Mitt Romney’s campaign and its allies are testing the waters in Pennsylvania and Minnesota, two states that have mostly been taken for granted as solid blue this election. But top aides to the Obama campaign claim they’re not worried.
“We’re winning this race,” senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters over the phone on Monday. “And I say this not on the basis of some mystical faith in a wave that’s going to come, or some hidden vote. We base it on cold hard data based on who’s voted so far and on state-by-state polling.”
In Minnesota, polling is scarce, but one recent survey showed the state surprisingly close, while others show it’s still strongly leaning towards Obama. Romney’s campaign made a small — but surprising — ad buy in the Minneapolis area last week. In Pennsylvania, which also looks solid for Obama in most polls, pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future announced a significant ad buy on Monday and Paul Ryan recently visited the state.
“The Romney campaign wants you to think it’s expanding the map, but it’s not,” OFA campaign manager Jim Messina said. “They tried this before: a month ago they were going to surge in Michigan, then they weren’t. A couple of weeks ago too they were going to surge in Maine…then they weren’t.”
That said, the Obama team’s bravado was somewhat undercut by their own campaign activities. Joe Biden is set to speak in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania and OFA announced mid-call via e-mail that Bill Clinton was planning on traveling to Minnesota. The campaign also purchased ad time in the same Minneapolis market as Romney shortly after the Republican nominee’s own buy. These kinds of actions don’t exactly scream “safe Obama state.”
Obama aides insisted these kinds of moves were just due diligence, part of a broader policy to bookend Romney no matter where he goes.
“We’re going to take every precaution,” Axelrod said. “We’re not going to surrender any state to them in terms of the airwaves.”
Messina suggested efforts to expand the map reflected Romney’s ongoing trouble in key states like Ohio, rather than a show of strength in new territory.
“We expect Romney and Ryan to visit an out of play state to pretend they have momentum there,” he said. “It’s just not true.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.