Candidates Make Final Scramble
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Two days from judgment by the voters, President Barack Obama raced through four far-flung battleground states on Sunday while Mitt Romney ventured into traditionally Democrat Pennsylvania.
At every stop, the two rivals stressed their differences on the economy, health care and more while professing an eagerness to work across party lines and end gridlock in Washington.
“You have the power,” Obama told supporters in New Hampshire, his first appearance of a day not scheduled to end until after midnight in the East.
In Cleveland, boos from Romney’s supporters turned to appreciative laughter when the Republican nominee began a sentence by saying, “If the president were to be elected,” and ended it with, “It’s possible but not likely.”
After a campaign that began more than a year ago, late public opinion polls were unpredictably tight for the nationwide popular vote.
Romney flew to Pennsylvania, a state that last voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 1988, and Obama’s aides insisted it was safe for the president. Yet the challenger and his allies began advertising heavily in the campaign’s final days, and public and private polls suggested the state was relatively close.
Earlier, Romney launched a new ad as he appeared in Iowa, Ohio and Virginia as well as Pennsylvania. “He’s offering excuses. I’ve got a plan” to fix the economy. “I can’t wait for us to get started,” he said.
In Des Moines, Romney said he would meet regularly with “good men and women on both sides of the aisle” in Congress. Later, in Cleveland, he said of Obama, “Instead of bridging the divide, he’s made it wider.”
Obama had New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Colorado in his sights for the day.
In Florida, the president said he wants to work across party lines, but quickly added there were limits to the sorts of compromises he would make.
“If the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals that will kick students off of financial aid, or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood, or let insurance companies discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, or eliminate health care for millions who are on Medicaid …. I’m not willing to pay that price,” he said, reciting some of the charges he has leveled against Romney.
The two rivals and their running mates flew from state to state as the last of an estimated 1 million campaign commercials were airing in a costly attempt to influence a diminishing pool of voters.
More than 27 million ballots have been cast in 34 states and the District of Columbia, although none will be counted until Election Day on Tuesday.
Obama and Romney disagree sharply about the approach the nation should take to the slow-growth economy and high unemployment, and the differences have helped define the campaign. Most notably, Romney wants to extend tax cuts that are due to expire without exception, while Obama wants to allow them to lapse on incomes over $250,000.
At the same time, polls show bipartisanship is popular, in the abstract, at least, which accounts for the emphasis the candidates are placing in the race’s final days on working across political aisles.
Romney frequently cites his ability to work with the Democrat-controlled Legislature while he was governor of Massachusetts.
Obama’s term has been littered with the legislative wreckage left behind by constant struggles with congressional Republicans. Yet in his trip to New Jersey last Wednesday, the president was accompanied Republican Gov. Chris Christie on a tour of destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy.
One Republican said the storm had worked to Romney’s disadvantage in a different way.
“The hurricane is what broke Romney’s momentum. I don’t think there’s any question about it,” former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said.
“Any day that the news media is not talking about jobs and the economy, taxes and spending, deficit and debt, Obamacare and energy, is a good day for Barack Obama,” he said. “Now, whether it will be good enough remains to be seen.”
Romney’s campaign wanted no part of that. “I don’t look at what happened with the storm and how it affected so many people through a political lens,” said a spokesman, Kevin Madden.
So intense was the campaigning that Vice President Joe Biden’s plane and the one carrying Romney were both on the tarmac in Cleveland at the same time in early afternoon. The two men did not see one another.
Ryan started out in his home state of Wisconsin. He donned a Green Bay Packers jacket and a yellow and green striped tie for a pregame tailgating party he attended briefly across the street from fabled Lambeau Field.