Oakmont Bakery in Pennsylvania prepares cookies of President Obama and Mitt Romney for the oven on Wednesday. Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.
The presidential campaigns are grinding it out over the final 18 days in virtually the same battleground states that set the stage for the race at its outset. With both President Obama and Mitt Romney having plenty of money to compete across the nine very different states for the remainder of the race, this is where the focus will remain.
The list of tossup states that will decide the outcome of the election includes Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, with a combined 110 electoral votes at stake.
It appears the president is holding onto his lead in two of those states — Iowa and Wisconsin — according to the latest pair of NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls.
In Iowa, the president has a 51 percent to 43 percent lead over his GOP rival among likely voters. That margin is unchanged from the 50 percent to 42 percent advantage the president had in mid-September, before the start of the debate season.
The president also has maintained an advantage in Wisconsin, running six points in front of Romney, 51 percent to 45 percent, in the latest poll of likely voters there. Last month’s survey had the president up by five points.
Other surveys looking at the Badger State have found a closer race, including a Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday that showed the president ahead of Romney by a single point, 49 percent to 48 percent, well within the margin of error.
Tuesday’s town hall debate in New York appeared to have little impact on the preferences expressed by respondents in the NBC/WSJ/Marist polls. The president held a 52 percent to 43 percent advantage among likely voters in Iowa prior to the faceoff; his lead was 51 percent to 43 percent the day after. In Wisconsin, his lead was 50 percent to 45 percent before the debate; following the meeting, it was 51 percent to 45 percent.
The big split between the president and Romney is on support among those voters who have already cast ballots in the two states. More than a third of Iowa respondents said they had already voted, with the president winning them, 67 percent to 32 percent.
Fifteen percent of likely voters in Wisconsin said they had already voted or planned to vote early, and the president had a 64 percent to 35 percent lead among them.
Television ad spending data provided by NewsHour partner Kantar Media/CMAG confirms these are the states getting the most action, though the group points out in its Friday newsletter that Minnesota has already seen 69 percent of the advertising bought there in 2008, “based solely on GOP group advertising.” (Rick Santorum is among the Republicans spending money on TV there.) The state has gotten zero Democratic presidential advertising other than in one television market that bleeds over into Iowa.
In other shifts, the Romney campaign is pulling out of North Carolina, confident in its six-point lead. The Tarheel State voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 and has occasionally been considered a “tossup” by poll aggregators this election cycle, but the president’s team pointedly noted long lines at North Carolina early voting centers, which opened Thursday, and is still spending money there.
As we reported Wednesday here, Romney has shuffled some of his staff around, pulling Pennsylvania aides and moving them to Virginia.
Officials from Team Romney suggested this week they aren’t giving up on the Keystone State yet, given some new polling showing a closer race than expected, but neither camp is devoting many resources to air time and field organizing.
Game out scenarios yourself in our Vote 2012 Map Center:
The NewsHour and public media partners are exploring these states and races at the top of the ticket and down the ballot in a new Battleground Dispatches series. Airing Thursday night was the second piece, focusing on the three female candidates in New Hampshire hoping to make history: gubernatorial nominee Maggie Hassan and House hopefuls Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster, who are each locked in 2010 rematches.
Hassan is the only female running for governor in the nation, and should each of these Democrats win, New Hampshire would make history with its congressional delegation and occupant of the governor’s seat all being women.
Watch the report from special correspondent Anna Sale of WNYC here or below:
Coordinating producer Mike Melia previewed the story here.
LISTEN IN ON HISTORY
With this week marking the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, Gwen Ifill talked with historian Ted Widmer, who compiled transcripts of the secret tapes President John F. Kennedy recorded in the White House. Among the moments included on audio CDs accompanying the book are conversations from those tense 13 days.
Watch the conversation here or below.
On Thursday’s NewsHour, Ray Suarez talked with Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz of Daily-Download.com about reaction to Tuesday night’s slugfest and the types of digital outreach the campaigns have been doing post-debate.
Watch the segment here or below:
FACE THE FACTS
Friday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA looks at the cost of hospitalization in the United States compared with other industrialized countries.
The nonpartisan organization found that the cost of the average American hospital stay “nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010 while average stay length declined,” with charges for a hospitalization soaring “from an average $17,390 in 2000 to $33,079 in 2010.”
2012 LINE ITEMS
- Judy Woodruff [examined the history of the female vote in [this week’s edition of Judy’s Notebook](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/10/judys-notebook-women-wanted.html), writing, “Now that both campaigns are focusing more openly on women voters, my question is: What took them so long?”
- Gwen offered her take on why matters like “binders full of women” and Big Bird matter less to voters than politicians might think. She notes that “candidates eager to score points against each other often seem to lose sight of this.”
- Politico’s Mike Allen reported Friday that aides to President Obama said “the day after the town-hall debate, ‘was the biggest campaign fundraising day for the Obama campaign in history, including 2008.'”
- The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney and Fernanda Santos report on the efforts by both campaigns to reach out to Latino voters in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida and Nevada.
- Talking Points Memo rounds up the best jokes from the Al Smith Dinner, where Mr. Obama and Romney each spoke.
- President Obama appeared on Thursday’s “Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and said it is “not optimal” that four Americans were killed in Libya, a line Republicans jumped on. Watch the full appearance here.
- Ann Romney said on Thursday’s “The View” that if her husband loses, he won’t run again.
- American Bridge 21st Century has a new web video starring Sarah Silverman and Lizz Winstead.
- Paul Solman keeps up his look at prediction markets and polling.
- Former President Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen rallied voters for Mr. Obama on Thursday in Parma, Ohio.
- A new automated poll of Colorado voters by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling found Mr. Obama up by three points.
- Pew Research Center has a new survey that showed “increasing public pessimism about developments in the Middle East and more support for tough policies to deal with Iran’s nuclear program and economic issues with China.”
- As Vice President Biden took the stage at an event in Las Vegas, some in the crowd chanted “47 percent! 47 percent!” in addition to the more traditional “Four more years!”
- Jeremy Epstein, who asked the first question at the debate this week, is no longer undecided. He wouldn’t reveal his vote but did tell a local station he was “leaning” toward President Obama.
- The tallies are in, and while the Republicans’ books are in the black after their national convention in Tampa, Fla., the DemocratIc National Convention ended with more than $8 million in debt.
- The Root’s Monroe Anderson looks at the politics of disrespect.
- Some photos of women dressed up as binders in Ohio, courtest of Talking Points Memo.
- The New York Post reports Anna Wintour was denied a front-row seat at the debate this week.
- Here’s a cartoon on the flaw in statements such as “No president has been re-elected under these circumstances.”
FEC reports show Linda McMahon has loaned her campaign $27m this cycle. No wonder CT SEN is a close race #HotlineSort
— Reid Wilson (@HotlineReid) October 19, 2012
Bruce “I came here today because I care about health care…women’s rights..” twitter.com/stefcutter/sta…
— Stephanie Cutter (@stefcutter) October 18, 2012
— Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) October 18, 2012
Not sure if this unauthorized twitter account is My Mom’s attempt to get me married by 2016 or year I join Hillary’s staff @corybooker2016
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) October 18, 2012
— Sophie Fry (@S0phieFry) October 18, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
- A federal appeals court in New York on Thursday struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Marie Claire that she will be “cheering” for the first female president but doesn’t want to be her.
- In Missouri, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill now has an enormous lead in her re-election bid against GOP Rep. Todd Akin.
- Virginia’s state health commissioner, who was appointed by former governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine, resigned Thursday because of tightened regulations for abortion clinics under Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration.
- Kaine’s campaign releases a video starring former state Republican lawmakers who say they back him.
- National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar on the House landscape.
- The Scranton Times Tribune takes a look at the race for Senate in Pennsylvania in light of new presidential election polls.
- A political attack ad in Georgia takes a quote about a state representative’s ability to, well, relieve himself, out of context.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s turn in the surrogate spotlight has him chagrined that it may grow speculation of a 2016 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. He also charges that the media chooses to speculate on politics instead of reporting on more complicated policy issues, the New York Daily News reports.
- There was a “suspicious phone call” on Thursday that caused the evacuation of Sidwell Friends, the school that Malia and Sasha Obama attend.
- It’s true. Four members of NewsHour’s Team Politics (Allie Morris, Alex Bruns, Katelyn Polantz and Christina) sang the Spice Girls at a charity karaoke contest Thursday. Video may even exist. The group took home Funniest Performance and Christina won Best Act for Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.”
Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
- President Obama attends a rally in Fairfax, Va., at 11:45 a.m.
- Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan attend a rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., at 8:30 p.m. Ryan also holds a roundtable in Tampa at 1:10 p.m.
- Vice President Biden campaigns in Florida with an event in Sun City Center at 11:45 a.m. and another in Fort Pierce at 3:30 p.m.
- Michelle Obama campaigns in Wisconsin with an event in Racine at 2 p.m. and another in Wausau at 5:15 p.m.
- Ann Romney makes two stops in Jacksonville, Fla., starting with a visit to a learning center at 4:15 p.m. and dropping by a campaign office at 5:10 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.