The president and Mitt Romney are both suspending campaigning through Tuesday due to Hurricane Sandy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t campaign news. To the delight of Romney forces, the map continues to expand, and without the campaign itself spending a dime.
After Romney super PACs announced spending plans for both Pennsylvania and Minnesota, the Obama campaign announced its own ad buys. Moreover, Vice President Biden is going to Pennsylvania on Thursday, and Bill Clinton is heading for Minnesota. Two heavily blue states are now, in effect, toss-ups.
Republican operatives and pollsters outside the Romney campaign see Ohio as a dead heat, showing movement from a few weeks ago. They are encouraged by early-voting numbers for Democrats that are lower than 2008. As one Republican insider put it, “It’s not 2010, but it’s not 2008 either.”
Obama was scheduled to go to Wisconsin tomorrow but had to cancel due to Sandy. That is a one- or two-point race either way, Republicans believe. However, they are confident that, thanks (ironically) to the Big Labor gubernatorial recall effort in June, the GOP has an election-day turnout advantage.
In Florida, the most encouraging sign for Republicans was the Mason-Dixon poll (considered among the best of the state pollsters) conducted for the Tampa Bay Times: It found that, along Interstate 4 from Tampa to Daytona Beach, Romney is at 51 percent among likely voters, compared to 45 percent for Obama. A Republican National Committee operative told me, “You don’t win the state if you’re five points back in the I-4 corridor, and we have the [reliably Republican] Panhandle.”
Romney supporters remain confident they will win close battles in Colorado and Virginia. Given Sandy’s path, neither candidate may be able to hold large rallies in the commonwealth before Election Day.
In sum, Romney is playing in blue states while narrowly leading in a number of states that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lost in 2008. If the candidates really are battling it out for Pennsylvania and Minnesota, Romney’s chances look bright.