For Obama and Romney, a ‘hard drive to the finish’ as Election Day nears

President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney are ratcheting up their campaign trail appearances to a new level of intensity. Both men will be on the stump virtually 24/7 until Nov. 6 dawns — and the push begins now.

Obama will visit three swing states Thursday: Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado. Romney will make an all-out push for Virginia, holding three events in the commonwealth.

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Obama will mirror Romney’s singular focus on Friday, though he will be concentrating on Ohio, holding three events there. He will begin Saturday in the Buckeye State, and return to Cincinnati on Sunday. Between those two visits, he will squeeze in events in Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire and Florida.

If anyone was in any doubt as to the centrality of Ohio to the president’s reelection hopes, his schedule — five events there in three days — should put those to rest.

So should Romney’s decision to begin a nationwide tour in Ohio on Friday evening. He will be joined in West Chester by his running mate, Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan: Trump ‘met expectations’ at the debate Reid: Dems 'likely' to block spending bill Senate Dems: Add Flint aid to spending deal MORE (Wis.), and the two men’s respective wives, Ann and Janna.

The event will also feature a host of national Republican figures. According to the Romney campaign, the principals and their high-profile supporters will visit 11 states between Friday and Monday.

Romney has already announced the event that will be the finale of his campaign. On Monday night, he will be in New Hampshire, the state where he declared his candidacy on June 2, 2011. The rally will also feature musician Kid Rock.

“There is no time right now,” Republican strategist Rick Wilson said. “These guys are basically sleeping on the planes.”

The frenetic pace of the final days would be reflected in the staging of events, Wilson added:

“You end up doing what I call airport-hangar fly-ins. You wheel the jet in, go down to the crowd to rile them up as much as you can and run back up the steps. Well-organized candidates can pull off as many as six or seven events a day.”

A Democratic strategist, Steve Elmendorf, noted that the ground game has been planned for months, and that both Obama and Romney appear to have plentiful cash. That being so, he said, “there is nothing else for them to do” except hit the road as hard as possible until the clock runs out.

For the candidates’ aides, the battle to shape public perception is reaching its fiercest pitch. On dueling conference calls with reporters Wednesday, each campaign sought to project an assurance that their man would emerge victorious next Tuesday night, even echoing each other’s language.

Obama for America campaign manager Jim Messina, citing data that he said showed the president pulling ahead in early voting, argued that, “We have the math and they have the myths.”

For Romney’s political director, Rich Beeson, it was the power of the Obama campaign’s vaunted ground game that was a “myth ... getting obliterated more and more with each passing day.”

The campaigns are also tussling over the meaning of each other’s tactical moves in these final few days. The Romney campaign and its allies are making a play for Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota, three states that had looked to be on the outer edges of the candidate’s list of targets.

“In any one of these states, Gov. Romney has an excellent shot of winning,” Romney’s senior adviser Russ Schriefer said on the conference call. “Can we win all of them? Probably not. But can we win some of them? I think so.”

Referring to Midwestern states such as Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin, meanwhile, Beeson said of the Obama campaign, “their firewall is burning.”

From the other side, however, Obama senior strategist David Axelrod argued that the Romney campaign’s incursion into Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania represented a wild roll of the dice forced by weakness.

He called the Romney tactic “a series of desperate moves to try to salvage this election.”

Axelrod also reiterated his promise, first made in an earlier television interview, to shave off his famous mustache if Obama lost in any of the three states.

Both candidates are getting back onto a regular footing after the campaign was roiled by the impact of "super-storm" Sandy. Obama was accompanied by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Wednesday as he inspected the damage that had been wrought in the Garden State.

In a joint media appearance afterward, Christie amplified his already effusive praise of Obama for the president’s handling of the storm and its aftermath.

“I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state,” Christie said. “I heard it on the phone conversations with him, and I was able to witness it today personally.”

Elmendorf argued that Obama had been elevated by his response to the storm.

“Even though it stopped him from campaigning, he had something to do. He was out on television doing his job. Romney doesn’t have a part in the story.”

But Wilson asserted that Sandy’s electoral effects were likely to be minimal:

“People are not going to give Barack ObamaBarack ObamaTrump camp tries to clarify climate position Setting the record straight on Crimea Buzz builds on Becerra’s future plans MORE credit for doing his job,” he insisted.

Partisans of all stripes were likely to endorse Wilson’s view of the days that lie ahead, however.

“From now on,” he said, “it’s a hard drive to the finish.”