Night
[Associated Press, 10/25/12] The consortium formed by the top TV networks and the AP is cutting back this year on in-person exit polls while upping the amount of telephone polling on election night. This is to take into account a growth in early voting and households that have abandoned land lines.
Polls: Close Races in Key Western States
[National Journal, 10/25/12] New polls released late on Thursday show Obama and Romney deadlocked in Colorado, a state Obama won by 12 points four years ago, and Obama narrowly ahead in Nevada, which the president won by a 12-point margin last election. Romney’s image ratings have improved in both states over the past month, while Obama’s have held steady.
Has Romney Erased the Gender Gap?
[National Journal, 10/25/12] In the most recent spate of presidential polls, some surveys have Obama winning among women, while some have Romney closing the much-dissected “gender gap.” If the Obama campaign is confident that it has locked down the women’s vote, it’s certainly not acting like it, doubling down on its stance on social issues that appeal to the female voter.
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