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TheRootDC
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Posted at 12:31 PM ET, 10/23/2012

Presidential campaign's final weeks: Turnout is the name of the game

Now that the presidential debates are over, what should voters expect for the final two weeks of the campaign? 

Both candidates will try to capitalize on their recent debate performances to take the fight to the proverbial undecided voter while
(SAUL LOEB - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
trying to keep their bases energized. And while I believe that the three presidential debates and the vice-presidential debate were more for the inside-the-Beltway crowd, they provided clues to understanding how each candidate will fight down the home stretch.

For instance, the first presidential debate was a total game-changer for Romney. He successfully pivoted to the center and kept the president off his game. If Obama loses, everyone will point to his arrogance during the first debate — as well as Romney’s dominant performance — which saved the Republican’s candidacy.  If Obama had just done the minimum to achieve credibility, the election would have ended that night.

So for Romney, you’ll see this kind of kinder, gentler candidate during the next two weeks. And you’ll see it most in Ohio. Without winning Ohio, it is almost impossible for Romney to win the election. Regardless of what you think about Obama’s bailout of the auto industry, it plays very well in the Buckeye State — with all the jobs that are tied to the auto industry.

But is the appearance of this moderate Romney too late? His move to the middle should have been done immediately after the Republican convention in September. It does not make sense for him to make this transition in the weeks just before the election. This may prove to be the candidate’s downfall. 

With an election this close, turnout will be the key. I think the Democrats have the far better turnout operation, thanks to former Democratic chairman Howard Dean. Without Dean’s 50-state strategy when he was chairman, there would be no President Obama. Dean has never been recognized for this major accomplishment.

Meanwhile, expect to see Obama and Vice President Biden continue to hit college campuses to create excitement to get students to the polls. The president was much more aggressive during the last two debates — you can expect to see more energy from him, particularly as a way to drive out these young voters.

You will continue to see celebrities stumping for Obama, especially black celebrities. Team Obama is very nervous about mobilizing blacks and Latinos. Obama will probably spend more time in the next two weeks speaking to the black community than he has done in the previous 3 1 / 2 years. Without the record number of blacks and young people who turned out for him in 2008, the president may not have won. Look for his campaign to drive up those turnout numbers.

For Romney, the issue will be turning out enough white voters, particularly in swing states Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia and Nevada. Because the Republican has ignored the black community and alienated the Hispanic community, he will have to overperform in these states to make up for his low numbers among people of color.

So, Romney will spend the next two weeks talking to a nearly all-white audience in a country that is almost 50 percent nonwhite, meaning he can pretty much win 100 percent of the white, male, balding vote and still lose the election. 

Both Romney and Obama have a problem with articulating their respective visions. Romney has yet to tell the American people why he wants to be president, and Obama has yet to tell the American people why he should be given a second term. You will hear a lot about these two issues for the next two weeks, especially in campaign advertisements.

This election will turn on mobilization and articulating a vision.  Whoever can deal best with these two issues will be the next president of the United States.

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