Presidential politics reignited in the wake
of natural disaster Thursday, with the candidates beginning their
full-throttle closing arguments with new vigor on the same pocketbook
concerns that have dominated the campaign from the start.
President Barack Obama,
Republican rival Mitt Romney, their wives and running mates were
blitzing across the country in the busiest day of campaign events yet.
The six principals were hitting seven swing states left up for grabs
that will determine on Tuesday which man will occupy the White House for
the next four years.
After avoiding criticism of
Obama by name for a full day in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Romney
aides said Thursday it was game on. That was evident as Romney stood in
front of a semitrailer cab emblazoned with the logo of the Roanoke, Va.,
window and door factory hosting his first rally of the day.
Romney opened a new
criticism of Obama's suggestion in an interview earlier this week with
MSNBC that he would create a secretary of business. "We don't need a
secretary of business to understand business, we need a president who
understands business, and I do," he said. Romney's crowd seemed as
charged as he was, interrupting with frequent whoops of applause and
chants of, "Five more days!"
Obama also planned to focus
his closing arguments on the economy, focusing in the final days on
boosting middle-class security. The president's advisers insist his
three-day break from campaigning to focus on storm recovery had minimal
impact on his standing. If anything, it gave Obama a chance to offer the
type of comfort and command in a crisis that only a president can
Obama campaign spokeswoman
Jennifer Psaki said Obama would reprise many of the themes from his 2008
campaign and speak broadly about the choice facing voters.
Romney's aides concede that
the storm stalled his momentum to the finish line but insist that
internal polling shows they have leads in battleground states like
Virginia, Florida, Colorado and North Carolina. But their specific path
to 270 electoral votes is still unclear without Ohio or Wisconsin, where
aides did not offer the same measure of confidence on Thursday.
Romney is set to campaign in both states in the coming days.
Obama deputy campaign
manager Stephanie Cutter predicted victory in Ohio and Wisconsin and
argued during an appearance on "The Daily Rundown" on MSNBC that Obama
was tied or ahead in Florida polling and that they were counting on
victory there. She mentioned that Obama was visiting all the swing
states in the coming days - but notably absent from his schedule is a
stop in North Carolina, suggesting the president's campaign agrees with
Romney aides that it is a likely Republican victory.
The Democratic campaign is
seeking to make up for the time lost to Sandy with a heavy travel
itinerary in the coming days, including rallies Thursday in Wisconsin,
Nevada and Colorado. Before traveling to Wisconsin, Obama held a storm
briefing at the White House with Federal Emergency Management Agency
Administrator Craig Fugate and other administration officials, and the
White House said Obama would stay in touch with Fugate and local
officials affected by the storm throughout the day.
No one was hitting the
ground harder in the final days than former President Bill Clinton, who
acted as a surrogate campaigner-in-chief while Obama was off the trail
and had four stops scheduled Thursday in Wisconsin and Ohio. Clinton and
Obama planned to appear together along with singer Dave Matthews Friday
night in Bristow, Va.
Romney's attack on Obama's
secretary of business was coordinated with a new television
advertisement. The Romney campaign announced a new TV spot criticizing
Obama for suggesting the creation of a secretary of business. "His
solution to everything is to add another bureaucrat," the ad says, then
touts Romney's experience as a businessman as evidence that he would do a
better job of improving the economy.
The ad doesn't mention that
Obama floated the idea of the new post as a way to consolidate nine
agencies dealing with business concerns and eliminate bureaucracy. And
it also ignored a growing body of positive economic indicators that
continued to emerge Thursday - unemployment benefit claims down, worker
productivity up, auto sales rising, home builders increasing
construction, manufacturing expansion, gains in retail sales and
consumer confidence at the highest level since a year before Obama took
October's jobs figures, the last broad snapshot of the economy before the election, were scheduled to be released Friday.
The Obama campaign released
a new TV ad touting former Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent
endorsement. It will run in 10 states, including Minnesota.
Mitt Romney's campaign also
began quietly running a Spanish-language ad in Florida that tries to
tie Obama to notorious Latin American leaders. The ad, first reported by
The Miami Herald, is airing at least in the Miami area.
It shows a clip of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying that if he were American, "I'd
vote for Obama." The Chavez did say that in September, when he also
called Obama "a good guy." There's a similar clip featuring Cuban leader
Fidel Castro's niece Mariela, who has no official link to the Cuban
government. She's a noted advocate of gay rights and has praised Obama's
stand in support of same sex marriage.
The American Future Fund,
an Iowa-based independent group that backs Republican candidates,
announced Thursday it would spend $4 million on TV ads in Pennsylvania,
Michigan and Ohio to support Romney. One ad is a direct appeal to women
voters, while the other features excerpts from Romney's strong
performance in the first presidential debate.
AFF is the latest
Republican-leaning group to air commercials in Pennsylvania and
Michigan, two states Romney and his allies are hoping to make
competitive in the campaign's closing days. The Obama team has responded
with ads in the two states while campaign officials insist both are
strongly in the president's column.