“The lead here is four or five [percentage points], and I don’t think one week of TV is going to alter that,” said former governor Edward G. Rendell (D). He also indicated that Obama has a significantly larger get-out-the-vote operation than Romney does.
Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director, countered by telling reporters that Romney’s ground operation is “incredibly strong” in Pennsylvania and has been in place “since day one” of the campaign.
Long shot in Minnesota
Minnesota would seem to be a reach for Romney: It hasn’t voted Republican since 1972, making it the state with the longest streak of voting for Democratic presidential candidates. But it has elected two Republican governors and an independent over the past two decades and while the current governor, Mark Dayton, is a Democrat, Republicans control the legislature.
Romney, however, has had scant presence in the state, leading analysts to question whether this is all a head fake by the GOP. “Romney has absolutely no ground game [in Minnesota],” said one outside Romney adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid in assessing the race. “I can’t imagine it’s real.”
Others familiar with Minnesota politics, on both sides of the aisle, said that while Romney remains slightly behind in the state, the race is tighter, making it a smart move for the Republican candidate to invest some of his extensive resources there.
They pointed to a recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research that showed Obama ahead by only three points, within the margin of error, and said Romney is doing well among the independent voters who tend to decide elections in Minnesota.
Michigan may be the most difficult of the three for Romney because of his opposition to Obama’s bailout of the automobile industry. The bailout has proven to be an obstacle to Romney in Ohio and could be an even bigger factor in Michigan.
Mark Brewer, the Democratic Party chairman in Michigan, said that while Democrats have prepared for a potentially close election, “Michigan’s not in play . . . We didn’t expect the president to win by 17 points like he did in 2008. That was a once-in-a-lifetime election.”
Matt Frendewey, communications director for the Michigan Republican Party, said Democratic support is “very underwhelming” and that Republicans have the infrastructure in place to turn out their voters. He added, however, that local Republicans “would love a visit” by Romney.
Until four years ago, Michigan and Pennsylvania were considered true battlegrounds, even though Democrats had won them consistently. Obama changed that with big victories in both, which may be one reason Republicans have been reluctant to make a more serious play for them.
In the past three elections, Democratic nominees have gotten a higher percentage of the vote in those states than nationally. But if the national polls are showing a dead heat, as most of them do right now, it’s expected that such states as Pennsylvania, Michigan and even Minnesota will show relatively closer contests than four years ago.
That doesn’t mean the balance has shifted to Romney in those states, which is why Romney advisers stopped short of predicting victory. It only means that if the national numbers show the race essentially tied or with one candidate ahead by a point, these states aren’t going to show the president ahead by seven or eight or nine points. If Romney were to win a big victory in the popular vote, he could carry one or more of these states.
Instead of watching the advertising dollars, a more telling indicator of what states are in play is where the candidates spend their time in the final days. Romney’s campaign announced a big rally in Ohio Friday night, which will feature a huge cast of elected officials from around the country. They will then fan out in groups across 11 states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan but not, according to the Romney release, Minnesota. Romney’s schedule for Saturday through Monday has not been released.
Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.