President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney storm into the final day of their long presidential contest, mounting one last effort to protect their flanks while engaging in the toughest battleground of all - Ohio.
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Dave Levinthal, Politico.com
Erie Co. GOP Chairman
Erie County Democratic Party
Chairman Jeremy Zellner
The two campaigns were ready to leave matters in the hands of voters and their schedules left little doubt where the election would be won or lost. Obama was holding rallies in Wisconsin and Iowa on Monday. Romney was cutting a broader swath, with events in Florida, Virginia and New Hampshire.
Romney Also Pressing Hard in PA
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rallied thousands of people in the Pennsylvania cold Sunday night, using precious time to make an 11th-hour pitch for a state he all but ignored until the last week of the presidential campaign.
"The people of America understand we're taking back the White House because we're going to win Pennsylvania," Romney said as he looked over the expansive, darkened field at a farm in the Philadelphia suburbs, where people had been waiting for nearly two hours longer than planned in temperatures that dropped near freezing.
"Send him home! Send him home!" the crowd chanted in response, urging him to beat President Barack Obama.
Romney has visited Pennsylvania during the general election campaign, but has held only small events usually connected to a separate fundraising stop. Coming here two days before the election was, in fact, a game-time decision.
Until the election's final week, Romney's team had not made any significant push to win in a state that's backed Democratic presidential candidates since 1988. Its 20 electoral votes were all but written off, its airwaves free from the deluge of ads that have swamped the nine states that were contested.
It's part of a bid to find the 270 votes Romney needs to win the White House. Polls are stubbornly close in neighboring Ohio, and Romney's path to victory without that state's 18 electoral college votes requires winning nearly all the other battleground states.
So on Tuesday, a week before the election, Romney bought $2 million in TV ads in Pennsylvania. Republican groups poured in an additional $9 million. On Thursday, campaign managers quietly began calling places they thought would be big enough to hold the kind of crowd that could demonstrate the state was really in play. They eventually picked Shady Brook Farm, judging that a 20-acre field could be turned into a campaign event site that would accommodate up to 30,000 people.
The Obama campaign insists the move is desperation. Republicans acknowledge that decisions to buy ads in Pennsylvania were made, in part, because millions of dollars were still available - and airtime in other swing states had simply run out, already filled with political ads.
But former President Bill Clinton - now arguably Obama's most important advocate - will spend all day there Monday, even visiting Vice President Joe Biden's hometown of Scranton. Obama and Democrats planned to spend more than $3.7 million on TV ads.
On Sunday night, Romney campaign spokesman Rick Gorka said 25,000 people went through security at the Morrisville event. No independent crowd estimate was available.
"This has got to be a thrill of a lifetime. This is amazing. What a welcome," said Ann Romney as she introduced her husband, with the enormous Romney-logoed campaign bus puffing in the background.
"I just hope they come back and buy Bucks County produce," joked Paul Fleming, the farm's owner, as he waited in the bleachers erected next to giant flags hanging from cranes.
Many in the crowd, though, didn't stay to hear Romney's speech. Attendees streamed out of the event even as the Republican nominee spoke - he had been delayed for more than an hour and a half at his previous stop, in Cleveland, leaving the thousands in Pennsylvania to wait for his campaign bus to arrive.
After Romney arrived, a Secret Service agent, concerned about security, prevented people from leaving the event, cordoned off by metal security barriers. Attendees complained of needing to use restrooms; one was concerned about a child who had gotten too cold.
Once Romney campaign staffers were informed, volunteers began escorting small groups of people out. Agents insisted that they not be allowed to leave en masse. More people wanted to leave than could be quickly accommodated.
"I feel like I've been let out of jail," said one man as he walked away from the barriers.
Pennsylvania is a state that's proved difficult for Republicans. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 4-3. Despite trying, no Republican presidential candidate has won the state since 1988. The closest was in 2004, when President George W. Bush came up 2.5 percentage points short of John Kerry.
Romney's push comes as neighboring New Jersey has been crushed by Superstorm Sandy, and Republican Gov. Chris Christie has embraced Obama and the millions in federal emergency relief the state will need to recover. Eastern Pennsylvania voters, who often can watch local news from either Philadelphia or New York, have recently been treated to images of the president shouldering his duties as commander in chief and comforting families who have lost everything.
Romney was clearly aware of that reality as he campaigned in a town just a few miles from the Jersey border.
"Thanks also to the governors that are dealing with this tragedy, particularly the governor of New Jersey, Gov. Christie," Romney said Sunday, some of his only recent words of praise for a man he considered picking for his running mate. "He's giving it all of his heart and his passion to help the people of his state. They're in a hard way, and we appreciate his hard work."
But the richest prize is Ohio, and both Obama and Romney were rallying their supporters in its capital, Columbus.
Whoever wins Ohio has a simpler path to amass the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the presidency. With national polls showing the two candidates locked in a virtual tie, the outcome in a handful of key states will determine who occupies the White House for the next four years.
For Obama, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio are his firewall. "I think it's going to hold firm," Vice President Joe Biden told a rally in Ohio Sunday. Victories in those three states, barring a huge upset in a state like Pennsylvania, would virtually assure him re-election. "I think we're going to win clearly," Biden said.
Romney voiced more guarded optimism. In Cleveland, discussing the chances of Obama's re-election, Romney said, "It's possible, but not likely."
Labor Unions, UB Students & Local Lawyers....... WNY Footsoldiers in battleground states.
Labor Unions and the conservative Americans for Prosperity group both sent local workers to Ohio this weekend.
Hamburg's Russ Gugino has been running a 20 person phone bank, identifying Romney supporters and veterans in Ohio for get out the vote follow up calls Tuesday
Republican elections attorney Emilio Coliacovo is in Ohio, working with a team of lawyers on election access issues, and preserving the groundwork for future challenges.
Former Erie Dem Party Chair Steve Pigeon is heading that party's regional team of lawyers in Miami, working on ballot access and get-out-the-vote issues.
Related: Campaigns Lawyered Up For Overtime
From Hardline, The WBEN Politics Program,
A final national NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll showed Obama getting the support of 48 percent of likely voters, with Romney receiving 47 percent. A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll had Obama at 49 and Romney at 48. A Pew Research Center poll released Sunday showed Obama with a three-point edge over Romney, 48 percent to 45 percent among likely voters.
Defying the odds, Romney drew one of his largest crowds Sunday in Pennsylvania, a state where Obama was holding onto a lead but where Romney aides said they detected soft support for the president. Despite a delayed arrival, Romney rallied thousands on a farm in a Philadelphia suburb on a cold night, taking the podium as loudspeakers blared the theme from "Rocky." The sign of energy in a key swing area of the state was only tempered by some early exits by supporters seeking to escape the cold.
Meanwhile, about 30 million people have already voted in 34 states and the District of Columbia, either by mail or in person, although none will be counted until Election Day on Tuesday.
More than 4 million of the ballots were cast in Florida, where Democrats filed a lawsuit demanding an extension of available time. A judge granted their request in one county where an early voting site was shut down for several hours Saturday because of a bomb scare.
Both men were spending the final days of the campaign presenting themselves as can-do leaders willing to break partisan logjams in Washington.
The former Massachusetts governor warned that a second Obama term would threaten the American economy because of the president's inability to work with Congress. "He's ignored them, he's attacked them, he's blamed them," Romney said.
Obama cited bipartisan work on middle-class tax cuts and on ending the Pentagon's don't-ask-don't-tell policy, but warned that he would not compromise away his priorities, such as health care. "I'm not willing to pay that price," he said.
At stops, Obama has been telling crowds, "If you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you'll vote for leaders who feel the same way, whether they are Democrats or Republicans or independents." But the local candidates he often cites are inevitably Democrats.
As the race approached its conclusion, the two candidates engaged in their own personal moments with friends and close aides, an acknowledgement that no matter who won, this was the end of the campaign.
Longtime Obama chums Mike Ramos, a childhood friend from Hawaii, and Marty Nesbitt, a friend from Chicago, joined the president on Air Force One. On Monday, longtime adviser and former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and former personal aide Reggie Love were to join the entourage.
Aboard Air Force One, the president also was making calls to Democratic candidates to wish them well, including Senate contender Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts.
Obama will also benefit from some star power Monday. Rock legend Bruce Springsteen is joining him at all three campaign rallies, and rapper Jay-Z will join them in Columbus.
Romney, for his part, has appeared more relaxed on the campaign trail, where he's been joined by most of his longtime senior aides. Much of the planning and strategy is finished, they say, and they wanted to spend the final days of the campaign at Romney's side.
Adviser Kevin Madden said Romney was spending much of his time working on his laptop, reading and writing in his journal. The Republican candidate also recently joined his aides in an hour-and-a-half discussion about their favorite movies. Romney's? "O Brother, Where Art Thou," which stars Obama pal George Clooney.
As aides for both candidates looked for early marks of success, there were signs for the superstitious. Since 1936, with only one exception, whenever the Washington Redskins won on the Sunday before the election, the incumbent party would retain the White House. On Sunday, the Redskins lost to the Carolina Panthers, giving hope to Republicans.
But the Obama camp often compares this election to 2004, when President George W. Bush held the White House in his race against Democrat John Kerry. That year was the exception to the rule; the Redskins lost, and so did Kerry.