November 05, 2012

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney launch final, frenzied campaigning drive

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on Sunday night began a frenzied final 24 hours of campaigning across the battleground states that will on Tuesday decide which man is to be the world's most powerful leader.
Each candidate started their final assault by targeting the state where the other began his quest for the White House.

The President descended on New Hampshire, where Mr Romney kick-started his campaign with a party primary win in January, while the Republican challenger made a closing move for Iowa, the state that propelled Mr Obama to victory four years ago.

After flying out of Andrews Air Force base for the last time before the vote that could evict him from the White House, Mr Obama urged voters to give him four more years to "finish what we started".

"Folks from New Hampshire are tough," he told 14,000 supporters on the frigid streets of Concord. "After all we've been through together, we can't give up now".

Some 1,200 miles to the west, Mitt Romney said that Mr Obama had squandered his chance. "My conviction that better days lie ahead is not based on promises, but a solid plan and an unshakeable faith in the American spirit," he told an enthusiastic crowd of 4,500 in Des Moines.
While the candidates are effectively tied in polls of the nationwide popular vote, Mr Obama retains an advantage in projections of the US electoral college due to his polling leads in a string of swing states such as New Hampshire and Iowa.

Despite his 1.5-point lead over Mr Romney in an average of New Hampshire polls, a survey yesterday that found the candidates tied at 47 per cent each sent waves of concern through the president's team.

He was again accompanied by former president Bill Clinton, his so-called "secretary of explaining stuff", who told the New Hampshire crowd that their state's four electoral votes may be crucial to tomorrow night's result.

"Folks, the hour is late and the time is short," said Mr Clinton, his voice hoarse from a marathon campaign schedule. "But on this beautiful day we can still make a difference in this election." Mr Clinton spoke fondly of his own happy record in a state whose motto of "live free or die" reflects a libertarian streak frequently at odds with some of Mr Obama's government programmes.

While Mr Clinton 20 years ago declared New Hampshire had made him "the comeback kid" after his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination looked set for disaster, Mr Obama suffered a shock defeat to the former president's wife, Hillary, in his own New Hampshire contest four years ago.

"The people of New Hampshire were good to me 'cos I just sorta talked to them," said Mr Clinton, inadvertently highlighting criticisms of Mr Obama for lacking his predecessor's warmth and charm.

Undecided voters said they longed for Mr Clinton's boom years. "I can't believe we're just two days away and really I am not certain how I'm going to vote," said Deb Dalton, 59. "I like Obama, I voted for him in 2008. But I'm as worried about the economy as anyone".

Mr Obama reiterated his warning that Mr Romney would return America to the economic policies of the George W. Bush administration, which drove the country into the financial crisis that prompted its worst recession since the Great Depression.

"New Hampshire after four years, you know me," said Mr Obama, claiming that Mr Romney was only concerned about helping the country's wealthiest. "You know that I will fight for you every single day I am in the White House".

In Iowa, focusing hard on the economic nitty-gritty and promise of "better pay-checks" and more jobs, Mr Romney predicted that America was "only two days away from a new beginning".

He slammed Mr Obama's failure to offer a concrete agenda for change when so many Americans were hurting financially, accusing him of prosecuting a a stultifying "liberal agenda" of punitive tax rises, Obamacare, Wall Street regulation and a war on oil and gas.

"If there's anyone who fears the America dream is fading away, or whether better jobs and better pay checks are a thing of the past, I have an unequivocal message: with the right leadership America is coming roaring back. We're Americans, we can do anything!"

Although Mr Romney has received the endorsement of all four of Iowa's main newspapers, he continues to trail in the state, with the final poll by the Des Moines Register putting Mr Obama 47-42 in front.

Mr Obama later embarked on a whistle-stop tour taking in Florida and Colorado – two swing states in which the Romney camp are most bullish – as well as Ohio, the crunch state likeliest to provide tomorrow night's "tipping point".

Mr Romney meanwhile hurried to a plane that would also take him to Ohio, before a rally in Morrisville, Pennsylvania – a state that Mr Obama has a 4.1 per cent lead according to the RealClearPolitics average, but which Romney campaign strategists say is now back 'in play'.

Ed Gillespie, a senior Romney adviser, said that, with two days left in the campaign, the "map has expanded" for the Republican candidate, with the campaign making new efforts to win in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota.

"When you look at where this map has gone, it reflects the change and the direction and the momentum toward Governor Romney," Mr Gillespie said on ABC's This Week.

"When you're the incumbent president of the United States and you are at 47 percent or 48 percent on your ballot two days before the election, you are in deep trouble," he added.

The Romney camp also combated Democrat assertions that their superior grassroots support network would ensure an Obama victory on Tuesday, with his political director Rich Beeson saying there was an "intensity factor" on the ground for Republicans.

"We see it when people are knocking on the doors, we see it when people are making the phone calls and again, it gets back to the simple fact that Governor Romney is out there talking about big things and big change, not about small things," Mr Beeson told Fox News Sunday.

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