Obama campaign says it isn't leaving North Carolina

The Charlotte ObserverSeptember 11, 2012 

— Democrats on Monday dismissed a suggestion by the top pollster for Republican Mitt Romney that President Barack Obama’s campaign is “laying the groundwork for a stealth withdrawal” from North Carolina.

The dueling claims came four days after the Democratic convention in Charlotte – and 56 before Election Day – as both sides jockeyed for the upper hand in North Carolina, a state Politico called Monday one of nine remaining presidential battlegrounds.

The suggestion also came as some national polls showed the president with a convention bounce.

A new CNN/ORC International Poll showed Obama has opened a six-point lead after having been tied with Romney before the convention. Gallup, meanwhile, found that 43 percent of Americans said they’re more likely to support Obama because of the convention, compared to 40 percent who said they are more likely to vote for Romney after the GOP convention.

In North Carolina, a survey released Monday by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling showed Obama with a 49 percent to 48 percent edge. Other polls last week showed Romney ahead.

“Don’t get too worked up about the latest polling,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said in a memo Monday. “While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly. …

“In North Carolina … the Obama campaign is laying the groundwork for a stealth withdrawal.”

Not so, says Obama’s North Carolina campaign spokesman.

“Unlike the Romney campaign, which is competing on a shrinking map, we are in North Carolina to stay,” said Cameron French. “We believe that our strong organization will carry us to victory in November.”

Debating the TV buys

French said the Obama campaign, which has been on the ground since 2008, has 50 field offices in the state.

Romney, who started his operation in late spring, has 24, said campaign spokeswoman Rachel Adams. But she said Republicans are much more aggressive than in 2008, when Obama’s North Carolina ground campaign caught them by surprise and helped him squeeze out a 14,000-vote win in the state.

GOP volunteers, Adams said, have made nearly 2 million voter contacts. They’ve made 23 times as many phone calls and knocked on 188 times more doors than they had at the same time in 2008.

In his memo, Newhouse said, “all one has to do is look at the Obama campaign’s television buy in the state to understand how they view their chances there.”

He said the Obama campaign’s North Carolina television buy has dropped 35 percent compared to June.

That figure couldn’t be readily confirmed. But according to invoices on file with the Federal Communications Commission, Obama has spent $2.3 million for commercial time on Charlotte’s broadcast TV stations while Romney has spent nearly $1.4 million. Obama has reserved time through the first week of November; Romney’s invoices only cover through Sunday.

Across the state, Obama’s campaign has spent $16.7 million on TV in North Carolina between May 1 and last week, according to the National Journal.

The Romney campaign and its allies have spent $27.4 million.

Tying Romney down

Money may not be a problem for either side.

Obama’s campaign announced Monday that with the Democratic National Committee it raised $114 million in August. That was slightly more than the $112 million raised by Romney and the Republican National Committee – the first time in four months the president had outraised his opponent.

Duke University political scientist John Aldrich said Obama may yet decide to pull his TV money from North Carolina, but not before he forces Romney to keep spending in the state.

N.C. ‘most problematic’

“As far as we can tell on battleground states it’s the most problematic for Obama,” Aldrich said of North Carolina. “My biggest theory is there’s something of a shell game to keep the other campaign tied down in as many states as possible. …

“And since Romney needs to win a higher number of the competitive states, he’s kind of forced into not giving up on anything.”

Politico and other media have identified eight other competitive states, including New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Staff writer Mark Washburn contributed.

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