All Tied Up: Poll Shows Deadlocked Race in Final Stretch

BY Christina Bellantoni and Katelyn Polantz  October 31, 2012 at 9:55 AM EDT

Volunteers in Columbus, Ohio, make phone calls for Mitt Romney on Tuesday. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters.

The Morning Line

It’s a scary proposition for both campaigns — a tied race, with both President Obama and Mitt Romney within the margin of error in key battlegrounds.

The New York Times/CBS News poll of likely voters out Wednesday found the president leading his rival nationally, 48 percent to 47 percent, with six days to go.

And in the states that will decide the victor Tuesday, Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News polls released Wednesday found Mr. Obama leading Romney, 50 percent to 45 percent, in Ohio. That one’s outside the margin of error, and is one reason both campaigns are putting so much effort into winning the Buckeye State’s 18 Electoral College votes. In two other states, the president is within the margin of error with his lead over Romney: 48 percent to 47 percent in Florida and 49 percent to 47 percent in Virginia.

The New York Times writes that voters view Romney “as a stronger leader on the economy” and the president “as a better guardian of the middle class.”

From Jeff Zeleny and Marjorie Connelly, on the road in Ohio:

A week before the election, even as millions of Americans have already cast their ballots through early-voting programs in many states, voters are closely divided between the candidates, with men and women practically mirror images of each other. The poll found that Mr. Obama is supported by 52 percent of women and 44 percent of men, while Mr. Romney is preferred by 51 percent of men and 44 percent of women….

As Mr. Romney seeks to emphasize the moderate elements of his record, the poll found that voters across the country see deep philosophical differences between the two candidates, with 67 percent saying that Mr. Romney would very closely or somewhat closely follow the policies of former President George W. Bush.

Zeleny has more on the Ohio survey here.

And National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar looks closer at how the campaigns are aiming at white, working-class voters.

THE AFTERMATH OF SANDY

Who would have predicted bipartisanship six days before the election?

Mr. Obama hasn’t gone as far as inviting Romney to walk with him hand in hand through lower Manhattan. But the president will spend Wednesday touring the hardest hit coasts of New Jersey alongside Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

On Tuesday night, we assessed the politics of the storm with Politico’s Jonathan Allen, who pointed out that the political key to such a situation is to make it look not political at all.

“I think this is one of the few situations, unfortunately, where basic human decency and good politics dovetail,” Allen told Gwen Ifill. “The best thing you can do as a political candidate right now is to appear to care more about what’s going on, on the ground with people who are suffering than you do about your own election. Ideally, that’s motivated by a real feeling there, rather than simply showing it. ”

Mr. Obama and Romney may be lying relatively low as candidates, but their campaign organizations are pressing on with full force.

“There’s a little more sensitivity I think in the states that are affected by the hurricane, but they can’t really afford to pull out, to push the pause button,” Allen said.

Indeed, key surrogates continue to campaign, including Vice President Biden, GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, first lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney. Former President Bill Clinton has been campaigning so frequently that the National Journal dubbed him on Tuesday the president’s “closer.”

And the Romney campaign’s localized attacks haven’t subsided. NBC News noticed a tougher version of Romney’s highly critical and criticized Jeep ad on the radio in Ohio. The ad suggests that Mr. Obama’s auto bailout sent jobs from Ohio to China.

Despite the curveball Sandy threw at voting on the East Coast, Allen said he still expects Election Day to proceed as usual.

Watch the segment here or below:

We're sorry, the rights for this video have expired.

The NewsHour also spoke with a host of journalists over the course of the day as we gathered string for the big story.

Among the tidbits we learned:

The Hill’s Amie Parnes pointed out that Team Romney has particular reason to be cautious in Sandy’s aftermath: Missteps by Romney or his surrogates may draw parallels to how they responded to news coming out of the Middle East around the time of the Libya attack. That response that was widely panned as being exceedingly aggressive and distastefully political.

Hearst’s David McCumber said to keep an eye on how Sandy’s aftermath might affect the Senate race in Connecticut, but he also suggested that he doesn’t expect much of a shift as long as the candidates — Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon — avoid making any gaffes. Murphy is well-positioned to tie himself to the government’s disaster response, McCumber said, and McMahon lives in the state’s hard-hit Fairfield County.

And National Journal’s Fawn Johnson was hesitant to draw any conclusions about how Sandy would ultimately affect the election results. Much has been said about how the storm complicated early voting and last-minute campaigning in some states, but even before the storm, she said, there were open questions about whether early voting or last-minute campaigning would have significant effects on the outcome in the first place.

The Washington Post’s Suzy Khimm has a piece Wednesday examining what the candidates would do to FEMA funding.

DIGITAL POLITICAL WARFARE

A bucket seems like such a harmless object. But within the data-rich world of modern political campaigns, the bucket becomes a foundation, NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan learned in a reporting collaboration with Frontline.

Hari visited Romney and Obama campaign data gurus in battleground Ohio. They showed him how their organizations can collect information on voters to classify into groups, or “buckets.” The campaigns find information on individuals that gets as personal as what websites one might visit. Then, the political camps lunge for supporters with micro-targeted ads, door knocks or phone calls, a highly technical and coordinated effort that’s pushing new boundaries in 2012.

Watch Hari’s report here or below:

FACE THE FACTS

Wednesday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA focuses on connectivity.

The nonpartisan organization found that “71 percent of U.S. households were wired for the web in 2010, and another 9 percent of the population had ready access somewhere else, like a workplace or library. That left 20 percent without a connection.”

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Watch Wednesday’s NewsHour for Jeffrey Brown’s report from battleground Wisconsin.

  • Politico reports on the anonymous anti-Obama text messages popping up. Update: A Virginia GOP activist is behind the texts.

  • The Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz profiles the boys and girls on the bus in a new media generation.

  • Former FEMA director Michael Brown, who served under President George W. Bush, slammed Mr. Obama for his quick response on Sandy, comparing it with his reaction to the September terrorist attack at the Libyan embassy. Brown was criticized after Hurricane Katrina for not responding quickly enough.

  • Restore Our Future and Americans for Job Security super PACs are hitting the president with more than $3 million in attack ads on Pennsylvania airwaves.

  • The Atlas Project offers a straightforward list of early voting practices state by state.

  • Errol Morris produced a thoroughly charming video for the New York Times opinion section asking young people why they (or why don’t they) vote.

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Mitch Fox of Vegas PBS brings to the NewsHour the latest in our Battleground Dispatches series. He looked at a new Nevada congressional district, a race that’s flush with big money, notable names and harsh attacks from both candidates.

Watch the story here or below.

  • Rep. Bob Turner, a New York Republican who won the special election to replace disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner representing Brooklyn and Queens, lost his home to a fire sparked by Hurricane Sandy.

  • Mark Kelly, the astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, jumped into the nasty Senate race between Democrat Richard Carmona and Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican. Kelly sent a fundraising email supporting Carmona. The NewsHour will have more on the Senate contest this week.

  • Talking Points Memo rounds up the 10 House races that will give early clues on Election Night.

  • 2016 presidential bids by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are getting better odds at Ladbrokes.

TOP TWEETS

NewsHour politics desk assistant Geoffrey Lou Guray and coordinating producer Elizabeth Summers contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Paul Ryan spends his day in Wisconsin. He attended an event in Eau Claire at 9:35 a.m., attends an event in Green Bay at 12:20 p.m. and one in Racine at 3:45 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney is in Florida and will hold three rallies with Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Senate hopeful Rep. Connie Mack. The first is in Tampa at 11:10 a.m., followed by a Coral Gables rally at 2:20 p.m. and one in Jacksonville at 8 p.m.

  • Vice President Biden also is in Florida. He speaks in Sarasota at 11:30 a.m. and in Ocala at 3 p.m.

  • Ann Romney spends her day in Ohio. She attends a rally in Hamilton at noon, stops at Sam’s Meats in Wilmington at 1:55 p.m., visits Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus at 3:40 p.m. and then stops by the GOP campaign office in Columbus at 5 p.m.

  • President Obama tours storm damage with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 1:05 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.