Updated 2:12 p.m. - President Barack Obama's campaign launched a pair of ads in Michigan defending the 2009 auto bailout, ostensibly in response to a pro-Romney super PAC airing ads in the Wolverine State.
The president's campaign released an upbeat spot, "What He Said," touting the bailout of GM and Chrysler, and "Cynical," an ad meant to combat the misleading spots run by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that stoked fears that Jeep would move some of its production to China, at the expense of U.S. jobs.
The Obama campaign has bought airtime in Ohio specifically to run these states in the Buckeye State, along with Michigan. But don't be so quick to assume that putting these ads on Detroit television is all about putting Michigan in play.
As with Detroit's newspapers, several of the Motor City's networks bleed into northwest Ohio and television packages in Toledo. That's prime battleground turf in Ohio -- and, it's the home of a major Jeep production plant, a central part of the recent squabbling on autos.
The Romney campaign said in response: "President Obama can’t run from the facts. As a result of his handling of the auto bailout, American taxpayers stand to lose $25 billion and GM and Chrysler are expanding their production overseas. Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney has a comprehensive plan to revive manufacturing, create millions of good-paying jobs, and deliver real change and a real recovery."
The pre-election battle for perceived momentum extended Wednesday into a public dispute over whether President Barack Obama or Republican nominee Mitt Romney could claim an advantage with prized independent voters.
As a new series of battleground state polls emerged this morning -- showing Romney leading Obama among likely voters who identify as independents by 5 points in Florida, 6 points in Ohio and a whopping 21 points in Virginia -- Republicans argued the president's political arithmetic wasn't as sound as the Obama team contends.
At a campaign event in Tampa Bay, Florida, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney promotes a five-point plan for growing the economy.
Republicans on Wednesday morning circulated emails pointing out Obama's disadvantage among independents to call into question Obama's strength in several battleground states.
"We think that across the battleground state, we have a lead among independent voters," Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said on a conference call Wednesday with reporters in response. But, he added: "That's not true across every battleground state."
The Obama strategist did say, though, that the campaign believes the president is winning enough of the share of the independent vote to emerge victorious on Nov. 6.
What follows is a look at the breakdown of the independent vote in 2004 and 2008 exit polls in arguably the three biggest battleground states, along with the share of the electorate made up by self-described independent voters. Sometimes the winner of these state won the independent and sometimes they didn’t.
2004 (independents were 25 percent of the electorate)
Kerry 59, Bush 40
2008 (30 percent of electorate)
Obama 52, McCain 44
Quinnipiac/CBS/NYT (independents 30 percent of sample, conducted 10/23-28)
Romney 49, Obama 43
CNN/ORC (33 percent of sample, conducted 10/23-25)
Obama 49, Romney 44)
2004 (23 percent of electorate)
Kerry 57, Bush 41
2008 (29 percent of electorate)
Obama 52, McCain 45
Quinnipiac/CBS/NYT (29 percent of sample, conducted 10/23-28)
Romney 49, Obama 44
CNN/ORC (35 percent of sample, conducted 10/25-28)
Obama 49, Romney 44
2004 (26 percent of electorate)
Bush 54, Kerry 44
2008 (27 percent of electorate)
Obama 49, McCain 48
Quinnipiac/CBS/NYT (35 percent of sample, conducted 10/23-28)
Romney 57, Obama 36
Washington Post (35 percent of sample, conducted 10/22-26)
COLUMBUS, OH – Just two years onto the job, Ohio’s junior senator, Rob Portman, might just be the key to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s hopes of winning the Buckeye State for next week, and the freshman senator is under tremendous pressure to deliver.
A former frontrunner to round out Romney’s ticket, Portman has become one of the most prominent and effective surrogates for the GOP candidate, having also assumed a larger role in the Romney campaign by way of playing President Barack Obama in practice debate sessions.
Republican Senator from Ohio Rob Portman explains why the state is giving Mitt Romney trouble during this election cycle. Portman says in the past few weeks, however, the momentum has shifted.
More than that, Portman has been intimately involved in building the kind of organization upon which Romney will need to lean if he has hopes of winning Ohio, without which the former Massachusetts governor’s path to 270 electoral votes would become dicier.
It was a Saturday afternoon in late July when Portman stood in front of a small group of reporters to participate in a routine he had become quite familiar with: deflect differently-worded questions about his chances of becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee.
Moments before, he had been praising volunteers at Romney's Ohio headquarters for reaching their 1 millionth voter. Portman, who chairs Romney's efforts in the state, told the room full of supporters that grassroots campaigning would make the difference in this election and that Ohio would likely determine the next president. That's why, when he stepped in front of cameras, the questions were all about the pressure he would feel to secure Ohio – which twice went for George W. Bush, but voted for Obama in 2008 – back toward Republicans.
"I already feel the pressure," he finally confided in a moment of candor before diving into a boiler plate answer about the enthusiasm he's seeing in the state.
Al Behrman / AP
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney shakes hands with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, after Portman introduced Romney at a campaign stop at Jet Machine, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in Cincinnati.
Portman was the subject of so much “veepstakes” speculation precisely because of the possibility that he could help deliver his home state for the Republican ticket.
Even though Romney tapped Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan instead, Portman said his burden is no less heavy. When asked how much pressure he feels now with polls showing a dead heat just days before the election, Portman simply said, “A lot.”
The freshman senator is deeply involved in Romney’s Ohio operation, a commitment that extends far beyond his public appearances at rallies with the former Massachusetts governor. Portman has an intense interest in grassroots campaigning and checks in with Buckeye State staff multiple times each day with questions about how many door knocks and phone calls have been made. It will make the difference, he feels, in a close race.
The pressure to deliver Ohio, Portman says, comes not only from the fact that a Republican winning the presidency is almost certainly dependent on winning this state, but also from his concern that a second term for Obama will mean four more years of gridlock in Congress.
If Republicans pull off a victory here, Romney staff will point to Portman as a big reason why. He’ll become more than the man who helped the GOP nominee win a debate. He’ll become the man who helped Romney win Ohio – and quite possibly the presidency.
Romney advisers are quick to cite Portman’s thorough knowledge of the state, but Ohio Republicans point to the personal relationships he’s built over the years as invaluable. Those relationships – with county chairs or part-time volunteers – can motivate supporters to make phone calls and knock doors simply as a favor to their down-to-earth senator.
Portman solidified many of those relationships during his 2010 Senate campaign, and he is leaning on those supporters to do now for Romney what they did for him in 2010. (Many of those relationships were even forged well before 2010, during Portman’s time as a congressman and during his involvement with the Bush campaigns in the state.)
"We're using our folks…We're telling them, ‘Look, this is important to me,’ and most of them jumped in on the primary and all of them are helping now,” said Portman. “So we've kept our network up from our campaign two years ago and we know these people are reliable, we know they're really effective campaigners.”
Bob Paduchik, who ran Portman’s campaign two years ago, said much of the senator’s electoral success can be attributed to his understanding of the importance of retail politics. While Portman remains largely unknown as a national political figure, many of those who are running call centers are familiar with him on a personal level because of his commitment to the ground game.
Portman’s value extends to campaign surrogacy, too. The Ohio senator is keenly aware of Romney’s vulnerability on the 2009 auto industry bailout in a state where the industry accounts for an estimated one in eight jobs. In recent days, Portman has stepped forward to defend Romney on the topic of the bailout, an issue which has re-emerged in the closing days of the campaign.
"It's the policies that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to put in place that are going to be good for the auto industry that are going to make it strong," Portman said at a rally in Avon Lake, Ohio on Monday. "To make sure that it stays in Ohio."
But Portman’s focus on the campaign’s nuts-and-bolts might be his greatest asset, and there are signs that his emphasis is paying dividends. Romney volunteers in Ohio have knocked on more than 2 million doors this election cycle, a number they tout as one of the highest among the swing states.
"They all know Rob. He's brought them coffee and donuts, he's brought them pizza," said Paduchik. “He’s like the general that gets out among the troops, it really inspires people."
Just last week Portman did exactly that during four stops to Victory Centers throughout Northeast Ohio. In Avon Lake, OH, he profusely apologized for not having enough donuts for the larger than expected crowd.
“I have found in my own campaigns that when you lose sight of the grassroots, you tend to lose,” he said while traveling between stops.
That emphasis on the ground game is also why Portman has been in such constant contact with Romney’s Ohio State Director, Scott Jennings.
“He's like an idea factory of how to get more volunteers into a victory center or how to get an issue in front of the press in a particular county,” said Jennings. “He constantly has strategic thinking that is invaluable.”
Portman’s role has led to an uncommon situation in which not being selected as VP has freed Portman up to help the nominee in other ways that may prove more beneficial.
“No matter what happened, I was going to pour my heart into this,” he said, dismissing the notion.
Win, lose or draw, the consensus from Romney’s high command is that they it will be a much closer battle because the state’s Republican senator has been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Romney throughout the campaign.
“What [Portman] has is a passion for Ohio. It's hard to quantify just how valuable that is to us,” said senior Romney adviser Kevin Madden. “He's more than just a good host through Ohio- he's a fierce advocate for Ohio.”
ONTARIO, OH — Arizona Sen. John McCain delivered a stinging rebuke of President Barack Obama's handling of the terrorist attack on an American consulate in Libya, saying the commander in chief is either "engaged in a massive cover-up" or is "grossly incompetent."
The 2008 GOP presidential nominee focused his remarks on the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Libya rather than Hurricane Sandy at an event in battleground Ohio that had been billed as a "storm relief and volunteer appreciation" event.
"This president is either engaged in a massive cover-up deceiving the American people or he is so grossly incompetent that he is not qualified to be the commander in chief of our armed forces. It's either one of them," McCain told Romney volunteers gathered here at a Victory Center.
Though the mention of the attacks has faded from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's stump speech, it remains a hot button for conservatives who feel the death of four Americans was a result of negligence on the part of the White House. Democrats have condemned the accusations as an attempt by the right to politicize the tragedy, a notion McCain dismissed when speaking to reporters.
"I think it's interesting to note that when there was a success, such as when, thank God, we were able to get bin Laden, the administration poured out every single detail, even details that put American lives in danger," McCain said. He later added: "It is my obligation to the men and women who are serving to get the full story out to these four brave Americans have families. They deserve to know why their sons were sacrificed in the needless fashion."
As McCain motivated volunteers at Romney's Ohio headquarters, the GOP nominee held a relief event to collect supplies for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Obama cancelled campaign events on Tuesday, and Romney scratched an earlier event in this state, a move McCain called "appropriate."
The 2008 presidential candidate said he believes the storm "froze everything in place while this terrible tragedy fixated the attention of the American people. Now i think they're ready to get back into this campaign."
Also joining McCain was Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who encouraged Ohioans to bring supplies to Victory Centers throughout the state. They are two of many surrogates who will be hitting the Buckeye State between now and Election Day. The focus now is turning out the base and getting as many early votes as possible before Nov. 6.
Asked to compare conservative enthusiasm now to at this point four years ago, McCain said, "I hate to admit it but it's much stronger than in 2008. That's just a fact."
Updated 4 p.m. ET — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign doubled down on its assertion about auto industry jobs moving to China with a new radio ad in northwest Ohio.
A Romney for president ad airing on Toledo, Ohio's classic rock station, WXKR, strongly insinuates that President Barack Obama's 2009 bailout of the auto industry has led to jobs shifting from the United States to China.
The narrator in the ad says:
Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry. But for who? Ohio or China? Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs, but they are planning to double the number of cars built in China which means 15,000 more jobs for China. And now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps is starting to build cars in, you guessed it, China. What happened to the promises made to autoworkers in Toledo and throughout Ohio? The same hard-working men and women who were told that Obama’s auto bailout would help them. Mitt Romney grew up in the auto industry. Maybe that’s why the Detroit News endorsed him saying ‘Romney understands the industry and will shield it from regulators who never tire of churning out new layers of mandates. Mitt Romney – he’ll stand up for the auto industry. In Ohio, not China.
The radio spot follows a TV controversial ad playing to fears that Chrysler had plans to move production of Jeeps from the U.S. to China. Romney and other Republicans had previously given voice to errant reports suggesting such a shift, though those original reports referred only to capacity for production of vehicles in China for sale in China.
The TV ad drew extensive coverage in the media for its suggestion that Jeep was moving jobs to China at the expense of positions in the United States. Toledo, a prime swing territory in the battleground state of Ohio, is home to a major Jeep production facility.
The radio spot goes a step further in stoking fears that U.S. production of Jeeps would be moved offshore to China.
As First Read wrote on Monday, this series of ads — running during the closing days of the campaign — mark an effort by Romney to re-frame his opposition to the auto industry bailout and defend himself from Obama's attacks on the issue.
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks to supporters calling for donations during a storm relief campaign event to help people who suffered from hurricane Sandy, in Kettering, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 2012.
KETTERING, OH — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney collected donated supplies for hurricane victims on the East Coast on Tuesday, while urging supporters to give money to the Red Cross at a hastily arranged "relief event" in Ohio.
"Thank you for your help and your generosity," Romney told supporters, as he stood on a table surrounded by donated goods, at the location of a planned campaign rally this morning. "If you have a little extra, if you have more canned goods, bring them along to our victory centers that are open. But also if you can write a check to American Red Cross that's welcome as well. We're looking for all the help we can get for all the families in need."
Romney had been scheduled to hold a full-fledged campaign rally in this same building until late yesterday, when the campaign said it was scrapping Romney's political calendar as Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast. Monday night, the campaign announced this morning's event was back on, but the focus would be storm relief — with Romney making no formal remarks, and no political agenda attached.
Attendees were asked by the campaign to bring donations of non-perishable goods, which are to be trucked to a Red Cross office in Sewell, NJ — or to give to the red cross directly.
Gov. Mitt Romney attended a storm relief event in Ohio, urging supporters to "make the difference in the life of one or two people" by donating goods to benefit the victims of Superstorm Sandy.
Romney's remarks were indeed without a political focus, with no direct mention of the election now just one week away, or of President Barack Obama or any specific campaign issue. After speaking and packing boxes, Romney and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman helped load the donated supplies into a truck for shipment, ignoring questions about whether he planned to tour storm damaged areas, and on his views of the future of FEMA.
Despite effort to the contrary, no political event can be entirely apolitical in late October of an election year, and some trappings of a rally remained here. Romney's long biographical video played once, well before Romney arrived at the venue, and outside the arena vendors sold buttons and hats to attendees as they left.
Mandy Hess, an administrative assistant at a medical office in Kettering who attended the event with her teenage son, said she wasn't bothered by the hint of politics mixed in with the relief effort.
"It's letting you know who he is as a person and what his roots are, and that people and family are what's important to him so I think that ties into the relief effort," Hess said.
The GOP nominee himself kept his focus on the storm victims, and tried to strike an uplifting tone, telling supporters that their effort, however small in the grand scheme of things, would matter.
"I know that one of the things I've learned in life is you make the difference you can," Romney said. "And you can't always solve all the problems yourself, but you can make the difference in the life of one or two people as a result of one or two people making an effort."
The campaign resumes in full force Wednesday, with Romney planning three rallies in Florida, while his vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan hits the trail in Wisconsin.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Pushing back hard at a new ad by political opponents, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton accused the Mitt Romney campaign Monday of saying "absolutely anything to win" and engaging in an attack on President Obama's auto industry record that is "the biggest load of bull in the world."
Speaking at a campaign rally in Ohio with former President Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden takes on what he sees as "patently false assertions" found in a Romney auto ad.
The tough rhetoric comes after the Romney campaign launched an ad in Ohio claiming that ""Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians, who are going to build Jeeps in China."
Speaking to over 4,000 supporters in Youngstown, Clinton flatly decried that as "bull."
"It turns out, Jeep is reopening in China because they've made so much money here, they can afford to do it and they are going on with their plans here," he said. "They put out a statement today saying it was the biggest load of bull in the world that they would ever consider shutting down their American operations. They are roaring in America, thanks to people like the people of Ohio."
Biden, whose stump speech was even more littered with folksy appeals than usual as he shared the stage with Clinton, accused Romney of "pirouettes more than a ballerina" on his auto industry stances and called the ad "an absolutely patently false assertion."
Mitt Romney campaigns in the critical battleground state of Ohio as a poll shows a dead heat between the governor and President Obama. Watch the entire speech.
"Ladies and gentlemen, have they no shame!?" he added. "I mean, what? Romney will say anything, absolutely anything to win, it seems."
Obama's record on the auto industry bailout is largely credited for buoying his poll numbers in swing state Ohio, a firewall Romney is eager to burn through.
Biden on Monday also accused Romney of proposing to "liquidate" the auto industry, a claim that the GOP nominee vigorously contests.
“Today, Vice President Biden falsely claimed that Mitt Romney wanted to ‘liquidate’ the auto industry, and was dishonest about the administration’s own record," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. "Mitt Romney’s support for loan guarantees and warranties for the U.S. auto industry is clear. The Obama campaign is less concerned with engaging in a meaningful conversation about his failed policies and more concerned with arguing against facts about their record they dislike."
As Ohio has become almost a must-win state for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, he has sought to blur distinctions between himself and President Barack Obama on the issue of the 2009 auto bailouts.
A new TV ad playing to erroneous fears that Jeep might move its manufacturing from Ohio to China caps a prolonged effort by Romney to recast his opposition to Obama's actions to prop up an industry that employs one in eight of Ohio's voters.
Romney has sought to reframe his criticism of Obama's handling of the 2009 rescue of General Motors and Chrysler in an effort to combat the president's usage of the bailout to court swing voters in the Buckeye State. The GOP nominee has argued it was Obama who took the companies bankrupt, and has argued that he would be a better president for beleaguered autoworkers.
Mitt Romney campaigns in the critical battleground state of Ohio as a poll shows a dead heat between the governor and President Obama. Watch the entire speech.
And a new television ad airing in Toledo and Youngstown, Ohio, the Romney campaign raises the specter of production of Jeeps moving from the U.S. to China, an assertion which Jeep's Italian parent company has said is blatantly false.
The GOP candidate's new tack represents an effort to play offense on the issue of auto bailouts in the final eight days of the campaign. Obama has used Romney's opposition to the 2008-09 rescue to great effect in Ohio and other Midwestern states, where the former Massachusetts governor must perform well if he's to have any hope of being elected president.
"You saw in the debates that Barack Obama said a few things that were, as he said, whoppers," Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said at a Romney rally on Monday in Cleveland. "He turned to Mitt Romney and said, 'You wanted to take those companies through bankruptcy and not provide them any federal aid.' Let me tell you, I supported a rescue package for the autos, but what Barack Obama said was simply not true. And by the way, it was Barack Obama who took GM and Chrysler through bankruptcy."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich tells David Gregory that the job creators deserve the credit for helping raise Ohio's economic growth.
Ohio's Republican governor, John Kasich, also suggested Sunday on "Meet the Press" that the bailout hadn't been as great as Obama might suggest.
"We are thrilled that we have a strong auto industry," he argued, "but it doesn't account for the growth of 112,000 jobs in our state."
But it was the Jeep ad in particular that marked the culmination of an effort by Romney over the past 18 months to reframe the auto debate on friendlier terms.
"Obama took GM and Chrylser into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians, who are going to build Jeeps in China," the narrator of the ad says as a clip of a disputed Bloomberg News report appears onscreen, saying Chrysler "plans to return Jeep output to China."
The original Bloomberg report became fodder for conservatives, including Romney, who said last week in Ohio that Jeep "is thinking of moving all production to China." But Jeep's ownership has said it isn't planning to move any U.S. production to China; rather, the automaker is establishing new capacity in China to build vehicles that will be sold in China.
But the ad plays to those ill-founded fears. A fair viewing of the ad might leave that impression with a voter, though the language in the ad is so narrowly tailored that it can't be directly disputed.
That could make a difference in a battleground territory like northwest Ohio, the home to a major Jeep plant that employs thousands of Toledoans and almost left the area in the late 1990s until the city stepped forward to offer hundreds of millions in tax credits.
The Obama campaign responded with a TV ad of its own, accusing the GOP nominee of being "wrong then" and "dishonest now."
Romney, whose father was an auto executive before becoming governor of Michigan, penned an op-ed shortly after the 2008 election, infamously titled, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." The piece for the New York Times opposed the loans for the companies that then-outgoing President George W. Bush and some Republicans (including Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who would become Romney's vice presidential nominee) had favored, calling instead for a managed bankruptcy for GM and Chrysler with government support for the companies' warranties and for post-bankruptcy financing offered by private lenders.
Obama eventually embarked upon a different course. His administration negotiated a managed bankruptcy with bondholders, autoworkers' unions and the companies' leadership, while occasionally injecting the companies with capital drawn from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in order to stave off a more drastic bankruptcy, and possible liquidation.
Democrats contend that no private financing was available to the auto companies during the bailout, and the government was the only actor equipped to provide the companies with a lifeline while simultaneously negotiating their bankruptcy, from which GM and Chrysler immediately emerged.
The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd reports with the latest.
The bailout was unpopular at the time, derided by Republicans as a favor for unions, since autoworkers' pensions — in conservatives' view — were favored over dealers and other secured bondholders. Indeed, the Indiana State Police Pension Fund sued to prevent the deal from going forward, but it was rejected by the Supreme Court.
GM and Chrysler both rebounded in the months following the bailout to improve sales and profits, allowing the companies to pay off their loans from the government more quickly than expected. Their success has been heralded ever since by Democrats as a gutsy and successful example of Obama's leadership at the height of the Great Recession.
And since that time, Romney has — at alternating moments — both embraced and rejected central elements of Obama's decision making.
The Republican nominee has argued that it was his original idea, rather than Obama's, to put the auto companies through bankruptcy, though Romney's proposed process would have differed immensely. (Romney's plan wouldn't have necessarily forced GM and Chrysler into liquidation, nor was that what the governor had advocated — contrary to the president's suggestion during this month's debate.)
Romney was most pointedly forced to confront his opposition to the bailout during the Michigan and Ohio primaries in late February and early March. The Michigan native repeatedly called himself a "car guy" while campaigning near the Motor City, and appeared driving a Chrysler in a TV ad.
And Romney took to the editorial page of the Detroit News, where he accused Obama of "crony capitalism" in the bailout and said the companies would have been better off without Obama's intervention.
"Instead of doing the right thing and standing up to union bosses, Obama rewarded them," Romney wrote.
As with a number of other issues since the primary, Romney, the Republican standard-bearer, has tried to soften the edges of some of his harder-charging rhetoric during the primaries.
"I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks," Romney said at the third and final debate a week ago against Obama.
The GOP nominee's claim prompted the president to accuse Romney of trying to "airbrush history."
Speaking Monday in Youngstown, Ohio, former President Bill Clinton got in on the action. He said Chrysler "put out a statement sayin' it was the biggest load of bull in the world" in reference of the Jeep-to-China rumors.
"He ties himself in more knots than a Boy Scout does in a knot-tying contest," Clinton said of Romney.
AVON LAKE, OH — Hurricane Sandy's impact spread from the East Coast to Ohio this morning, where Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign announced it was scrapping planned events across the Midwest, while the candidate himself called upon supporters to donate to relief agencies and send prayers to those in the storm's path.
"On the Eastern Coast of our nation, a lot of people are enduring some very difficult times. Our hearts and our prayers go to them as we think about how tough it's going to be there," Romney told an audience of some 2,500 supporters in a high school gym this morning. "I'd like to ask those of you that are here today to think about making a contribution to the Red Cross or another relief agency, to be of help if you can in any way you can imagine to help those who are in harm's way."
Romney, whose campaign has suspended fundraising appeals in the afflicted states, also asked his supporters to donate to relief organizations, either through the campaign's infrastructure, or on their own.
"I know our victory centers are making collections of items and cash that we can send along to the Red Cross," Romney said, echoing an email sent by his campaign this morning. "But whether you come to our victory center or just do it with your email, your internet account, do your very best to help."
Mitt Romney campaigns in the critical battleground state of Ohio as a poll shows a dead heat between the governor and President Obama. Watch the entire speech.
"We're counting on Ohio," Romney continued. "I know the people of the Atlantic Coast are counting on Ohio and the rest of our states, but I also think the people of the entire nation are counting on Ohio because my guess is, my guess is if Ohio votes me in as President, I'll be the next president of the United States."
Romney's remarks on the storm came at the end of his stump speech here this morning, and are indicative of the delicate balance the GOP challenger must maintain between keeping up a campaign predicated in no small part on criticizing the record of President Barack Obama, and not looking opportunistic or unconcerned about the impact of a potentially devastating weather event affecting a large portion of the country.
Absent from Romney's remarks this morning was his now traditional attack on Obama for running a "small" campaign, focusing instead primarily on his own day-one agenda and five-point plan, along with a promise to work across the aisle should he be elected.
"I am going to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats. I’m going to find common ground. We have to find a way to work with people in the opposition party," Romney said. "Democrats love America. Republicans love America. We can come together."
As Romney spoke, his campaign announced it was canceling a planned event tonight in Wisconsin, and tomorrow's scheduled events in Ohio and Iowa. The campaign also cancelled events in Florida for Romney's running mate Paul Ryan, and said the campaign schedule remains in flux.
Although the candidates' schedules were thrown off by the storm, neither campaign wanted to focus on politics. In a briefing at the White House Monday, President Obama said he's not worried about what impact Sandy could have on the election. And in Ohio, Mitt Romney emphasized the need for America to come together during times of difficulty. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.
Updated 12:58 p.m. ET — President Barack Obama urged Americans to heed local officials' warnings about Hurricane Sandy on Monday as his re-election said it would determine the president's campaign schedule on a "day-to-day basis."
The president appeared at the White House and said he was "confident" states and local governments were prepared to weather the megastorm barreling toward the East Coast of the United States, though he cautioned that it could take time to restore transportation and electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Obama said Sandy would be "a slow-moving storm through a wide swath of the country."
"We're confident that the assets are pre-positioned for an effective response in the aftermath of this storm," he added.
In an NBC News special report, President Obama stresses the importance of abiding by evacuation orders from local officials, warning that Sandy is a "serious storm" that could have "fatal consequences" if people don't act accordingly.
The hurricane forced Obama to cut short a trip to Florida and canceled events scheduled for Tuesday. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney followed suit, as he and running mate Paul Ryan canceled most of their events on Monday afternoon and Tuesday.
The storm reshuffled the race for the presidency, just eight days before voters head to the polls. Surrogates for Obama — like former President Bill Clinton — stepped forward in place of the president at campaign events as Obama remained in Washington to handle the storm. In addition to canceling stops in Colorado and Virginia, the White House said Monday that Obama would no longer travel to Wisconsin tomorrow, either. The next campaign events on Obama's schedule are on Wednesday, in Ohio.
Romney canceled an afternoon event in Wisconsin and Ryan would no longer appear in Florida.
The Washington Post's Dan Balz, The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page, former Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, and Republican ad-maker Kim Alfano join The Daily Rundown to talk about President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's campaign strategy over the next few days as Hurricane Sandy touches down.
"Governor Romney believes this is a time for the nation and its leaders to come together to focus on those Americans who are in harms way," said Gail Gitcho, Romney's communications director. "We will provide additional details regarding Governor Romney's and Congressman Ryan's schedule when they are available."
Obama met in the White House situation room in order to be “updated on the latest forecast for Hurricane Sandy and the extensive federal effort underway to support the state and local response to this historic storm," according to press secretary Jay Carney. Multiple cabinet secretaries, many members of the president’s White House staff and the heads of FEMA and the National Hurricane Center will participate in this meeting.
But the president's official duties put his campaign schedule in flux, just as the presidential campaign enters its final phase.
"The president's focus is on the storm and governing the country and making sure our people are safe," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said on a conference call with reporters. He said the president's campaign would take scheduling on a day-by-day basis.
"We're obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time, but that's obviously how it has to be, and we'll try to make it up on the back end," added David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign.
There are eight days before election day, but there may be even fewer campaign days left as Hurricane Sandy causes problems with campaign travel. NBC's Chuck Todd reports on the changes to both candidates' plans.
Speaking Monday afternoon at the White House, the president said he wasn't concerned about the potential impact of the storm on voting.
"I am not worried at this point on the impact on the election," he said. "I'm worried about the impact on families and our first responders."
Clinton took Obama's place at a rally this morning in Wisconsin and was set to join Vice President Joe Biden in Ohio later this afternoon.
Romney pushed forward with his campaign schedule on Monday, which took him to Ohio early in the day and to Wisconsin later in the day. The Republican's campaign put a hold on its fundraising pitches to voters in states in Hurricane Sandy's path, and urged supporters to remove lawn signs for fear that they might become debris.
Romney campaign offices also collected donations to the Red Cross, items which its bus was supposed to deliver to storm victims.
"Sandy is another devastating hurricane by all accounts, and a lot of people are going to be facing some real tough times as a result of Sandy's fury. And so if you have the capacity to make a donation to the American Red Cross, you can go online and do that," the former Massachusetts governor told an overflow crowd in Avon Lake, Ohio. "If there are other ways that you can help, please take advantage of them because there will be a lot of people that are going to be looking for help and the people in Ohio have big hearts, so we're expecting you to follow through and help out."
Updated at 9:16 p.m. ET: An impending hurricane injected a new degree of uncertainty into the 2012 presidential campaign, impacting candidates' schedules and early voting opportunities just nine days before Election Day.
President Barack Obama called the storm "serious and big" following a briefing at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA), warning residents in the storm's path "to take this very seriously."
In the campaigns' waning days, President Barack Obama is forced to juggle dual responsibilities – the incoming storm and his push to encourage early voting. Several key swing states are in the storm's path. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.
The president also canceled campaign trips to Virginia and Colorado scheduled for early this week, the last full week of campaigning this election, in order to monitor Hurricane Sandy. The storm's impending landfall was poised to add a new variable to a presidential contest that has tightened considerably in its closing days, along with scores of downballot races up and down the East Coast.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney canceled planned stops in Virginia — one of the most hotly-contested battleground states this fall — on Sunday and headed to Ohio instead.
Obama spent Sunday in Washington, where he traveled to FEMA headquarters following church services early this afternoon. The administration authorized several emergency declarations for states sitting in Sandy's path, and Obama convened a conference call with administration officials and governors in the storm's path to receive an update on preparations.
The storm put some of Obama's campaigning on hold, as he canceled a northern Virginia event for that afternoon, along with an event in Colorado Springs on Tuesday. Obama was still set, though, to travel to Youngtown, Ohio on Monday morning. The president appears — for now — intent upon returning to the campaign trail on Tuesday evening in Green Bay, Wis. His campaign also advised on Sunday afternoon that two stops on Wednesday in Ohio would go forward.
President Barack Obama addresses the nation on Hurricane Sandy as the storm prepares to hit the East Coast.
The storm might have rearranged Romney's own campaign itinerary, though it's unclear whether the GOP presidential hopeful will be able to return to Virginia soon. Romney didn't address the storm in his remarks in Celine, Ohio, but his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, urged voters in the Buckeye State to keep East Coasters in their thoughts and prayers.
Nonetheless, the hurricane could prove to be the proverbial "October Surprise" of this campaign as it upended other elements of the election well before it had even made landfall.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) canceled early voting in his state for Monday, a decision other east coast governors could mirror. That could have an especially pronounced impact on a state like Virginia, a battleground state in the presidential election and home to a competitive Senate race.
Late Sunday, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed an executive order to extend in-person voter registration in Connecticut to Thursday, Nov. 1. The deadline had originally been Tuesday.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, said on Sunday's TODAY show that he didn't worry about power outages or other complications from the storm diminishing voting in the state.
Virginia and its 13 critical electoral votes are in play, but now Hurricane Sandy threatens to throw the campaigns off course. Obama and Romney have canceled appearances there. NBC's Lester Holt reports.
"It's going to be, probably, seven days from the time the storm passes 'til Election Day," he said. "We've already taken precautions to move up polling places to a higher spot for restoration. The power companies are well aware of that. So I don't think it's going to interfere with voting."
But Democrats are counting on robust turnout — both through early voting and on Nov. 6 — to propel Obama to a second term. While Sandy's projected path is uncertain, its rain and wind could discourage voters in the key swing state of Ohio from voting early, a practice employed by both campaigns to bank votes ahead of Election Day.
"Obviously we want unfettered access to the polls, because we believe that the more people come out, the better we’re going to do,” David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama's re-election campaign, said Sunday on CNN. “And so, to the extent that it makes it harder, that’s a source of concern.”
The president himself downplayed worries about the storm's impact on voting.
"We don't anticipate that at this point but we're obviously going to have to take a look," he said in Washington following his FEMA briefing.
Ohio's Republican governor said Sunday that private polls show Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney beating President Barack Obama in the all-important battleground state of Ohio just as auto industry politics assume a dominant role in the closing days of the campaign.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) predicted outright that Romney would win Ohio on "Meet the Press" and, with it, the presidential election — a overall contest which Kasich said wouldn't be that close.
"Right now, I believe we're currently ahead. Internals show us currently ahead," he said, referring to the private polling candidates routinely conduct. "Honestly, I believe that Romney is going to carry Ohio."
The governor's show of confidence comes after a week in which Obama and Romney — along with their respective running mates — barnstormed the Buckeye State in hopes of securing the state's 18 electoral votes, which would greatly enhance either candidate's hopes of winning the presidential election.
A Cincinnati Enquirer/Ohio News poll released Sunday and conducted Oct. 18-23 showed the two candidates tied at 49 percent apiece among likely voters in the state. Two other public polls earlier in the week, by CNN/ORC and TIME magazine, showed Obama leading by a small margin.
Romney was set to spend Sunday touring the Buckeye State after canceling a series of stops in Virginia due to the impending Hurricane Sandy; Obama will make a quick trip to Youngstown on Monday before returning to Washington to monitor the hurricane. The president canceled planned stops in northern Virginia and Colorado in the first half of this week.
Both the president and Romney are battling to turn out their supporters to the polls and shake loose the few remaining undecided voters in a handful of swing states. The Romney campaign has claimed that momentum is on their side, a claim which the Obama campaign argues is a bluff.
The Romney campaign circulated on Sunday several newspaper endorsements — the Des Moines Register and the Cincinnati Enquirer among them — to argue that the Republican ticket had made inroads in crucial swing states. The Obama campaign responded in kind by sending reporters endorsement editorials from the Youngstown Vindicator and the Toledo Blade, both of which referenced the 2009 auto industry bailout as a point in Obama's favor.
The auto bailout — which Romney had opposed, memorably, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" — has assumed a central role in the closing days of the campaign, especially as the election plays out largely on a Midwestern, industrial and economically-battered playing field.
The Romney campaign also aired a new ad in Ohio touting an endorsement from the right-leaning Detroit News and iconic automan Lee Iacocca, while also making a controversial claim about productions of Jeeps in China.
"Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China," the ad says in reference to plans by the auto company to build a new production facility in China to sell vehicles in that country.
The ad is accurate but plays to misinformation that spread earlier this week — partly because Romney had previously voiced the claims — suggesting that Chrysler was planning to move production of all Jeeps to China. The automaker has strongly disputed those reports, though they could have an impact in battleground corners of Ohio like Toledo, a major hub for Jeep production in North America.
The governors of two other battleground states — John Hickenlooper (D) of Colorado and Scott Walker (R) of Wisconsin — relied on more traditional fare to make the case for and against their candidates.
"What are those deductions and tax credits he's going to get rid of?" Hickenlooper asked of Romney's tax reform plan, seizing on the former Massachusetts governor's refusal to specify which loopholes and deductions he would eliminate to finance his proposed tax cuts.
And Walker, whose contentious collective bargaining reforms sparked a standoff with his state legislature and a recall election which he won, argued that Romney has a track record of working in a bipartisan manner.
"He's proven that he can do it in a state like Massachusetts," Walker said.
But neither Walker nor Hickenlooper seemed as confident as Kasich, who predicted that the fate of Ohio's electoral votes — and the election — would be known early on election night.
"I'm not sure the election's going to be as close as what everybody is talking about today," he said.