Ten days before the presidential election, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are locked in a tight contest. The Obama campaign needs to do four things to pull victory out of the fire.
Get out their voters: The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds Obama with a five point lead with registered voters; however when only “likely” voters are considered the race is tied with each candidate garnering 47 percent. The battle for the electoral vote is tight – at the moment Obama is averaging about 20 votes more than the 270 he needs to win.
The election will be decided in the nine swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. To prevail the Obama campaign must have a better get out the vote (GOTV) organization in these states than Romney has. According to Ryan Lizza’s article in The New Yorker the Obama campaign has far more boots on the ground than does Romney. But the swing state Obama workers have to be trained and motivated, prepared to deal with Republican tactics that either disenfranchise Democratic voters or register fraudulent GOP voters. What’s required is a tenacious, ten day, 24/7 effort to get out every last Obama-Biden voter.
Capture the female vote: There is a pronounced gender gap in the polls, where Obama has a 9 percentage point lead among women and Romney has a 9 point lead among men. Therefore, the Obama campaign must focus on getting the votes of undecided female voters.
Unmarried women are particularly important. Wall Street Journal article quoted pollster Stan Greenberg, “(unmarried women) make up more than 20% of the electorate, and almost 70% of them went for Mr. Obama in 2008… [They] are the main target the Obama people will be aiming at." The Investor’s Business Daily tracking poll shows a gender gap where Obama has a 10 point lead over Romney among all women. Most of this is due to unmarried women, where Obama has a 33-percentage point lead.
Part of securing the female vote is campaign mechanics. The Obama organization has to make sure their GOTV operation reaches out to women. But a successful Obama effort requires tailoring their message to women. In the second debate only one question regarded women: “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace?” Romney punted with a lame remark that when he was governor of Massachusetts, he tried to include women in his cabinet, “women’s groups… brought us whole binders full of women.” Obama directly answered the question and then segued into related women’s issues such as contraceptive coverage in Obamacare and his support for Planned Parenthood. In the third debate there wasn’t a question that directly addressed women, but the President went out of his way to defend women’s rights. And he emphasized his intention to hire more teachers. (Romney stammered, “I love teachers.” Which is probably why most women thought Obama won the debate.)
In the last several days, the Obama campaign issued a powerful TV ad using Mitt Romney’s own words to frame his position on abortion. Fortunately for the Obama campaign, Republican candidates like Akin and Mourdockkeep saying horrible things about rape. As attorney Jill Filipovic observed, “[Republicans believe] women… don't know their own bodies or their own lives, and cannot be trusted to determine for themselves whether continuing a pregnancy is a good idea.”
Stay on message: In the third debate, Obama laid out the primary themes he’ll emphasize for the duration: funding education and training, bolstering manufacturing, pursuing a wide range of energy options, reducing the deficit responsibly, asking millionaires “to pay a bit more,” ending the war in Afghanistan, and “nation building at home.” Obama promoted these items in an impressive new TV ad the Obama campaign is running in the swing states. In the next ten days, Obama needs to focus attention on these themes
Deal with dirty tricks: As expected, the Romney campaign and Republican super PACs are outspending the Obama campaign. But Obama isn’t being swamped and he has more boots on the ground. Even more important, since the final debate Obama has recaptured the momentum.
Nonetheless, lurking in the Republican woodwork is the evil hand of Karl Rove. It’s likely that the Republicans will try some dirty trick to recapture momentum. They attempted this with their charge that Obama mishandled the Libyan terrorist attack that killed four Americans at Benghazi. Fortunately, in the second debate Romney bungled what could have been a “gotcha” moment.
Obama is on track to win. He and his staff know what to do: get out their voters; capture the female vote; stay on message; and, above all, stay cool and deal with last-minute Republican Shenanigans. Now the Obama campaign has to execute.
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org