Romney, Obama Make Final Pitches In Swing States

The two presidential candidates made their final campaign stops ahead of Tuesday's election. Melissa Block talks with Ari Shapiro, who traveled with Mitt Romney, and Scott Horsley, who traveled with President Obama, about their final pitch to voters.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

After months of campaigning, it all comes down to this, one final frantic day of travel. By the end of the day, Mitt Romney will have held rallies in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire. Speaking in Sanford, Florida this morning, he focused on the future.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MITT ROMNEY: My conviction is that better days are ahead and it's not based on promises or rhetoric, but it's based on solid plans and proven results.

BLOCK: President Obama is touching down in three states today, Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa. Earlier in Madison, Wisconsin, the president asked for four more years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have come too far to turn back now. We've come too far to let our hearts grow faint. Now is the time to keep pushing forward.

BLOCK: And for one last time before Election Day, we're going to talk with our correspondents who have spent months traveling with the candidates. Scott Horsley with the president and Ari Shapiro with Governor Romney. Scott and Ari, welcome to you both.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Hi, Melissa.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be here.

BLOCK: And let's start by talking about the election map and what the candidates schedules in this last day tell you about their strategy. Ari, why don't you go first.

SHAPIRO: Well, one thing that the schedule tells us is that Romney is pushing through to the very end. Just today, the campaign announced that he's adding events tomorrow in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, you'll remember, is in Pennsylvania, a state that until yesterday he hadn't visited for more than a month. Pretty reliably blue state for the last 20 years, but Romney believes he has a chance there.

And today's schedule with that troika of Florida, Ohio and Virginia shows that really the same states that were the key swing states throughout this entire race remain the key swing states at the very end. He really must carry two of those three if he wants to make it to the White House. And then, of course, ending in New Hampshire, it's the place where he started his campaign 17 months ago. It has a lot of emotional significance and it doesn't hurt that even though it's small, it's important swing state, too.

BLOCK: Well, Scott, if Governor Romney is adding events to his calendar tomorrow, is the Obama campaign responding in kind? Are they going to be adding events, too?

HORSLEY: As of now, Melissa, no. The Obama campaign has planned to wrap up their battleground rallies today. As you mentioned, we're in Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa. If the president were to win those three states, he should have the electoral votes he needs to hold on to the White House. In Iowa, where he has his last rally tonight, is also a sentimental favorite, as the place where he launched his national career five years ago now.

So tomorrow, he's planning to stay in Chicago, tape some Get-Out-The-Vote interviews by satellite and maybe maintain a campaign tradition of playing basketball with some friends.

BLOCK: Let's talk about the closing message from these two men. Each of you has heard their standard stump speech countless times. Were you hearing any modifications, any tweaks in that message today, Ari?

SHAPIRO: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Mitt Romney this morning in Florida was really intent on the finish line. Listen to part of what he said just outside Orlando.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ROMNEY: Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow. Tomorrow we begin a better tomorrow. This nation is going to begin to change for the better tomorrow. Your work is making a difference. The people of the world are watching. The people of America are watching. We can begin a better tomorrow tomorrow and with the help of the people in Florida, that's exactly what's going to happen.

SHAPIRO: And Romney also continues to hit the message of bipartisanship that he's been hammering all weekend, even in Lynchburg, Virginia this afternoon, the home to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, very conservative place. He said, we are not coming to these problems as Republicans. We're coming to them as concerned Americans. We need to be a United States.

BLOCK: And Scott, any modifications in the message from President Obama?

HORSLEY: Well, of course, United States is the brand that Barack Obama has been selling for eight years now, ever since the 2004 Democratic National Convention. And he also talks about bipartisanship on the stump, but he also says he has limits and that there are things that are worth fighting, core democratic principles worth fighting for. One wrinkle is whenever he's in Ohio, he talks more about the auto bailout, one in eight jobs in Ohio is dependent on the auto industry and that's been a big selling point for the president here. It's also an issue that Bruce Springsteen raised at a campaign rally for the president this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: And I'm thankful that we have a president that had faith in the automobile industry and that General Motors is today making cars. What else would I write about? I'd be out of a job.

HORSLEY: Springsteen's not only written a lot of songs about cars, but he mentioned that his dad used to work in a Ford assembly plant.

BLOCK: Scott and Ari, you've been traveling with these campaigns for so long, for more than a year now, final thoughts, any turning points that really stick in your mind or a most telling moment of the campaign that you're left with? Ari, why don't you go first?

SHAPIRO: You know, one thing that sticks out to me is that there is a side of Mitt Romney that people rarely see that is human and funny and self-effacing that his aides talk about. And it's really only by spending a year and a half with the guy that I've had a few glimpses of it. And I think the big struggle for this campaign has been trying to overcome the sort of robotic persona that he so often presents to the camera and find that sort of authenticity, human side that you get in glimpses, but he's had a hard time brining out 100 percent of the time.

BLOCK: Well, Scott Horsley, what about you?

HORSLEY: Well, you know, Melissa, it's easy to get to get cynical when you cover a very long and often bitter campaign like this, but both Ari and I have been watching these rallies in the last few days as the crowds get bigger and bigger as they do this time of year. And, you know, you can't stand outside on a cold evening in Colorado or Iowa and look out at 20,000 people who've braved the weather because they feel like there's something at stake for their country.

And those passions, of course, are what make this such a difficult country to govern for three years and 11 months out of the cycle. But in these waning weeks of the campaign, it is sort of heartening to see. And I know Ari and I are both - just been grateful to just be witness to that.

BLOCK: Scott and Ari, thanks so much. And, of course, we'll be talking to you throughout the evening tomorrow night.

SHAPIRO: Good to be with you.

HORSLEY: Thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: NPR's Scott Horsley traveling with the Obama campaign and Ari Shapiro with the Romney campaign.

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