DAVENPORT, IOWA: President Barack Obama is confidently predicting speedy second-term agreement with Republicans to reduce federal deficits and overhaul immigration laws, commenting before setting out Wednesday on a 40-hour campaign marathon through battleground states that could decide whether he’ll get the chance. Republican Mitt Romney looked to the Midwest for a breakthrough in a close race shadowed by a weak economy.
Romney declared, “We’re going to get this economy cooking again,” addressing a boisterous crowd in Reno, Nev., before flying eastward to tend to his prospects in Ohio and Iowa. Romney urged audience members to consider their personal circumstances, and he said the outcome of the Nov. 6 election “will make a difference for the nation, will make a difference for the families of the nation and will make a difference for your family, individually and specifically.”
With 13 days until Election Day, opinion polls depicted a close race nationally. Romney’s campaign claims momentum as well as the lead in Florida and North Carolina, two battleground states with a combined 44 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Obama’s aides insist the president is ahead or tied with his rival in both of those states and in the other seven decisive battlegrounds.
The president’s major focus Wednesday was his coast-to-coast-and-back again tour.
“We’re going to pull an all-nighter. No sleep,” the president said shortly after Air Force One touched down in Iowa, first stop of a swing that included Colorado, California, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Florida, with a quick stop in Illinois to cast an early ballot, before he returns to the White House on Thursday evening.
On his second stop of the long day, Obama told a crowd of about 16,000 people at Denver’s City Park that he as “fired up” — though temperatures dropped near 50 degrees. It was in Denver that Obama had his lackluster first debate performance early in the month.
Colorado is considered one of the toughest of the battleground states for Obama to hang onto in this election.
The Electoral College map explained Romney’s focus on Ohio — a state no Republican has lost in a winning presidential campaign — as well as on Iowa. Together, they account for 24 electoral votes out of the 270 needed.
Barring a last-minute change — some Republicans said there is still time for a late play in Pennsylvania or Minnesota — Obama is ahead in states and the District of Columbia with 237 electoral votes. The same is true for Romney in states with 191 electoral votes.
That leaves North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada and Colorado and their 110 electoral votes up for grabs, more than enough to give either contender a chance at the presidency.
Romney gets personal
Romney, in Reno, departed from previous campaign speeches and sought to personalize the choice voters face.
He ticked through several different hypothetical situations — a senior citizen struggling to pay for health care, a young family trying to educate their kids, an unemployed worker looking for a job — and insisted each would be better off under a Romney administration.
“How many here identify with stories like that in your own home?” he asked, and hands shot up across the room.
“This is an election about your family,” the Republican challenger said.
Romney running mate Paul Ryan was in Ohio, but not for a typical, late-campaign rally. Instead, in a speech at Cleveland State University, he said that in the nation’s long-running “war on poverty, poverty is winning.” He said community — the work done by churches, charities, friends and neighbors — is critical, although government, too, has a role in helping the disadvantaged.
“There has to be a balance, allowing government to act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do,” he said.
Vice President Joe Biden, too, campaigned in Ohio.
At Harding High School in Marion, Biden insisted that Republican protests notwithstanding, Romney and Ryan back a massive tax cut for the rich.