By Justin Sink - 10/31/12 10:10 PM EDT
President Obama and Mitt Romney began their final campaign push on Wednesday, preparing to launch a last blitz of swing state visits and dispatching senior aides to make the case their candidate will win.
Polls show the race is virtually deadlocked with less than a week to go before Election Day, but that didn't stop both sides from arguing they have the upper hand.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina argued on a conference call with reporters that the Romney campaign "is trying to sell illusion and delusion" along with "fauxmentum" in the race, while the president had "the math" on his side.
Meanwhile, Romney political adviser Russ Schriefer looked to match the Obama team's confidence, saying the campaign saw the race as "exactly where we hoped we would be a week out."
He argued that Republican voter enthusiasm is greater than that of Democrats, that independents in pivotal swing states are breaking for Romney, and that the campaign will have an "excellent closing message" in the final days — all of which would propel the Republican presidential nominee over the top.
"Voters are looking for a change," Schriefer said. "They are not happy with the way things have been going for the past four years."
Meanwhile, both campaigns announced a flurry of final campaign stops.
Obama will crisscross the country this weekend, his campaign announced, making stops in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Virginia on Saturday. On Sunday he'll be in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Colorado.
All the states are considered crucial battlegrounds that could determine the victor next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Romney will be in New Hampshire and Colorado on Saturday.
His big tour will begin Friday in Ohio — a state no Republican has won the White House without. The GOP nominee will be joined by wife Ann, running mate Paul Ryan, Ryan's wife, Janna Ryan, and other top-name Republicans to begin a major campaign push. They plan to travel the country in groups to campaign in 11 states: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
He will hold his final campaign rally Monday night in Manchester, which is where he launched his presidential campaign.
Polls show Obama leads in most of the crucial swing states, although only by 1 or 2 points in some cases. Romney leads in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia — again, by tight margins.
Romney political director Rich Beeson predicted Republicans would win by double digits on Election Day in Colorado and Florida and "big" in Virginia, overwhelming the Obama campaign's early voting leads. He added that he got "a kick out of that we're even still talking about North Carolina," saying that Republicans would more than overcome the president's 2008 advantage in the state just in early voting.
Of course, the Obama campaign has maintained that it could easily lose all four of those states and still win, simply by holding on to Ohio, Nevada and Wisconsin.
And the Obama campaign highlighted a new poll from CBS News and The New York Times, released Wednesday, that gave the president a 5-point advantage in Ohio.
“There is growing recognition on the other side that Ohio is fading away," Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said.
But Romney aides argued that their candidate was also well positioned in the crucial swing state because the GOP nominee is winning with independent voters.
"The race comes down to independents," said Romney pollster Neil Newhouse. "We lead among independents."
The Romney campaign noted that in recent statewide elections in Ohio, the candidate who has carried independents has prevailed overall — and said Romney had led with independents in 20 out of the past 26 public polls of the state.
Asked about polling that showed independents shying toward Romney in the crucial battleground, Axelrod suggested it could be because some Republican voters were identifying themselves as independents in the surveys.
"I think, when you get to Election Day that people who are genuinely independent, I think, are going to break slightly our way in these battleground states," Axelrod said. "That’s the data that I’m looking at. That’s what I believe. Obviously, we’re going to do very, very well with Democrats, but we’re getting the break on independents as well and that’s why we’re competitive in all these states."
The campaigns also sparred about Republican efforts to "expand the map" with new ad buys in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota that just weeks ago were considered safely in the president's column.
Schriefer contended Romney was "in an excellent position to win" in the three states.
"Can we win all of them? Probably not," Schriefer said. "Can we win some of them? I think so."
Axelrod, for his part, said he was so confident in those states that he would shave his iconic mustache if the president lost there.
While their top political advisers traded verbal barbs, the candidates themselves remained mostly out of the political fray on Wednesday.
Obama toured storm damage from Hurricane Sandy with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Romney returned to the campaign trail in Florida, but he scrubbed his standard stump speech of any direct attacks on the president.
That looks set to change Thursday however, with the president set for a three-state swing through Wisconsin, Colorado, and Nevada and Romney poised for a trio of events in Nevada.
Asked if Romney would sharpen his attack on the president by Thursday, Schriefer hinted strongly that would be the case.
"I think that tomorrow we will be engaging in a campaign that would be the campaign that would be [expected] six days away from an election," Schriefer said. "I think we will be talking about the contrast between what President Obama hasn't done and what people believe we can't afford four more years like the last four years and what Gov. Romney would do."