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A Day Before Election, Presidential Candidates Make Final Push in Battlegrounds

November 5, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
The candidates and their running mates made final stops in key battleground states to claim the last undecided voters. Ray Suarez reports on the Obama campaign's focus on getting supporters to the polls. Then Margaret Warner reports on the Romney campaign, which is counting on supporters' enthusiasm for an election win.
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GWEN IFILL: The presidential contenders and their running mates dashed through eight states this election eve. With the race so close, it came down to one last drive to the finish line, and two very different paths to victory.

We hear from Margaret Warner with the Romney campaign in Boston and Ray Suarez at Obama headquarters in Chicago.

RAY SUAREZ: It’s the final frenetic day of the final campaign of his political career. The president ran from state to state, starting in Madison, Wis. The star power was kicked up a notch with an introduction from rock legend Bruce Springsteen.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And I get to fly around with him on the last day that I will ever campaign. So, that’s not a bad way to end things.

RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Obama called on his supporters not to be frustrated by the pace of change. Instead, he encouraged them to send a message to those who blocked his policies every step of the way.

BARACK OBAMA: What they’re counting on now is that you’re going to be so worn down, so fed up, so tired of all the squabbling, so tired of all the dysfunction, that you’re just going to give up and walk away and leave them…

CROWD: No!

BARACK OBAMA: … leave them right where they are, pulling the strings, pulling the levers, and you locked out of the decisions that impact your lives. In other words, their bet is on cynicism.

But, Wisconsin, my bet is on you.

RAY SUAREZ: The president also accused his Republican rival of trying to repackage old ideas and brand them as change.

BARACK OBAMA: Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy is not change. Refusing to answer questions about your policies until after the election, that’s definitely not change. That’s the oldest game in the book.

RAY SUAREZ: For the president, today was all about protecting his Midwest firewall.

He followed the Wisconsin stop with an afternoon rally in Columbus, Ohio, a state both sides are fighting hard to win and where polls show the race is close.

And Mr. Obama planned to end the day in Des Moines, Iowa, in the state that propelled him to victory in the Democratic caucuses four years ago.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: We need you, Virginia.

RAY SUAREZ: Vice President Biden, meanwhile, held a pair of events in another key battleground state, Virginia.

The campaign is headquartered in Chicago, where the president began his political career. Obama national press secretary Ben LaBolt said the main focus for the president’s reelection team was getting supporters to the polls.

BEN LABOLT, Obama Campaign: We know that this all comes down to turnout. And so we’re focused on making sure that every piece of that GOTV operation is up and running at 4:00 a.m. on the East Coast tomorrow morning.

RAY SUAREZ: Who is out there? Is there an army of volunteers that has been deployed? What are they doing? What are they looking for?

BEN LABOLT: They are, and they’re local. We’re not talking about importing people into states where they haven’t lived. That’s the value of having an organization that we have built over the course of several years.

They know who those undecided voters are. They know who those Obama supporters are. It’s a call from a friend or a neighbor asking them to turn out that we think will be the most effective at the end of the day.

RAY SUAREZ: Even in these final hours before the polls open nationwide, the Obama campaign says it believes there are still small pockets of voters out there who can be convinced to cast a ballot and cast a ballot for their man.

My colleague Margaret Warner got a very different view of the same electoral landscape from the Romney campaign.

MARGARET WARNER: After a frantic days-long campaign swing, Mitt Romney returns to Boston tonight to await the voters’ verdict on his seven-year quest for the presidency.

With polls showing President Obama enjoying a slight edge in several crucial battleground states, Romney’s strategists are counting on the undecided independent voters breaking his way.

ED GILLESPIE, former Republican National Committee chairman: I think the momentum remains with Gov. Romney.

MARGARET WARNER: Ed Gillespie is a senior adviser to the Romney campaign.

ED GILLESPIE: It’s a close race. We always knew it would be close. But I believe at the end of the day, it’s actually going to be and can be and will be decisive for Gov. Romney.

When I look at the numbers and the data and the underlying data, I think those undecided voters out there are going to break strongly for the governor.

MARGARET WARNER: The Romney camp also believes it has an advantage in the intensity of his core supporters, like the crowd that greeted the governor at this early-morning rally in Sanford, Fla.

MITT ROMNEY (R): Look, we have one job left. And that’s to make sure that, on Election Day, we make certain that everybody who is qualified to vote gets out to vote. We need every single vote in Florida.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MARGARET WARNER: Romney said Tuesday will prove a turning point for the country.

MITT ROMNEY: Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow. Tomorrow, we begin a better tomorrow. This nation is going to begin to change for the better tomorrow.

MARGARET WARNER: After Florida, he made two stops in Virginia, Lynchburg, in the center of the state.

MITT ROMNEY: Perhaps some of your family and friends have not yet made up their vote — their mind who they’re going to vote for. So ask them to look beyond the speeches and the ads and all the attacks, because talk is cheap.

Ask them to look at the record. A record is real and it’s earned with real effort. The president promised change, but change can’t be measured in speeches. It’s measured in achievement.

MARGARET WARNER: And, in Fairfax, an independent voter-rich suburb of Washington, D.C.:

MITT ROMNEY: So many of you look at the big debates in this country, not as a Republican or a Democrat, but as an independent thinker, as an American.

And you watch what’s happened in this country over the last four years with an independent voice, you hoped that President Obama would live up to his promise to bring people together, to solve big problems.

He hasn’t. I will.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MARGARET WARNER: And in late afternoon, he rallied supporters in Columbus, the capital of all-important Ohio.

ED GILLESPIE: We feel good about the nature of the race. I think we’re going to win Ohio.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you see a path to victory without winning Ohio?

ED GILLESPIE: There are numerous paths to victory to get to 270. But, like anyone else, I would rather get there with Ohio than without it.

MARGARET WARNER: Ohio is so crucial that Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, was there today, too, on the heels of stops in Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa.

Romney’s day won’t end until midnight, after an election eve rally in Manchester, N.H.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And late Monday, in a surprise move, Romney announced that he will hit the trail one final time tomorrow, touching down on Election Day in both Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Margaret talked with Romney’s communications director, Gail Gitcho, about the campaign’s micro-targeting, get-out-the-vote effort. It’s called the Orca Project, named for the killer whale. You can find that video online.