What can we conclude by examining the campaign schedules of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama during these last, waning days of the 2012 election? There undoubtedly are some clues to be read there, but I would guess that the ancient Romans had more luck divining the future by examining the entrails of birds.
We know which states each of the two candidates are visiting in the last five days of the campaign, starting this past Thursday and continuing through Monday. One or the other of them, or both, booked appearances in nine different states, all part of the “battleground.” But in almost every case, there is more than one plausible interpretation.
If a candidate decides to skip State A, does that mean he feels that he has the state in the bag, or that he considers it hopeless? If he books multiple visits in one state, does that mean he has a tough struggle there, or that he is just nailing down a state that leans his way but might drift to his opponent unless he keeps showing his face?
You can’t always figure out the likeliest answers to such questions unless you look also at what the candidate’s opponent is doing in the same states.
You also have to pay attention to what the more reliable pollsters say about how the race is going in each state.
The nine states that one or both candidates have graced, or will grace, with their presence during the final days (with their electoral votes in parentheses) are: Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13) and Wisconsin (10). These are all states that Obama carried in 2008, but that appear to be in play. All told they have 115 votes.
Let’s assume — a likely assumption — that Romney won’t lose any of the states, with a total of 180 electoral votes, that John McCain won against Obama in 2008. Let’s also assume that Romney has locked up the 26 combined electoral votes of Indiana and North Carolina, which went for Obama last time but are polling strongly for his opponent.
Then Romney must win at least 64 of the 115 electoral votes from the nine swing states listed above to reach the magic, winning total of 270 electoral votes and carry the election.
Each candidate has taken private, internal polls, which tell them the gory truth about where they stand in each state, without any B.S. Their schedules in the final days undoubtedly reflect these polls, but since the candidates are not sharing the polls with the public, we, the public, have to figure things out for ourselves.
I should mention, before going through the states one by one, that Obama’s last five days include fifteen visits to eight of the nine states. Air Force One is getting quite a workout.
Romney, by contrast, is making only nine visits to seven different states. That in itself might tell us something, but what? Is Obama desperate and Romney more confident? Or is Obama doing a victory lap, while Romney is only going through the motions? Take your pick.
Let’s start with Colorado, which the Rasmussen polling organization shows leaning slightly to Romney. In the final days, Obama scheduled two campaign appearances there and Romney one. How should we interpret that? My guess is that both sides think the state will go for Romney, but that neither considered it enough of a sure thing to stay away entirely.
Then there is Florida, the biggest prize of the bunch with 29 votes, where Rasmussen shows Romney with a modest lead. Only one visit by Obama and none by Romney. It seems highly unlikely that Romney would have given up on Florida, and it seems likely that if Obama thought he had a chance there he would be all over the place. My guess is that both candidates think Romney will win in Florida.
In Iowa, where Rasmussen has Romney slightly ahead, Obama scheduled two visits and Romney one. Obama obviously hasn’t given up entirely, but on the other hand, Iowa only has six electoral votes, so you can’t expect either candidate to get bogged down there. It’s impossible to say with much certainty what the candidates expect in Iowa.
In Nevada, where Rasmussen has Obama leading, Obama scheduled one visit and Romney none. I suspect that Romney doesn’t expect to win there, and doesn’t want to spend much of his valuable time chasing the state’s six meager votes.
In New Hampshire, where Rasmussen has Romney slightly ahead, Obama scheduled one visit and Romney two. However, the second visit by Romney would seem to be a case of “as long as I am in the neighborhood,” because he is going there Monday and plans to spend Election Day, Tuesday, in nearby Boston. Anyway, New Hampshire has only four electoral votes, and would be an unlikely place for either candidate to spend a lot more time.
Ohio, the quintessential battleground state, the state which almost always picks the winner of the presidential election, is receiving four visits from Obama and one from Romney in the final days. At last count, Rasmussen had the race tied there. The fact that Obama has made Ohio his principal destination in the final days obviously suggests that he doesn’t consider it a sure thing. Romney, although he scheduled only one recent visit there – it happened on Friday – has by no means been a stranger in Ohio. In recent weeks he has spent so much time there that he probably has memorized the state song. I don’t believe that either candidate feels confident about Ohio.
Romney is making one visit to Pennsylvania — on Sunday – while Obama is making none. Obama has a comfortable lead there in the Rasmussen poll, so Romney’s visit has to be interpreted as a Hail Mary attempt to ensure victory in the election by snaring the state’s whopping total of 20 electoral votes. That way he might be able to forget about Ohio. If the strategy works, swell, but Obama obviously isn’t worried.
In Virginia, where Romney leads in the Rasmussen poll, Obama scheduled one visit and Romney two. The way I see it, Romney is seeking insurance, while Obama doesn’t hold out much hope but isn’t prepared to give up entirely.
And finally, Wisconsin, the home state of Romney’s running-mate, Paul Ryan. The state is tied in the Rasmussen poll. Three visits by Obama, only one by Romney. Neither candidate has given up, obviously, but Romney must feel more confident.
Bottom line: Based on the visible evidence, I would guess that the consensus of the two campaigns is that Romney has the edge in Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire and Virginia, while Obama can count on Nevada and Pennsylvania. Ohio is anybody’s guess, and I don’t think either side is counting yet on Iowa or Wisconsin.
If all those guesses turn out to be correct, then Romney would seem to have a good grip on 261 electoral votes and Obama on 243, with the 34 votes of Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa up for grabs. Romney would need to win either Ohio or Wisconsin to become the next President. Obama would have to win them both to stay in office.
Unless, of course, dear Gloria Allred is about to pull an affidavit from her garter…