2:45 p.m. E.T.
Chris Cillizza and I break down the latest in Obama vs. Romney on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”
ANDREA MITCHELL: First, to you Chris, let’s talk about the state of the race.
CHRIS CILLIZZA: Well, we’re almost there, Andrea. I think the state of the race is that President Obama retains a, and this has been the case for a while now, he retains more paths to 270 electoral votes than does Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney, I think we’re going to know relatively early how this is headed because Florida, Virginia, and Ohio are all closing on the early end of the evening. I really do think for Mitt Romney’s math to be plausible he needs Florida, he needs Virginia, and he probably needs Ohio too. If Barack Obama wins one of those three, I think it’s going to be tough but not impossible for Mitt Romney as the map moves westward. If he wins two of those three, particularly if one of them is Florida, you can probably make it add up to 270 votes with the states left, Andrea, but it would not be good for Mitt Romney.
ANDREA MITCHELL: And let’s talk about what you’re seeing from the ground. You were in Ohio. You were all over Ohio with both of the candidates. You were in Virginia for that incredible rally with Bill Clinton and President Obama. President Obama has Bruce Springsteen. Republicans are quick to point out that he is not producing the kinds of crowds, today, with Bruce Springsteen, that John Kerry had. And we saw what John Kerry did in Madison, Wisconsin. It didn’t make him President Kerry. What are you seeing? What is the ground game?
MARK HALPERIN: Both of these campaigns are very energized and focused and you can look at what Governor Romney is doing, giving the best speeches of his life, drawing the biggest crowds of his life, campaigning aggressively on states the President won last time. But the President is ending strong too. I think both of them are not making errors, for the most part. They’re out giving strong speeches. They’re drawing big crowds. The President’s team is unambiguously more confident about winning election than the Romney team. Unambiguous from David Plouffe, David Axelrod, Jim Messina on down to the lowest levels of the campaign, the junior staffers. They all say they’re going to win. And they say some of these states we’re talking about as battlegrounds are in the bag for the President.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Because of the early voting advantage.
MARK HALPERIN: And because of their ground game and because of the public and private polling. They say they’ve put a very rigorous screen on their polling, a very conservative screen and that, worst case, they will win enough states narrowly to get to 270. Best case, they’ll do, as Vice President Biden told Chris Matthews yesterday, substantially better than that and get over 300 electoral votes. There’s confidence amongst part of the Republicans. They’re counting on high independent turnout, high white-voter turnout and the public polls having the President at 48 percent representing not his floor but his ceiling.
ANDREA MITCHELL: But, Chris Cillizza, we’re also seeing, for instance, an early voting advantage of about 10 percent for the Democrats, in Iowa, these numbers just in. Last time it was 17 percent. Of course it depends on the percent of what, of what the overall vote is. But still, what are you seeing when you look at Iowa? When you look at Ohio, now, there the President is doing better with white-male voters than some would have suspected and many people think that is all about the auto industry and that final closing argument about the auto industry and the blowback on that advertisement that drew criticism from the executives, the CEOs putting down Mitt Romney’s complaints about Jeep.
CHRIS CILLIZZA: Andrea, in Ohio in particular, I think we may go back and deconstruct this whole election based on Mitt Romney, if he winds up losing, and his inability to get over the top in a state that, demographically, should be a state that favors him. It’s an older electorate. It’s a whiter electorate than many of these swing states. It’s a place where Barack Obama has struggled, I would say. Look, he won overwhelmingly in 2008. He won by 262,000 out of 5.6 million votes cast in Ohio, 51 — 47. He didn’t win in Ohio in the presidential primary against Hillary Clinton. So, we may go back and look at it and say, “Golly, that should be a state that he could’ve won.” I think you are right. The only thing that’s really changed there — two things have changed since ’08. One, the economy in the state is slightly better than the national economy. And number two, the auto bailout is popular and Mitt Romney is taking on water on it. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have put up, as you mentioned, that ad about Jeep. So, I think we may go all the way back and all these months and all the things Mark and I have written and all the things we’ve talked about and say, “You know, he just couldn’t get over the top in a state that, on paper, he should have.” And that may be the whole election, right there.
ANDREA MITCHELL: And the final WMUR poll in New Hampshire, that indicates that this race is absolutely neck-and-neck in New Hampshire and New Hampshire is a state that Mitt Romney really does have to win if he’s going to put this together.
MARK HALPERIN: Probably, not definitely, but probably. Mixed polling in the state, and it’s a state the President’s team is pretty confident about. President Clinton, President Obama, huge event there yesterday. Governor Romney, huge event there tonight in the Verizon Center there. I’ve been told they’ve sold out the place. So, they’re both ending strong in that state and, obviously, four electoral votes could end up making the difference here. But, really Ohio, still, the winner of Ohio will almost certainly win this election. Whatever happens in New Hampshire and Iowa and some of the other states that are important, but not as important as Ohio.