I listened in on the Romney campaign’s conference call this afternoon, delayed for 40 minutes after the scheduled time. Campaign manager Russ Schrieffer started off by saying Romney was just where he hoped a week before the election one year ago, with “lots of states in play and the president well before the 50% threshold.” Field Director Rich Beeson said that national polls (Pew Research is one) back up his claim that despite having many fewer offices the Romney forces have made about as many voter contacts as the Obama forces. They’re underperforming 2008 and we’re overperforming 2008, he said, and a ground game doesn’t work unless it has a strong message. He discussed early and absentee voting in Florida (citing Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times on Obama’s decline since 2008), Ohio (where he used counties for analysis rather than precincts, as the Obama campaign does, which he said have had boundary changes since 2008), Iowa (if Democrats don’t lead by 130,000 in early voting, which they have specialized in, Romney will win the state), Virginia (Romney is nearing 70% of early voting in “coal country”), North Carolina (he claimed Romney is 102,000 ahead in early voting), Colorado (“they need to win early and absentee, we’re actually ahead” in a state that now has more registered Republicans than Democrats), Nevada (Obama needs to win early voting in Las Vegas’s Clark County by 80,000 to carry the state). He didn’t mention Wisconsin, which I thought odd, and I was startled when he said that Romney would carry Florida by double digits. During the question and answer period, he corrected himself by predicting that Romney would carry the election day vote by double digits.


Campaign pollster Neil Newhouse argued that Obama has a political environment problem, an intensity problem, an image problem and a ballot problem. On intensity he made a point I haven’t heard elsewhere but which makes sense: by about 8% to 10% more people strongly disapprove than strongly approve of Obama’s job performance in polls which gives respondents those choices. “Intensity drives turnout,” he said. He pointed out that 23 of 25 post-October 3 national public polls have shown Romney leading among Independents and that in the last 10 days Romney has been leading among Independents in such polls by an average of 11%. “Same thing in Ohio,” he said, though the numbers are a bit different: Romney has led among independents in 20 of 26 public Ohio polls since Oct. 3, in a state where Obama carried them by 8% in 2008. He pointed out that Romney’s favorable/unfavorable ratings are more positive than Obama’s (though only marginally) in the realclearpolitics.com average of recent polls. On the Ohio, Virginia and Florida Quinnipiac polls released this morning, he said that 96% of their registered voters are classified as likely voters. “It’s difficult to take this stuff seriously.” Discount the results by the 4.3% edge for Romney among LVs as compared to RVs, he said, and you get quite different results.   


In response to a question from Michael Warren of the Weekly Standard, Schrieffer said that Romney is “in a great position to win” Michigan, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. “Will we win them all? Probably not.  Can we win in some? I thinks so.” Susan Page of USAToday asksed whether Obama’s response to Sandy was helpful and were they “annoyed” by Chris Christie’s “effusive” praise of Obama. Schrieffer: “Governor Christie is doing his job, and the president is doing what he needs to do as president.”


Schrieffer, Beeson and Newhouse sounded confident but hurried. They obviously wanted to make some news on a day when Obama appeared with Christie, but the fact that their side and the other side are both spending money in states almost everyone assumed were safe for the other side speaks even more eloquently about where we are in this election.