CARS HOMES JOBS

Presidential campaigns hit high gear, critical states

Latest economic data to enter election equation

Friday, November 2, 2012
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President Barack Obama greets supporters on the tarmac upon his arrival at Denver International Airport on Thursday.
President Barack Obama greets supporters on the tarmac upon his arrival at Denver International Airport on Thursday.

Five days before the election, Republican challenger Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama vied forcefully for the mantle of change Thursday in a country thirsting for it after a painful recession and uneven recovery, pressing intense closing arguments in their unpredictably close race for the White House. Early voting topped 20 million ballots.

A three-day lull that followed Superstorm Sandy ended abruptly, the president campaigning briskly across three battleground states and Romney piling up three stops in a fourth. The Republican also attacked with a tough new Spanish-language television ad in Florida showing Venezuela’s leftist leader, Hugo Chavez, and Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, saying they would vote for Obama.

The storm intruded once again into the race, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed the president in a statement that said Sandy, which devastated his city, could be evidence of climate change.

Of the two White House rivals, Bloomberg wrote, “One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.”

The ever-present polls charted a close race for the popular vote, and a series of tight battleground surveys suggested neither man could be confident of success in the competition for the 270 electoral votes that will decide the winner.

The presidential race aside, the two parties battled for control of the Senate in a series of 10 or more competitive campaigns. The possibility of a 50-50 tie loomed, or even a more unsettled outcome if former Gov. Angus King of Maine, an independent, wins a three-way race and becomes majority-maker.

Obama’s aides left North Carolina off the president’s itinerary in the campaign’s final days, a decision that Republicans trumpeted as a virtual concession of the state.

Yet Romney’s team omitted Ohio and Wisconsin from a list of battlegrounds where they claimed narrow advantage. The challenger and running mate Paul Ryan slated separate weekend stops in Pennsylvania, a state long viewed as safe for the president. Republicans said the decision to campaign there reflected late momentum, while Democrats said it was mere desperation.

Romney and his allies also made late investments in Minnesota and Michigan, states that went comfortably for Obama in 2008 but poll much closer four years later.

In a possible boost for Obama, government and private sources churned out a spate of encouraging snapshots on the economy, long the dominant issue in the race. Reports on home prices, worker productivity, auto sales, construction spending, manufacturing and retail sales suggested the recovery was picking up its pace, and a measurement of consumer confidence rose to its highest level since February of 2008, nearly five years ago.

Still, none of the day’s measurements packed the political significance of the campaign’s final report on unemployment, due out today. Joblessness was measured at 7.8 percent in September, falling below 8 percent for the first time since Obama took office.

Unemployment alone explained the competition to be the candidate of change, the slogan Obama memorably made his own in 2008 and struggles to hold now.

“Real Change On Day One,” read a huge banner at Romney’s first appearance of the day, in Roanoke, Va., and the same on a sign on the podium where he spoke in Doswell.

“This is a time for greatness. This is a time for big change, for real change,” said the former Massachusetts governor, a successful businessman who says his background gives him the know-how to enact policies that will help create jobs. “I’m going to make real changes. I’m going to get this economy going, from day one we’re making changes.”

He and his running mate also poked at Obama’s proposal to create a Department of Business by merging several existing agencies, including the Commerce Department, and the Republican campaign released a television ad on the subject.

“I don’t think adding a new chair in his Cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street,” jabbed Romney.

 
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