By Amie Parnes - 08/23/12 04:27 PM EDT
The Obama campaign expects Mitt Romney to get a bump in the polls following next week’s Republican convention, but it argues the controversy surrounding Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin has hurt the GOP ticket severely.
Campaign aides exuded confidence at a background briefing with reporters and maintained President Obama is ahead in the race with Romney.
The controversy Akin caused has opened up a new line of attack for the president and his surrogates, the Obama campaign said.
“I think that Hurricane Todd has already borne down on Tampa and the damage has been done,” a senior campaign official said during the briefing Thursday. “It has highlighted what is a completely out of step, out of touch Republican Party when it comes to these issues, and I don't think they can put that genie back in the bottle even if they take Akin off the ticket.”
Akin on Sunday suggested pregnancies would not result from “legitimate rape,” leading most Republicans to call on him to drop out of his Senate race. Democrats have used Akin’s comments against Romney and Republican congressional candidates across the country.
Still, the Obama campaign aides acknowledged Romney is likely to get a “bump” coming out of the Republican National Convention, which the party has themed to call attention to Obama’s economic record.
The convention is also intended to re-introduce Romney to a national audience.
“Presumably they'll get some benefit from that,” the senior campaign aide.
New polling data released on Thursday suggest Romney is closing a gap with Obama in Florida and in Wisconsin, where Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), appears to be helping the GOP ticket.
In a Quinnipiac University-New York Times-CBS poll released Thursday, Obama held a 3-point lead on Romney in Florida and a 2-point lead in Wisconsin. Both of those margins had tightened since the last poll by those agencies. Obama maintained a more comfortable advantage in Ohio, another swing state.
Senior Obama campaign officials maintain that they are still up in the race going into the convention and that undecided voters “have an increasingly negative view” of Romney, as one aide put it.
“The thing that distinguishes this race isn’t how volatile it is but its how stable it is,” said one senior official. “The truth is that this race has been stable for months and months and months. And it continues to be going into these conventions.
They argued women's issues are a “central part of the debate” and that Obama is expected to continue to talk about the issues because they are ones “women and families care about.”
This story was updated at 2:41 p.m.