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Obama blitzes battleground states with Romney hammering economic issues

Published October 25, 2012 12:53 pm

Politics • Campaigns scrapping for votes in election's last leg.
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President Barack Obama targeted niche audiences while Republican challenger Mitt Romney focused on the macro-issue of the economy as the two took different approaches to energize voters in battleground states.

The candidates and their surrogates followed multiple paths yesterday to make their case to voters in the final stretch before the Nov. 6 election.

With the polls showing the race close, Obama and Romney are competing for every slice of the electorate, concentrating on the states that may swing the election to pursue a path to victory.

Obama will campaign today in Tampa, Florida, and Richmond, Virginia, before flying to his hometown, Chicago, to cast an early-vote ballot — becoming the first president to do so. He then will head to Ohio for a nighttime rally in Cleveland.

Romney will spend all of today campaigning in Ohio, then return to the state for a rally tomorrow night after an earlier event in Iowa. As Romney's schedule indicates, those two Midwestern states are seen as particularly crucial in determining the winner.

The president yesterday reached out to Hispanics, blacks and early voters, mixing rallies in Iowa and Colorado with an appearance on NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno." He capped the day with a late-night rally in Nevada.

Early Voting • At his stop in Davenport, Iowa, an estimated 3,500 supporters got tickets with early-voting locations printed on the back. At a city park later in Denver, 16,000 supporters were urged to send text messages on their mobile phones to get campaign updates and make contributions to his re-election bid.

In an interview with the Des Moines Register released as he campaigned in Iowa, Obama predicted that Hispanic voters will put him over the top in the election and that their support will help propel passage of an immigration overhaul next year.

"Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community," said Obama, who exit polls show won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 election.

During the Republican primary contest, Romney stressed his opposition to giving legal status to undocumented immigrants without first requiring that they leave the U.S., advocating a program he described as "self-deportation." Romney has softened his rhetoric on the issue in the general-election campaign.

Minority Voters • Also airing yesterday were interviews the president gave a day earlier to Latino radio hosts Fernando Espuelas and Alex Lucas and African American radio host Tom Joyner — part of the Obama team's effort to maximize his support from minority voters.

Romney kept his target audience broad and his message straightforward in his campaign stops, charging Obama with failing to effectively restore economic growth and promoting policies that will lead to a downturn.

In Reno, Nevada, Romney said a second Obama term would make it harder for Americans to get health care or a mortgage, limit educational choices for children, saddle students with more debt and leave home values continuing to "bump along in the basement."

Nevada was among the states hit hardest by the housing slump that began in 2006 and was a catalyst for the worst U.S. recession since the Great Depression.

Housing Market • Romney said that as president, "We're going to finally get this housing market going and get jobs and get this economy going."

His top economic adviser told attendees at a conference sponsored by the Economist magazine in New York that, if Obama is re-elected, the economy probably would be hit by $607 billion in mandated spending cuts and tax increases, the so-called fiscal cliff.

"There is a good chance, if the president wins, we go over the cliff," said Glenn Hubbard, who also serves as dean of Columbia Business School.

Obama, in the Des Moines Register interview, expressed optimism he can cut a deal with Republican lawmakers to avoid triggering automatic spending cuts and tax increases at year's end.

Later, in an interview on Leno's late-night show, Obama elaborated. "We've got to deal with our deficit," he said. "We can't keep on kicking the can down the road. I hope that we can get it done by the end of this year. It just requires some compromise which shouldn't be a dirty word."

Tough Choices • "Solving this is not that hard," he said. "It requires some tough choices, but we know what the choices are," including higher taxes on top earners and cuts in some programs.

The campaigns have concentrated on nine battleground states that account for 110 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency. The biggest is Florida, with 29 electoral votes. An Oct. 17-18 CNN survey of likely voters there found a virtual tie, with Romney at 49 percent and Obama at 48 percent.

A poll released by Time magazine yesterday shows early voting has helped Obama to a five-percentage-point advantage over Romney in Ohio, which has 18 electoral votes. In the survey, Obama led 49 percent to 44 percent among Ohioans polled on Oct. 22 and yesterday who say they will vote on Nov. 6 or who have cast ballots already.

In Virginia, with 13 electoral votes, an Oct. 7-9 NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll found Romney with 48 percent to Obama's 47 percent, while a CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac survey Oct. 4-9 found the president leading by five points.

Obama won all three states in 2008.

Outside Events • Yesterday's campaign rallies risked being overshadowed by outside events, including the circumstances of the Obama interview with the Des Moines Register, remarks made about abortion by a Republican Senate candidate in Indiana and a court fight over documents in a divorce case in which Romney gave information.

The White House initially insisted that the interview yesterday with the newspaper's publisher and its editor be conducted off the record. After editor Rick Green wrote on the publication's blog about the conditions, the White House released a transcript.

The newspaper is considering its endorsement in the presidential race, and Romney already has met with the Register's editorial board for an on-the-record interview.

Hiding Positions

The Republican National Committee seized on the Register editor's blog posting, saying Obama was trying to hide his positions from voters. That's the same charge that Obama has leveled against Romney.

Democrats and abortion-rights groups, meanwhile, called yesterday on Romney to rescind his endorsement of Richard Mourdock, the Senate candidate in Indiana whose campaign includes an ad with Romney praising him. Mourdock, answering a question during an Oct. 23 debate with Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly, said that a pregnancy caused by rape is something "God intended" and doesn't justify an abortion.

Romney disagrees with that stance and Mourdock's comments "do not reflect his views," Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney's campaign, said in an e-mail. Asked if Romney would withdraw his endorsement of Mourdock, Saul said the campaign "still supports him."

Romney aides, who typically hold a daily briefing for reporters on his campaign plane, haven't talked to the press since Mourdock made his comments.

Mourdock Comments • Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that Obama considered Mourdock's comments "outrageous" and are "a reminder that a Republican Congress working with a Republican President Mitt Romney would feel that women should not be able to make choices about their own health care."

Obama, in his appearance on Leno's show, said "rape is rape," adding, "These various distinctions about rape don't make too much sense to me, don't make any sense to me." He said the Mourdock remarks show "exactly why you don't want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women's health- care decisions."

In Massachusetts, Gloria Allred, an Obama backer and Los Angeles-based civil rights lawyer who specializes in representing women, appeared in court to support a Boston Globe request to unseal documents in the divorce case between Staples Inc. co-founder and Highland Capital Partners Chairman Tom Stemberg and his ex-wife, in which Romney gave information.

Stemberg, 63, spoke at the Republican National Convention on behalf of Romney. Bain Capital LLC, the private-equity firm Romney co-founded, played a key investment role in helping the Framingham, Massachusetts-based office-supply retailer to grow.

Jonathan Albano, an attorney for the Globe, described the information the newspaper sought as "expert testimony on a financial matter." The judge set a hearing for today on whether to unseal the documents.

—With assistance from Julianna Goldman in Los Angeles, California, Jonathan D. Salant in Washington and Don Jeffrey in New York. Editors: Don Frederick, Jim Rubin.






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