Presidential Race
2:18 am
Tue September 11, 2012

Romney Campaigns In 'Must-Win' Ohio

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 6:57 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The presidential candidates are toning it down, we're told, on this 9/11. They'll stop their negative ads, they have said. But, of course, the campaigning will continue all fall. And Mitt Romney spent yesterday in Ohio. Over the weekend, Vice President Biden was there, as well. The Midwestern state is becoming like a second home to candidates in this presidential election season.

Yesterday, Romney visited the industrial town of Mansfield. He is trying to close a gap in the polls that now show President Obama with a growing lead after last week's Democratic convention. A national CNN poll out yesterday shows the president six points ahead.

NPR's Ari Shapiro is traveling with the Romney campaign.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Romney kicked off his stump speech with a concept that he first debuted over the weekend: an extended riff on the pledge of allegiance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MITT ROMNEY: I believe it's important to have a president - and I will be a president, if elected - that honors that pledge and all the pledges that I make.

SHAPIRO: On each line of the pledge, he made a political point. Indivisible: He promised to unite the country. With liberty and justice for all: He said we need a strong military to preserve liberty. And, of course, the phrase, under God.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ROMNEY: When and if I become president of the United States, I will not take God out of my heart. I will not take God out of the public square, and I will not take it out of the platform of my party.

SHAPIRO: General Motors shut down a plant here in Mansfield in 2009. Since then, the town has been struggling, and Romney said the community cannot afford to re-hire President Obama for another four years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ROMNEY: He went out with his campaign slogan, you know what it is. He says - forward. Forward is his campaign slogan. I think forewarned is a better term.

SHAPIRO: Although Romney did not mention the Chicago teachers' strike specifically, this line he's been delivering for months got a bigger response than ever before.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ROMNEY: I want our kids to have the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow, and that means put our kids first and put the teachers' union behind.

SHAPIRO: No Republican in modern times has won the presidency without carrying Ohio. Polls show President Obama with a slight, but persistent lead here. For the most part, people at this rally are not fazed by those polls. They just don't believe them.

Gary McKenna is a telecom technician.

GARY MCKENNA: As far as the polling goes, I think you're getting it more from the Democrats, and I don't - I think from in Ohio here, I that think we're more conservative than what they think.

SHAPIRO: So you think the polls are just wrong?

MCKENNA: Yeah, I do. I think there's going to be a surprise come November 6th.

SHAPIRO: And Diana Malfitano is a homemaker.

DIANA MALFITANO: I don't know about the polls. I'm not entirely sure that the polls are right. I think that there's a lot more support than you think there is.

SHAPIRO: What if the polls are right? You know, is there some way that he can change the dynamic, something he can say or do to sort of break through in a way he hasn't?

MALFITANO: I think the more he gets out to talk to people, the more people will come around to him if they're not already there.

SHAPIRO: But Romney's actually doing the exact opposite of that. He's not getting out to talk to people much. In the last week, he has only campaigned on three days. And those days were only one rally each. He spent four days in the last week in New England preparing for debates. Those debates next month may be Romney's last big chance to flip the dynamic in this race.

Campaign advisor Kevin Madden insists that Romney is keeping a vigorous campaign schedule.

KEVIN MADDEN: This event and very busy weekend campaigning down in Virginia, I think that pattern will continue.

SHAPIRO: There's a reason Romney's keeping a relatively low profile. And campaign pollster Neil Newhouse drew attention to it in a memo the campaign released yesterday. The memo argues, quote, "The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama presidency."

If that's true, if this race hinges on how people feel about the Obama economy, then whether Romney campaigns a lot or a little will make no difference at all.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Romney campaign. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.