JUDY WOODRUFF: After devoting the first half of the week to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, the president returned to the campaign trail today. With the election around the corner, Mr. Obama received a surprise endorsement.
With the devastation of the megastorm consuming his attention, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg surprised the political world today by endorsing President Obama for reelection.
In a statement, Bloomberg said: "The hurricane's cost in lost lives, lost homes and lost business brought the stakes of Tuesday's presidential election into sharp relief."
He credited Mr. Obama with taking major steps to reduce carbon consumption and noted, not only President Obama's position on climate change, but also on a woman's right to choose and marriage equality as evidence of a vision different from that of Mitt Romney.
The news came as the president returned to the campaign trail, stopping first in Green Bay, Wis. He revived his own slogan of 2008 to question Mitt Romney's ideas.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Gov. Romney has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up these very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we have been cleaning up after for the past four years. And he is offering them up as change.
BARACK OBAMA: He's saying he's the candidate of change.
Well, let me tell you, Wisconsin, we know what change looks like.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BARACK OBAMA: And what the governor's offering sure ain't change.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Polls currently give the president a slight edge in Wisconsin. But, nationally, they are mostly dead even.
Romney spent his day in Virginia, a tied state, telling a crowd in Roanoke that the president is clueless when it comes to business.
MITT ROMNEY (R): So we came up with an idea last week, which is he's going to create the Department of Business.
MITT ROMNEY: I don't think adding a new chair in his Cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street.
MITT ROMNEY: We don't need a secretary of business to understand business; we need a president who understands business, and I do.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MITT ROMNEY: And that's why I will be able to get this economy going.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A charge his running mate, Paul Ryan, continued later in Colorado.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis.: You know, we already have a secretary of business. It's actually called the secretary of commerce. That's what this -- that's what this agency does.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden spent the day in Iowa, where he attacked Ryan's budget plan.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Look, Ryan saying that his budget doesn't cut, it just slows, is a little like Romney standing in an unemployment line and saying to the unemployed guy, look, I want to make it clear to you. I didn't outsource your job. I just offshored your job.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, today, the candidates, their running mates, spouses and surrogates blanketed seven tossup states around the country.
Former President Bill Clinton has hit the trail hard, appearing today in Wisconsin and Ohio on behalf of the president.
BILL CLINTON, former U.S. president: I am far more enthusiastic about him today than I was four years ago.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Clinton was in Minnesota earlier in the week, where the Romney campaign recently announced a new ad buy. It's a place both sides had earlier assumed would belong to the Democrats.
The Obama camp countered with a new ad of his own, featuring the endorsement of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, ran it there and in nine other states.
COLIN POWELL, former U.S. secretary of state: I think we ought to keep on the track that we're on.
BARACK OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But the Romney campaign also began airing a Spanish-language ad in Florida tying Obama to Latin American dictators Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.
WOMAN: We are America's women.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And American Future Fund, a super PAC supporting Romney, is running ads targeting women in Michigan and Pennsylvania, states considered safely Democratic.
As you can see on the NewsHour's Vote 2012 MapCenter, there are seven states currently considered by the Associated Press to be true tossups: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and New Hampshire.
It shows each candidate's quickest potential path to 270 electoral votes, including one scenario giving President Obama a path to victory, winning Nevada and Ohio, to get to 277 electoral votes.
For Mitt Romney, the path could also lead through Ohio, and blanketing the South, to get to 281 in a different scenario.
And there are also several potentials for a tie. This one shows the president losing Nevada, but winning Ohio, to get to 269 for both candidates.
And late today, the NewsHour got word that Romney will make a last-minute stop in Pennsylvania over the weekend.
Welcome to you both.
MARGARET TALEV, Bloomberg News: Thank you.
JONATHAN MARTIN, Politico: Thanks.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So let me start with you, Jonathan.
The president's back on the trail today. What is the state of this race? How do two campaigns see it?
JONATHAN MARTIN: I think both are projecting confidence right now, because that's what you do when you're four days out from Election Day, Judy.
But I think, looking at the maps, looking at the polling, it's clear that President Obama still has a narrow advantage in terms of how you get to 270 electoral votes.
Two big developments to me have happened in the last 48 hours. The first one is the kind of ads Gov. Romney is running. You mentioned one of them in your piece. That's the one in Florida linking President Obama to Chavez and Castro.
The other one out in Ohio where Governor Romney for the first time brings up the auto issue, where he's been battered on. Neither of those ads were released to the press. They were just put on the air.
That, as you know, is a giveaway that they don't want that ad to be written about. They just want voters to see it. And that to me says they still have to move some numbers in both Florida and Ohio.
And the second big thing, Judy, the fact that Governor Romney on Sunday is going to be in the Philadelphia suburbs, that really speaks to the fact that they're looking for a way to 270 besides Ohio.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, you cover the White House. You're talking to them. How do they feel? We're hearing what the Romney people are doing, trying to move the map around. What are the Obama people saying?
MARGARET TALEV: They sure feel better than they did about a week ago.
And while they don't like to talk publicly about the linkage between the superstorm Sandy and political impact, it's clear that they feel that they have derived political advantage from this.
It stopped the perception of momentum for Romney. It changed the subject. It focused the dynamic on President Obama being able to be bipartisan, and it put Gov. Romney out of play because he wasn't in the position to do anything official.
And so, at least from a perception standpoint, they do feel as if things are turning more in their favor in the final days.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jonathan, what are you picking up about the storm and the impact of it happening, the impact that it happened at all...
JONATHAN MARTIN: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: ... and then the role that the president has played in the storm and the aftermath on the campaign?
JONATHAN MARTIN: I think the major impact is, it really suspended the campaign. For effectively 48 hours, there was no campaign. And really still now, two days later, much of the news coverage is devoted to the storm.
So I think that has hurt Gov. Romney, who has tried to really, being the challenger, drive an aggressive message against President Obama. He, for two days, couldn't do that at all. And so I think that that has not been helpful to him.
And, again, any time a president has the opportunity to show himself as above politics, as being a commander in chief, the public service element of the job, not the political side of the job, is beneficial for the incumbent.
And, certainly, images of this president and perhaps the most famous governor in America, Chris Christie, a Republican, side-by-side walking around the boardwalk on the Jersey Shore, that's what President Obama could not have asked for, for the final five days of this campaign, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, what about these states?
I looked again at this list of states the president is going to over the next several days. It's the same battleground states that we have been focused on. We showed them there in that AP map of the states that are considered tossups.
Do they see movement in one state or another? And how do they read the -- Romney going to Pennsylvania, running ads in Minnesota?
MARGARET TALEV: Sometimes, when you go to a state that's a reach, it's because you really want to expand your win.
They're not reading this that as what Gov. Romney is doing in Pennsylvania.
As Jonathan said, they're looking at it as Gov. Romney looking for an alternate path to 270. But don't forget, President Obama is closer than he wants to be in a lot of places: Colorado, Nevada. Nevada should have been tucked away a while ago for him.
JONATHAN MARTIN:Wisconsin even.
MARGARET TALEV: And Wisconsin.
And so the fact that he is returning to these places again and again and again, they will say we're doing everything we can. Of course, we're going to fight to the end.
But it's more than that. It's a sign that they are not entirely secure. On the other hand, Ohio is looking stronger for them, a little bit more secure for them than it was, and that's important.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And pick up on that, Jonathan. Why is Ohio still the state that both campaigns are so focused on and spending so much time in?
JONATHAN MARTIN: Because if Gov. Romney doesn't have Ohio, he has got to effectively draw an inside straight to get to 270. He has got to put together an array of other states that almost certainly include Wisconsin.
And I was in Wisconsin last week. It's close. President Obama's going back to Milwaukee, in Madison here in the coming days, but it leans towards President Obama. So that's why Gov. Romney is so focused on Ohio.
And for President Obama, his campaign thinks if they can keep Romney out of Ohio, if they can deny Romney Ohio, he cannot get to the presidency.
So, that's why you're seeing both candidates there so much.
But one more fast point, and that is that both -- all of these states are pretty much three- or four-point states. Look at the map as to where President Obama and Gov. Romney are going to in the final days. That list of seven or eight states, they're almost all competitive, under five points.
So while it does narrowly favor President Obama right now, keep in mind, these are all very competitive states, three, four points.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So -- and, Margaret, to that point and the point you were making a minute ago, what is it that the Obama folks feel they need to do in these final days?
MARGARET TALEV: If today is a road map for the next few days, what they feel they need to do is return to the high ground, so to speak.
Today, you didn't here a lot of Romnesia. You heard a lot of, look at the storm, this is what we can do. When America is in crisis, we all hold hands and buckle down. We do what we need to do together.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A more positive message.
MARGARET TALEV: They want that to be the message and for President Obama to be able to close the final days of this race with him saying, I'm your president and I will continue to be a president and bring everyone together.
He would love to return to that hope and change message.
He hasn't been able to do so in recent weeks. And that's been because they were playing from a weakened position. And if this allows them make that transition, they will take it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we hear you both. And you guys are going to be watching from now until Election Day. And we will be watching with you.
Margaret Talev, Jonathan Martin, thank you both.
JONATHAN MARTIN: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, does the Electoral College system work? Our political analyst Eric Black of MinnPost, which is a nonprofit news site, considers that question and offers some historical perspective on our website.