The presidential race entered its final, frantic days with Mitt Romney holding a narrow lead over President Obama in national polls, but with Obama maintaining a small edge in Ohio and other critical battleground states. Hurricane Sandy forced both candidates to suspend formal campaigning, and threatened to impact early voting. While Obama oversaw the federal response to the storm’s devastation from the White House, Romney hosted a “storm-relief event” near Dayton, Ohio, soliciting donations to the American Red Cross. As Obama toured New Jersey’s devastated coastline, he received effusive praise from Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a prominent Romney supporter who has been highly critical of Obama. “The president has been all over this,” said Christie, “and he deserves great credit.”
For the final push, both campaigns launched an intense advertising blitz in the battleground states. Obama spent over $28 million on TV ads, with over $5 million in Ohio. Romney was expected to spend at least $40 million, including ads in Pennsylvania and Minnesota, where Obama’s once-sizable lead has been dwindling.
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What the editorials said
This election will almost certainly be decided by Ohio, said The Economist, since a Romney loss there would make his path to 270 electoral votes nearly impossible. Many Ohioans credit Obama for saving the auto industry with the bailout of GM and Chrysler in 2009. But Republicans have gained ground by arguing that Obama is waging a “war on coal,” with environmental regulations shutting down coal-fired plants in the “poorer, Appalachian east of the state.” The state’s winner will probably be determined by the “grim mechanics of voter turnout.”
That means this election may be “determined by a storm named Sandy,” said the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The super-storm’s broad sweep included swing states such as Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and yes, Ohio, which suffered power outages and school closures. In densely populated areas that favor Obama, “get-out-the-vote drives and lastminute, door-to-door campaigning” will be severely affected. It’s likely to make this the “closest election since 2000.”
What the columnists said
“Obama’s days in office look to be numbered,” said Jay Cost in The Weekly Standard. Romney has a “strong and sustained lead” among independents, having convinced them he’s a “decent man” and the best choice for the economy. Meanwhile, a Cincinnati Enquirer poll this week showed the candidates tied in Ohio at 49 percent. The Romney campaign is now so confident, said Henry D’Andrea in WashingtonTimes.com, that it’s rushing to run TV ads in Pennsylvania and Minnesota, “Democratic strongholds” for over 20 years. What a “terrible place for an incumbent president to be in.”
Here again is that “old Republican game,” said Michael Tomasky in TheDailyBeast.com. “If you don’t like the reality that exists, try to create a new one.” In fact, Romney’s momentum halted last week. A CBS/New York Times poll this week gave Obama a virtually insurmountable 5-point lead in Ohio. Romney’s Pennsylvania gambit is an old GOP “confidence game,” said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. Karl Rove sent George W. Bush to “deep-blue” California in the week before the 2000 election, “portraying him as riding the winds of momentum.” Gore ended up winning there by 1.3 million votes. Obama’s lead in the battlegrounds “is narrow”—but it’s still a lead.
Despite what the polls suggest, one candidate may win handily, said Ezra Klein in WashingtonPost.com. If Obama succeeds in bringing out “historically low-turnout groups like Latinos and young voters,” he will cruise to a comfortable victory. But if “Obama’s coalition stays home,” then it’s Romney who could win more than 300 electoral votes. That’s why both campaigns are spinning furiously. Team Romney fears that “scared Republicans won’t vote,” so they’re claiming he’s ahead. Chicago worries “confident Democrats won’t vote,” so they’re scaring them into turning out. “Keep that in mind as you read the spin.”
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