Obama and Romney battle for key swing states

US president and Republican challenger step up attacks in states likely to decide winner in Tuesday’s election.

US President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are sprinting through several key states ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election, reflecting both campaigns’ closely fought battle to ensure their supporters turn out.

Obama and Romney opened Saturday with appearances in Ohio and New Hampshire and ended in Virginia and Colorado, respectively. On Sunday, Romney’s public schedule remains undecided, while Obama’s includes another trip to Ohio, reflecting it’s key role.

The state, as it has in the past, stands a good chance of being the hinge on which the election turns and is almost a must-win for Romney. Most polls have showed Obama holding a lead there throughout the race, and he won the state in 2008 with roughly 51 per cent of the vote. 

Speaking at a gymnasium in the town of Mentor, the president commended the nation’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy, which swept up the East Coast earlier this week, leaving nearly 100 people dead and billions of dollars in damage.

“I’ve been in constant contact with governors and mayors in the affected areas, who are doing an excellent job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances,” he said.

Polls have shown Obama earning mostly positive reviews for his response to the storm, and his widely publicised cooperation with the popular Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, may have boosted his credentials among independent voters.

It was quickly followed by an endorsment from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a political independent who explicitly tied his endorsement to Obama’s comparative focus on climate change, which Bloomberg blamed for the storm.

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Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from the rally in Ohio, said the Obama campaign has been continuing calls for voters to cast their ballots early.

The campaign is hoping that the “early vote is going to win them a second term”, she said.

In New Hampshire, Romney challenged the president’s track record on bipartisanship, which Obama had pledged to push during his unprecedented 2008 campaign.

“You know if the president were to be reelected he will not be able to work with Congress. You are going to see four more years of gridlock,” Romney said.

“You know the debt ceiling is going to come up again, and there will be threats of shutting down the government or perhaps default of one kind or another and that means an economy that gets chilled and jobs that are hard to find.”

New Hampshire is a tiny state that possesses only four of the 270 votes in the US electoral college required to win the election, but tight races in most of the other key battleground states and nationwide polls that show the two men essentially tied have quickly raised its profile. 

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from New Hampshire, said the Republican ticket has sent “surrogates all over the country” in the last 72 hours.

In Ohio alone, our correspondent said three prominent politicians have been pressing the case for Romney – John McCain, Obama’s rival in the 2008 election; Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor; and Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana.

Jeep statement

With two days left until Tuesday’s election, Obama and Romney are essentially tied in national polls, but Obama holds an edge in the battleground states, and it is the math of the state-based electoral college that ultimately decides who becomes president.

Romney has to win Florida and its 27 electoral votes, since losing means he would have to accomplish the nearly impossible task of capturing eight other toss-up states, where Obama holds polling leads in all but two.

Even if Romney wins Florida, where polls show him leading, he also needs to take Ohio and its 18 electoral votes to truly even the odds with Obama, who leads elsewhere in the battleground Midwest and Mountain West states of Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.

New Hampshire may prove crucial to Romney if he can take Florida and Ohio, because if he adds it to the two swing states where he currently enjoys an advantage – North Carolina and Virginia – he will win.

Romney’s team may also be hoping for a long-shot, game-changing victory in Pennsylvania, which boasts 20 electoral votes and may be shifting from solidly pro-Obama into toss-up territory, according to some polls. But Romney himself will not make any stops there over the final days of the campaign.

With an eye on Virginia, Obama ended his Saturday there, appearing at a nighttime rally of some 24,000 people with former Democratic President Bill Clinton, who is riding an all-time high in his popularity ratings.

The former president vouched for Obama’s economic agenda, saying he had done a good job with a bad hand.

The economy looms

Speaking in Ohio on Friday, following a final preelection government jobs report that showed 171,000 jobs created in October but an unemployment rate rising a tick to 7.9 per cent, Obama said the figures were evidence that “we have made real progress”.

The president’s federal rescue of America’s largest car manufacturers has been popular in a state where one in eight jobs is car-industry related, and he hammered Romney for a recent statement that Chrysler planned to move Jeep production to China.

Chrysler has denied that, noting it was adding workers to build more Jeeps in Ohio, and the two campaigns have aired advertisements over the issue.

Obama said Romney, who opposed a government auto bailout, was trying to scare workers in a desperate bid to make up ground in Ohio.

“I know we’re close to an election, but this isn’t a game. These are people’s jobs, these are people’s lives,” Obama said. “You don’t scare hard-working Americans just to scare up some votes.”

Obama’s advisers said the Jeep controversy, which has featured heavily in the state’s media, had helped the president solidify his lead in Ohio.

“We all felt prior to this week we were in very solid shape in the state of Ohio, and our expectation is that our position’s been strengthened by this,” White House senior adviser David Plouffe told reporters.

Reflecting his approach to business through years at the helm of Bain Capital, an investment management firm, Romney argued in a 2008 New York Times opinion article that the major automakers should have been allowed to go bankrupt in order to replace their management and overhaul their workers’ benefits.

Obama has used the op-ed, entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” to strike at Romney, particularly in the Midwest. 

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


From the conventions to election night, we bring you the latest developments on the road to the White House.

6 Sep 2012
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