CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — President Barack Obama’s fall mission: Remind voters why they chose him in the first place, hope the economy doesn’t get worse — and paint Mitt Romney as an unacceptable alternative.
“On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America,” the Democrat said as he accepted his party’s nomination.
His re-election is far from certain and his task is far from easy, despite the built-in advantages of incumbency.
In a sharp reminder of that, his administration was releasing its August jobs report early today, offering the latest snapshot on whether the country’s 8.3 percent unemployment rate was improving. No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has been re-elected with a jobless rate higher than 8 percent.
Over the next 10 weeks, Obama — the country’s first black president — will push to make history again. In ads and speeches, he’ll try to do it by casting the campaign as a choice: give his economic policies more time to flourish or bet on Romney’s agenda that the president says would simply benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
Polls show a close race, and Republicans and Democrats alike expect that to be the case until November, barring some surprise.
Nearly a quarter of voters say they haven’t decided on a candidate or could still change their mind, meaning Obama’s focus will be two-fold: fire up his base without alienating unaligned, independent voters.
That will be the goal when he and Romney face off in a series of high-stakes October debates.
For now, the contest centers on the seven states where surveys show neither side has a significant advantage: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia. Obama won them all four years ago, and he’s banking on his expansive voter registration and get-out-the-vote operation — bolstered by information technology and social media — to make up for Romney and his Republican allies’ significant cash advantage on TV. Obama has some ground to make up in North Carolina, where he held his convention.
“It’s a turnout election. We’ve got to make sure the people who support the president’s plan are participating,” said David Leland, a former Ohio Democratic party chairman.
Democrats argue that the election will come down to three states: Ohio, Florida and Virginia. Of those, Democrats are most optimistic about Ohio, where the economy is improving and the auto bailout is popular. In Virginia, they’re hopeful that minorities will turn out in force again as they did four years go. Florida is the one that makes Democrats the most nervous.
To tip the balance in those states and others, Obama’s team will offer anew a steady string of warnings about Romney.
“We’re going to be aggressive about telling the story of this administration, telling the truth about what this president has accomplished, but also telling the truth about Mitt Romney’s plans and what they would do to this country,” said deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.