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Obama, Romney in Tight Race for Battleground States

President and Mrs. Obama; photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wave to a crowd at a campaign rally at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond on Saturday. Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

President Obama and Mitt Romney received a fresh sign Monday of their standing in a dozen key battleground states where the fall election is likely to be decided.

The president and the presumptive Republican nominee are nearly tied, 47 percent to 45 percent, among registered voters in a new USA Today/Gallup poll of 12 swing states.

The states included in the survey were Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

As the fall campaign gets underway, the president appears to hold an advantage over Romney when it comes to voter enthusiasm. More than half of Mr. Obama’s supporters — 55 percent — said they were extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in the election. Forty-six percent of Romney supporters responded they were extremely or very enthusiastic.

The president also has an edge when it comes to voter intensity, with 36 percent of swing-state supporters saying they will definitely vote for him in November. By contrast, 32 percent of Romney’s backers were certain to cast a ballot for him. The 11 percent of voters who favor Obama and the 13 percent who favor Romney said they could still change their minds. When combined with the seven percent who are undecided, that leaves 31 percent of voters in play for the election.

The Obama campaign is going after swing-state voters in a minute-long television ad released Monday in nine states: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida and Colorado.

The spot begins with the economic crisis of 2008 and notes that the “meltdown” occurred before Mr. Obama assumed the presidency. The ad then pivots to actions taken by the president, including the rescue of the auto industry, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the ending of the war in Iraq and the creation of 4.2 million jobs since March 2010.

“We’re not there yet…it’s still too hard for too many,” says the narrator, who adds: “But we’re coming back. Because America’s greatness comes from a strong middle class. Because you don’t quit. And neither does he.” The president then appears on screen along with the campaign’s “Forward” logo.

You can watch the full ad here or below:

The Romney campaign responded to the spot by calling attention to other parts of the president’s record. “Americans will hear a lot from President Obama in the coming months, but what they won’t hear from him is the fact that his policies have wreaked havoc on the middle class,” Romney spokesperson Amanda Henneberg said in a statement. “After a doubling of gas prices, declining incomes, millions of foreclosures, and record levels of unemployment, Americans know they’re not better off than they were four years ago. Mitt Romney’s pro-growth agenda will get America back on track and stop the middle-class squeeze of the Obama economy.”

For his part, Romney will campaign Monday afternoon in Cleveland, his second visit to Ohio in the past two weeks.


The president formally launched his re-election campaign this weekend with back-to-back rallies in Ohio and Virginia. His first stop was at Ohio State University in Columbus, followed by Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Mr. Obama spoke for 37 minutes before 14,000 people at Ohio State. (You can watch his remarks here.)

During the speech, viewers of the campaign’s live stream saw visual aides backing up his points. Graphs on unemployment, manufacturing jobs and health care appeared on cue for each of the president’s points.

The president knocked the “Republicans who run this Congress for the last few years,” not mentioning that the GOP has actually only been in charge of one chamber, and only for 16 months, since he took office.

Mr. Obama said Romney backs Capitol Hill Republicans and “has promised to rubber stamp [their] agenda if he gets a chance.”

“We cannot give him that chance,” the president said. “This is a make or break moment for the middle class.”

Mr. Obama lauded Romney’s experience in business and running Massachusetts but said his rival has “drawn the wrong lessons from those experiences.”

The president also went right at the GOP critique of his campaign messaging. “It’s still about hope, it’s still about change,” he said. “I still believe that we are not as divided as our politics suggest.”

First lady Michelle Obama, in a dress perfectly matching the light blue “Forward” signs on display, told a story about how her family was determined that she and her brother would be the first to attend college.

“Every semester my dad was determined to pay that bill right on time,” she said, adding he took “great pride” in being able to responsibly pay his bills.

“If you work hard you can build a decent life for yourself, and yes, an even better life for your kids,” she said.

Then, in Virginia, 8,000 people gathered to hear the president.

Both rallies included supporters chanting “four more years.” The first lady told the crowds her husband needs them to give “each week” because “in the end it could all come down to those last few thousand folks … It might mean registering just one more person in your town.”

The day after the rallies, Team Romney released a new web video attacking the president on this month’s weak jobs report. It features news reports questioning the pace of recovery, spliced together with statements from the Columbus rally. Watch it here.


Friday’s release of a new jobs report allowed both campaigns to respond to how the president’s policies have worked.

Mr. Obama called the report “good news,” in that it reported a slightly lower unemployment rate than in past months.

But the Romney campaign deemed the numbers “disappointing.” One reason: Some out-of-work people have stopped looking for employment.

Don’t miss the NewsHour’s look at how college graduates are being affected by the economy. Students at George Mason and Georgetown told the NewsHour they are worried about finding jobs.

Watch that here or below:


NewsHour regular Mark Shields coined a new campaign catchphrase on Friday in his discussion with David Brooks and Judy Woodruff. “It isn’t the economy, stupid, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.

They also talked about the politics of the killing of Osama bin Laden and the president’s trip to Afghanistan on the one-year anniversary of the al-Qaeda leader’s death.

David said he thought the president’s team “went a little far” in its handling of the matter. He also cited Tolstoy in making the argument that it was impossible for Romney to know what call he would have made.

“Not to get pretentious about this, there is a great Tolstoy scene where one of the generals sends his men into the fog of a valley. He has no idea where he is sending them,” David said.

For his part, Mark said the president’s visit to Afghanistan was totally appropriate.

“It was a substantive trip. I didn’t see any end zone dance. I didn’t see any spiking the football, whatever jargon they wanted to use. I thought it was totally appropriate,” Mark said.

Watch them here or below.

And, of course, Hari Sreenivasan tackled the sport of politics and the politics of sports in the weekly Doubleheader. There they discussed young Barack Obama’s love life, as cited in a new book by David Maraniss, Robert Caro’s next volume on President Lyndon B. Johnson and one of baseball’s best ever closers, Mariano Rivera.

Watch that here.


  • The AFL-CIO will begin running online ads on social networking sites that attack Romney as the 1 percent.
  • The New York Times identifies nine states it thinks will swing the election (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin) and examines the economic picture in each. Explore your own Electoral College scenarios on our Vote 2012 Map Center.
  • Romney said Friday during an interview with Fox News that he had wanted an openly gay spokesman who resigned from his campaign to stay on. He called Richard Grenell a “capable individual” and said senior aides asked him not to leave.
  • Romney’s son Tagg is the new father of twin boys. But the happy story has a hint of social conservative controversy: Tagg and his wife used a surrogate.
  • Vice President Joe Biden endorsed gay marriage on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said. “Frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.”
  • The Libertarian Party has chosen its 2012 presidential candidate. It’s Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor and one-time GOP presidential hopeful.
  • The birther myth is back. Republican congressional candidates in North Carolina have resurrected the talking point — and their doubt in the president’s place of birth — in preparation for Tuesday’s primary.
  • The NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill on the power of the incumbency in a presidential election. The evidence: last week and Afghanistan.



  • Christina and Cassie are spending the day with Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell as he tours the state this week. Follow them (@cbellantoni, @indiefilmfan) for updates from Southside Virginia.
  • Read the transcript of Judy Woodruff’s recent interview with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
  • The Kentucky Derby brought a moment of bipartisanship for Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth.
  • A close friend of Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, one of John Edwards’ key donors, testified Friday that the wealthy heiress was deeply angered by a request to provide $40 to $50 million to endow a poverty foundation after the former North Carolina senator’s presidential hopes were dashed.
  • Roll Call’s Abby Livingston on the epic Democratic member-vs.-member battle in New Jersey. The redistricting-fueled race has drama, an ex-president getting involved and more.
  • Ray Suarez wrote last week about Cinco de Mayo.
  • The Virginia ad wars are heating up, reports Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad.
  • Here is an amazing graphic showing the lack of bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate.
  • Christina talked about battleground Virginia, the politics of bin Laden and “pura vida” on John Dickerson’s Friday reporters roundtable.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.


All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama holds a conference call with elected officials and student government leaders from across the country at 2:30 p.m. The topic of discussion: preventing student loan interest rates from doubling July 1.
  • Vice President Biden attends a pair of campaign fundraisers: in Nashville at 1:45 p.m. and Atlanta at 6:30 p.m.
  • Mitt Romney holds a town hall in Cleveland at 1:50 p.m. and hosts a private fundraiser in Indianapolis at 6 p.m.
  • Ron Paul has no public events scheduled.

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 and @indiefilmfan.

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