President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney made their closing pitches to swelled crowds of swing state supporters in the final weekend before voters deliver their verdict, while top surrogates hit the Sunday show circuit to spin their map to victory on Tuesday.
Much of the debate in the campaign's final hours has focused on Pennsylvania, where Romney is campaigning today and where President Bill Clinton will stump for Obama on Monday. Republicans insist their last-minute play for the Keystone State is based on polling showing it's winnable. But Democrats charge that the move is a sign of desperation from a team whose path to 270 electoral votes is narrowing.
Later today, Romney will stop in Morrisville, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia across the river from New Jersey. The Romney team sought to expand the battleground map with a late multi-million dollar investment on Pennsylvania airwaves, vastly outspending Democrats there in the last two weeks.
“It’s a remarkable juxtaposition here that Mitt Romney will be in the suburbs of Philadelphia today, and, you know, four years ago, Barack Obama was in Indiana,” Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie said on ABC’s “This Week.” “When you look at where this map has gone, it reflects the — the change and the direction and the momentum toward Governor Romney. And the fact is that a state like Pennsylvania being in play, a poll out today showing Michigan a dead heat, you know, this — the map has expanded.”
Romney's Keystone State visit comes as public polls show the president with a small lead in several key battleground states — but still within the margin of error. Both campaigns expressed confidence in their chances but acknowledged the competitiveness of the race.
“We’ve always known this was going to be a very close race,” said David Plouffe, a top Obama advisor, also to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “But it is going to be decided in the battleground states, and we think in those states — you mentioned three in the Midwest, in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada — we have an important lead in those states.”
Obama will travel to those three Midwestern states on Monday — Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin. Polls show the Democrat with a small lead in Iowa and Ohio, a basis for the Democratic argument about Pennsylvania.
Both men focused their closing messages on turnout, as their campaign teams emphasized their ground games. At a late-night rally in Bristow, Va., the president joked that the candidates become less relevant in the waning days of the campaign, as the momentum of the get-out-the-vote machinery takes over.
"I’m sort of a prop in the campaign," Obama said he told Plouffe, his 2008 campaign manager, backstage before Saturday's event at Jiffy Lube Live, a concert venue.
An estimated crowd of 24,000 turned out for the rally, which featured Clinton and singer Dave Matthews as warm up acts in Obama's last visit to this key swing state before Election Day.
"The power — the power is not with us anymore. The planning, everything we do, it doesn't matter — because now it’s all up to you," the president told the crowd. "It’s up to the volunteers. It’s up to somebody knocking on a door. It’s up to somebody making a phone call. It’s up to somebody talking to their mom or their dad, or their wife or their husband, or grandma or grandpa."
Meanwhile, Romney implored a Des Moines, Iowa, crowd this morning that he needs their help to win.
“I need your vote, I need your work, I need your help. Walk with me. We’ll walk together. Let’s begin anew. I need Iowa,” Romney told thousands, per an on-the-ground report. “I need Iowa so we can win the White House and take back America, keep it strong, make sure we always remain the hope of the Earth. I’m counting on you.”
Romney’s visit comes hours after a Des Moines Register poll showed the president with a 5-point lead among Iowa voters. In Ohio, a
showed the president with a 5-point lead among Iowa voters. In Ohio, a Columbus Dispatch poll gave the president a 2-point edge that the paper described as a virtual tie. In Colorado, a
gave the president a 2-point edge that the paper described as a virtual tie. In Colorado, a Denver Post survey showed Obama with a similar lead of a couple points, but also within the margin of error. Romney packed a stadium in Englewood, Colo., on Saturday with 17,000 supporters.
Romney's outlook is better in Florida, where a Tampa Bay Times poll gave him a 6-point lead. But another Sunshine State poll conducted by
gave him a 6-point lead. But another Sunshine State poll conducted by NBC news at the same time showed the president ahead by 2 points.
Today, Obama moves west across the country to four battlegrounds: New Hampshire, Florida, Cincinnati and Colorado. Romney is in Ohio today,in addition to Iowa and Pennsylvania. Polls show the president with a slim, single-digit lead there. But there is no early voting in the Keystone state, which means Republicans have a larger window of opportunity to persuade voters.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) predicted on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Romney would carry his home state.
"I see here on the ground, in Virginia, there is a lot of enthusiasm here for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan," Cantor told host David Gregory. "We’re going to win this state, and I think we’re going to win it a lot bigger than people are predicting."
On Monday, Romney heads to Florida, Virginia and Ohio before his final campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., that evening. Kid Rock, an ardent Romney supporter and Michigan native, will join Romney for their "Victory Rally" at Verizon Wireless Arena.