Yesterday, in the National Journal, Major Garrett reported the following:
What also became clear after the dust began to settle from the rumble on Long Island was the electoral map has narrowed and Obama’s team, while conceding nothing publicly, is circling the wagons around Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Plouffe said that Obama remains strong in all four states, but he would not discuss the specifics of internal polling or voter-contact analytics, saying only that Obama has “significant leads” in all four places.
It is uncharacteristic of Team Obama to concede any terrain, but Plouffe offered no such assurances about Obama’s position in North Carolina, Virginia, or Florida. Romney advisers have seen big gains in all three states and now consider wins likely, although not guaranteed, in all three. They are similarly upbeat about prospects in Colorado but not confident enough to predict victory. That Plouffe left Colorado off his list of states where Obama’s leading and can withstand a Romney surge might be telling.
I saw this story and thought people were making mountains out of molehills. Major Garrett is a serious non-partisan reporter and if his conversation with the Obama campaign strategist revealed they were de-emphasizing North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Colorado or even ceding the states to Romney as he implied that would be the blaring headline of the story. But it was buried deep in his story so I thought this may have been off the cuff remarks where a reporter kind of knows it may be a story but its more likely a situation where the campaign can both effortlessly walk it back or blow it out of the water with an updated campaign schedule.
But the series of events after this story blew up make me think there is far more truth to the Garrett story the I originally believed. First, Plouffe is no dummy no matter how much partisans may disagree with his politics. He is a real pro and not the type of surrogate who makes mistakes of omission of this magnitude. Second, the push-back from campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki that the campaign was “absolutely not” giving up efforts in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia hit the wrong note with me. It screamed “methinks she doth protest too much” when if the story were false the campaign laughs it off and effortlessly releases its campaign schedule or ad buys emphasizing those same states, especially Virginia, Florida and Colorado since North Carolina is the one state pretty much conceded.
Now today, Jamie Dupree of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes the correct follow-up story which is the campaign’s schedule speaks louder than any words of protest:
We are at the point now in the race for the White House where decisions must be made by both campaigns on where to spend precious time in the final days of this race, as what seems like a simple decision not to campaign in a certain state can quickly blossom into a major story…The President spent the day after the second Obama-Romney debate in Iowa and Ohio.
He goes on to point out what you already know that North Carolina is off the schedule and off the Battleground States list. He then gets back to the campaign schedule which is incredibly revealing:
On Thursday, the President goes back to New Hampshire – the four Electoral Votes of the Granite State could still be very important…Both candidates will be in Florida next week for Monday night’s final debate; when the candidates leave town, they will have 14 days of campaigning left and ten states to choose from. On Friday, the President will go to Camp David for several days of debate prep; Romney meanwhile will go to Florida early as he stops in Daytona Beach on Friday and then stays in the state to get ready for the final faceoff with Mr. Obama.
So other than the mandatory trip to Florida for the debate, no state mentioned in his campaign schedule is one of the allegedly ceded Battlegrounds. This supports Garrett’s thesis far more than any words of protest from a campaign spokeswoman. But Dupree, like Major Garrett before him, buries the lede: “the President will go to Camp David for several days of debate prep”??? These locations are never an accident. For the first debate, he prepped in suburban Nevada (his most important region in the Battlegound State). For the second debate he prepped in rural Virginia (his weakest region in the Battleground State). Now President Obama goes to Camp David? He hates Camp David. This is well known throughout Washington and in the press. But Camp David is located right on the border of rural Pennsylvania which will generate local press in a state far more competitive than the media or campaign wishes. Sounds like we have another concession from Team Obama that Pennsylvania is a Battleground State according to the campaign’s own chosen debate prep site.
Dupree closes appropriately:
Once the debate ends on Monday night, both candidates will have 14 days to deal with 10 swing states – 11 if you want to expand it to include Pennsylvania or maybe Minnesota, where the Obama campaign is buying radio ad time and sending in the wife of Vice President Biden. So that brings about a simple question for the final two weeks of the campaign. Where do you go? No campaign wants to see a story that says the candidate is giving up on a certain state – but not every swing state may make the cut before Election Day. Where do you send your candidate next week? The answer is more than just Ohio and Florida.
This is all big news and something that speaks a lot louder about the campaign’s prospects than fuzzy polls or bravado about competing in states already conceded.