The Romney/Ryan campaign sought to project a sense of continuing momentum on a conference call with reporters today, amidst a slew of conflicting polls about the state of the national race, and new state polls suggesting that Mitt Romney could still face significant challenges in reaching 270 electoral votes, just as President Barack Obama is enjoying a slew of positive media attention regarding Hurricane Sandy.
"We feel we are in a very good place," said Senior Advisor Russ Schriefer, "It is a close race, as we've always thought it would be. We have lots of states in play. And more importantly, we have an incumbent president who is stuck well below the 50% threshold." Schreifer also pointed to the turnaround in Romney's favorable rating in the RealClearPolitics average, where he now leads Obama by more than three points. And he stressed that Romney's closing argument was very strong. "We're very happy where we are," he said.
In response to a question about whether Romney could actually win in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, Schriefer said: "We are in excellent position to win....Could we win all of them? Probably not. Can we win some of them? I think so." He cited, again, Obama's poor numbers and Romney's edge in enthusiasm.
Political Director Rich Beeson spoke about the energy and enthusiasm the Romney campaign is seeing on the ground. Noting that the Obama campaign cited numbers of staff and offices, Beeson stressed that Romney is tracking different numbers, such as numbers of doors knocked and numbers of absentee votes cast. The overall theme, he said, is that Republicans are ahead of where they were in 2008, in contrast to Obama.
In Florida, Beeson noted that of 2 million early votes cast, Democrats held an edge by fewer than 40,000 ballots--a 70 percent drop from 2008. In Ohio, comparing county results in early voting from 2008 with those of today, turnout was significantly better for Republicans, he said. In Iowa, he said that Republicans prefer to vote on Election Day, and that Democrats need to bring an early voting lead of 130,000 to the polls on Election Day in order to win. Republicans are over-performing in early voting in 71 of 99 counties from 2008, making it less likely that Obama would reach the margin needed. Other swing states showed similar patterns, and Republicans seemed to be leading in early and absentee voting in Colorado. Beeson predicted "we will win on Election Day big" in North Carolina, which Obama has continued to avoid in recent weeks.
Pollster Neil Newhouse brought even more numbers to the table, after stating that Obama "has got a political environment problem, has got an intensity problem, has got an environment problem, and he has got a ballot problem." He pointed to what he described as a consistent 8-to-10 point margin between those who strongly disapprove of Obama's job performance and those who strongly approve of it. "It's really very similar to the way the numbers tilted toward Obama in 2008 and away from John McCain." Newhouse took on the assumption in some polls that turnout will match what it was in 2008: "That's just really a stretch," he said.
Next, Newhouse turned to independent voters. "If we suspect the partisan edge is going to be significantly narrower on Tuesday, then it's going to come down to independent voters. And Mitt's going to do very well. It's just cold, hard math." He pointed out that Romney frequently led by double digits among independents in national polls, and that he has led in 20 of 26 polls of Ohio. Given the fact that the winner in Ohio has tended to win independents as well, historically, that was a sign pointing towards victory for Romney, he said.
Newhouse also took on the Quinippiac polls released today, which showed Romney losing in Ohio, saying that the poll had made an unreasonable finding that 96 percent of registered voters were also likely voters.
Asked by USA Today whether they were "annoyed" by Gov. Chris Christie's "effusive" response to President Obama in regard to managing Hurricane Sandy, Schreifer replied that Gov. Christie is "just doing his job."
Overall, the Romney advisers on the call seemed more confident, and less scattered, than David Axelrod and Jim Messina had been on Monday morning's conference call with the Obama campaign. They did not make the case that Romney is actually leading in the state polls in places he needs to win, but that Obama is in a weak position, and that momentum and enthusiasm are both on his side. Whether that is enough to push him over the top, and reach 270 electoral votes, depends almost entirely on turnout--and whether the assumptions of strong 2008-level Democrat turnout in most mainstream media polls turn out to have been wrong.