The Romney campaign has been admirably proactive in spinning the media to cover the race on its terms, whether it comes to the supposed “surge” he continues to enjoy (the race has stabilized) or the Obama camp’s supposed pulling out of North Carolina (which Obama aides flatly deny). The Obama camp has been comparatively quiet when it comes to pushing its own version of the race.
That changed this morning during an Obama campaign conference call with reporters. Obama advisers made key points: Obama aides insist they are either tied or winning in all the battlegrounds — and that Romney has succeeded in locking up nothing. And they say the early vote continues to bode well for an Obama victory.
“Anybody who thinks those states are in the bag is half in the bag themselves,” top Obama adviser David Axelrod said of North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida. “We have added millions to TV spending in each of these states. We are doubling down. We are not pulling back at all. We believe that Florida is an incredibly competitive state. North Carolina is a competitive state. Virginia is a competitive state. These are states Republicans were expecting to have wrapped up and they’re battling to hold on to them.”
The polls suggest Romney is significantly ahead in North Carolina and is winning by a smaller edge in Florida. But the averages also suggest the race may still be a dead heat in Virginia — something that’s gotten lost in coverage of the race. That matters, since Romney may have to win Ohio and Virginia to win, and he’s leading in neither.
“We know what we know, and they know what they know,” Axelrod added of Romney and his advisers. “We’ll know who’s bluffing and who isn’t in two weeks. And we’re looking forward to it.”
“Romney has not been able to knock us out of a single battleground,” added Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.
Messina highlighted early voting numbers to suggest Obama is on track to victory. Messina conceded that Romney is winning more “raw votes” than McCain did in 2008 early voting, but dismissed the importance of this, adding that the ”electorate is bigger this year, and our vote margins are, too.”
In Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin, Messina said, Obama is winning from anywhere from 15 to 35 points among early voters. In Ohio, he argued, early voting is higher in counties that voted for Obama in 2008 than voted for McCain.
Of course, it’s still possible enthusiasm among minorities could flag significantly, which would enable a Romney victory. The Obama camp is hoping to preempt this by redoubling its efforts to bank as many votes before the election as possible.
More broadly, how much of this is bluff and bluster? After all, the race is tied nationally and Obama’s leads in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa remain slim to tenuous. But my sense from private conversations is that right or wrong, this is the genuine view of the race from Chicago.
UPDATE: I should add that all the polling averages show a national dead heat. And all show Obama leading in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nevada, which is enough to put Obama over 270.