Romney, Obama make final dash to shore up states on election eve

President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney will spend their final day before the election stumping in battleground states crucial to each campaign’s electoral hopes.

Obama will focus on shoring up his Midwestern firewall of Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin, while Romney will swing through Florida, Virginia and Ohio before finishing his day in New Hampshire.

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The two will wrap up weeks of exhaustive barnstorming in what is a razor’s-edge election, with polls Sunday showing the candidates in a dead heat nationally and within striking distance of each other in multiple swing states.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Obama with a 1-point edge, at 48-47; an ABC News/Washington Post poll also put the president up 1, at 49-48. Conservative-leaning Rasmussen showed Obama and Romney tied, with 49 percent each.  

Romney’s stops in Florida and Virginia on Monday come just weeks after his campaign confidently predicted the states were locks for him.

But polls in both states now show tight races in contests that are must-wins for the GOP nominee — but alone aren’t enough for him to win the Electoral College.

In Virginia, two recent polls put Obama ahead, with a 1-point lead in a WeAskAmerica survey and a 2-point advantage in a CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll. In Florida, a Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Mason-Dixon poll put Romney up 6, while an NBC/WSJ/Marist poll pegged the president with a 2-point lead.

Obama’s focus on Monday will be on three key Midwestern states, which, if he sweeps, will likely keep him in the White House for four more years. Most recent polls show Obama with narrow but steady leads in Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin. 

Eleven of the dozen pollsters who have polled Ohio in the last 10 days have found Obama in the lead there, though many of those polls had the race within the margin of error.

A Sunday poll from the Columbus Dispatch, though, suggested the race was still a toss-up, with Obama up 50-48, just within the poll’s margin of error.

No Republican has captured the presidency without the Buckeye State, and Romney’s Ohio stop is his second in as many days and third since Friday. 

President Obama has held a campaign appearance there for four days in a row, a sign of how crucial the state is to both candidates’ hopes. The two men have combined to visit the state 83 times this year, according to the Dispatch, a record for the quadrennial battleground.

Two surveys from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling showed narrow leads for Obama in Iowa, at 50-48, and in Wisconsin (51-48). Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan has returned to his home state Wisconsin throughout the campaign, working to ensure it backs a GOP presidential nominee for the first time in nearly three decades. 

In addition to hitting the regular battlegrounds, Romney also took time to head to suburban Philadelphia on Sunday, the first time he’s been in the Keystone State in months.

Romney officials insist they seriously think they can win the state, and conservative groups dumped millions into airtime there last week.

But the Obama campaign dismissed his trip, calling it a "desperate ploy," as senior adviser David Plouffe put it Sunday morning, pointing to polls showing the president with an edge in other key swing states. 

A number of Republicans privately acknowledge to The Hill that the state remains an uphill climb, and sources close to outside groups there say a big part of the reason they’re spending is there simply wasn’t airtime left to buy in the traditional swing states.

Pennsylvania polls showed a conflicting picture of the state, with a weekend poll from Susquehanna Research finding the two candidates tied in the state, while PPP showed Obama retaining a comfortable 6-point lead.

With little time until Election Day, both campaigns maintained a frenetic pace over the weekend, as Romney and Obama hammered away on the economy on the heels of Friday’s employment report, which showed 171,000 new jobs but the unemployment rate rising to 7.9 percent.

Romney said Obama had failed to fix the economy and promised voters “real change” if he were elected on Tuesday.

“My conviction that better days are ahead is not based on promises or hollow rhetoric but on solid plans and proven results," the former Massachusetts governor said in Ohio on Sunday. “The question of the election comes down to this: Do you want four more years of the same, or do you want real change?”

Obama pushed back against Romney’s attempts to grab the “change” mantle, saying that Romney was nothing more than a “very talented salesman” who was pressing the GOP policies that brought on a weak economy.

“In this campaign he has tried as hard as he can to repackage the same old ideas and pretend they’re new,” Obama said. “In fact, he’s offering them up as change, says he’s the candidate of change. … Now, let me just say this: We know what change looks like, and what he’s selling ain’t it.”

Both candidates also pledged to voters that they would be more effective at ushering in bipartisan compromise in Washington. 

“You know that if the president were to be reelected he would not be able to work with Congress; you know there would be more gridlock,” Romney said at a rally Saturday in New Hampshire. “The president just can't work with Congress, he's proven that time and time again.”

Vice President Biden on Sunday hit back, saying that the GOP “fever” to oppose Obama would break if the president won reelection.

“I think you’re going to see Obama’s reelected, the idea ‘we can’t let that happen’ is done, and now it’s going to be OK,” said Biden.

With the outcome of Tuesday’s vote uncertain, both campaigns in the closing days of the race were left pointing to early-voting numbers, ground-game operations and shifting polls to establish momentum in the closing hours of a lengthy race.

The Obama campaign touted the large number of voters who cast early ballots, arguing that gave it a decisive advantage. 

To overtake the president, “[Romney] would have to win 65 percent of the remaining votes in North Carolina, 59 percent in Iowa and Colorado, 58 percent in Nevada, 55 percent in Florida and Ohio and 52 percent in Virginia and Wisconsin,” the Obama campaign said in a memo on early voting released late Saturday.

"Early vote's gone very well for us. We think we're closing with strong momentum," senior Obama strategist David Plouffe added on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

But Romney adviser Ed Gillespie pushed back, predicting that the Romney campaign would gain from voters who broke late to back the GOP challenger.

“Their ground game is not superior, and number two, I think those undecided voters are going to turn out and they're going to break pretty strongly against the president,” he said Sunday.

But both campaigns understand that time is running short before voters head to the polls.

At rallies in Virginia and New Hampshire over the weekend, Obama described himself and his campaign aides as “props,” telling voters that the election now rested in their hands. 

“It’s up to you. You have the power,” Obama told supporters, urging them to the polls. “You will be shaping the decisions for this country for decades to come right now, in the next two days.”

— Jeremy Herb contributed.

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