Romney, Obama Hold Dueling Events In Key States

Some new national polls show the presidential race is now a dead heat. Others suggest President Obama has a narrow lead, and still others find public opinion favoring Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Mara Liasson talks to Audie Cornish about the race and other political news.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Obama and former Governor Romney held dueling events in battleground states today. In Lorain, Ohio, the president accused Republicans of trying to revive trickle-down economics. Meanwhile, Romney was in Charlotte, North Carolina, where President Obama will accept the Democratic Party's nomination this summer. The presumptive GOP nominee said the economy isn't working.

We're going to talk through some of the latest political news now with NPR's Mara Liasson. And, Mara, we know who the candidates will be more than six months before the election. So what should both sides be doing at this point in the campaign?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, part of what they're doing is what you heard David Welna just talk about. They're developing their ground games and all their infrastructure. They're also doing - the Romney campaign is doing what they call aggressive bracketing. Tomorrow, Romney's going to be in the exact same town in Ohio where the president was today, trying to get into his news story. As one top adviser to Romney told me today, they're already fighting for every inch.

Both candidates want to try to get define the terms of this debate, the president arguing that Romney will mean a return to the policies that got us into the recession, Romney arguing that the president has failed, he's made too much government, too much unemployment, too much debt, too many broken promises.

CORNISH: And, of course, it seems like there's a new poll every day, and they don't all agree on where the race stands. So - I mean, how much stock should we put in polls at this point?

LIASSON: Well, for a while, it looked like the president had a small lead within the margin of error. Now, we see a few new polls showing them tied. The bottom line, I think, is that this race is going to be very close. Both camps say that. This is going to be a 50.1 percent election.

The president does have a lot of advantages in the polls. His personal favorability ratings, his likability is higher than Romney's. He's doing much better with women, much better with Hispanics. However, the big drags on the president are the economy, gas prices, the deficit and the role of government. And you can see how big those drags are because this race is still neck and neck.

CORNISH: All right. And speaking of Hispanic voters, today, the Obama administration - the campaign, I'm sorry - began airing some Spanish language TV and radio ads. They feature campaign volunteers telling their stories. I want to play a clip of one of them now.

(SOUNDBITE OF A POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

LYNETTE ACOSTA: (Foreign language spoken)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (Foreign language spoken)

CORNISH: That ad features a former General Electric employee and former Peace Corps volunteer named Lynette Acosta. You hear her say that she likes the president's history of working hard and fighting, and then you hear the president chime in saying he approve this message. Mara, why advertise so early, and, you know, why the targeting?

LIASSON: This is what an incumbent president with a big war chest does. He doesn't want to do national advertising now. He wants to do targeted advertising to key groups. Hispanics are a very key group for the president. He has a big advantage with Hispanic voters, in some polls as big as 40 points, and he wants to keep that advantage if he's going to win states like Colorado, News Mexico and Nevada, the states that are a key part of his getting to 270 electoral votes.

Mitt Romney understands his problem with Hispanic voters. He was overheard at that fundraiser in Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday where reporters stood on the sidewalk outside the backyard where the fundraiser was going and overheard Romney saying that if the president wins big with Hispanics it, quote, "spells doom for us." So Romney's goal is to keep Obama to under 60 percent of the Hispanic vote.

CORNISH: And just a few seconds left, Mara, but some political Twitter chatter today, not - it's about dogs, but could you give us the story?

LIASSON: Well, it's not about Shamus. The - Romney has really been battered about Shamus the dog and the carrier on the roof of the car. But yesterday, a columnist for the Daily Caller, a conservative website, thumbed through his copy of Obama's memoir, "Dreams for My Father," and found that when the president was a small child, he ate dog meat in Indonesia.

That created a big round of Twitter chatter, lot of dog meat recipes, Eric Fehrnstrom, the Romney spokesman, tweeting a picture of the president with Bo in a limousine saying: In hindsight, a chilling photo. Then the Obama campaign tweeted back: What will be the next attack from Eric Fehrnstrom on a 6 to 10-year-old? So you can see the elevated - how elevated the debate is in this campaign, especially on Twitter.

CORNISH: All right. Mara, thanks so much. NPR's Mara Liasson at the White House.

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