With polls showing effectively a tied race, here are the big keys for the two candidates in the last 13 days of the presidential race.
1. Talk about abortion and contraception-White women are the swing voters of this election. Minority voters of both genders heavily favor the president (he is carrying about 80 percent of the non-white vote), while polls show Obama could end up with much less than the 41 percent among white males he won in 2008.
Expect the president to make numerous references to abortion in the next few days. (He already is running ads in key swing states on the subject.) Most women support abortion rights, and it’s an issue on which Obama can cast his opponent as untrustworthy (Romney supported abortion rights as a candidate in Massachusetts) and out of step with the broader electorate. The president’s comment in Monday’s debate about how Romney is interested in bringing back the “social policy of the 1950′s” was a reference in part to abortion. And the Obama campaign has seized on comments by Richard Mourdock, the GOP U.S. Senate candidate in Indiana, who said women who become pregnant because of rape should not be able to get abortions because the pregnancies are “something that God intended to happen.”
Obama is unlikely to outright “win” the white female vote, as he carried only 46 percent of it in 2008, compared to John McCain’s 53 percent. But a repeat of that narrow margin would strengthen the president’s chances greatly.
2. Ohio, Ohio, Ohio-It’s almost impossible for either candidate to win without carrying this state. Obama has kept his lead there in polls even amidst Romney’s surge this month, and the president is likely to be here almost every other day through Election Day.
3. Inspire voters under 30 and Latinos-In 2008, Obama won the youth vote by 34 points, while John Kerry had only won that segment of the electorate by 9 points in 2004. Kerry won Latinos by nine in 2004, while Obama won that bloc by 36 points four years later.
Black voters aren’t really in doubt. Polls show they are very enthusiastic about Obama and will turn out in big numbers for him. But surveys have suggested that Latinos are very anti-Romney, but not as excited to vote, and young voters are slightly more positive about Romney than they were McCain. (A Harvard University poll earlier this month showed Obama leads young voters by 19 points, a big gap, but not as large as in 2008.)
1. Steer the election away from social issues-Romney’s positions on gay marriage, abortion and immigration are backed by the GOP base, but highly unpopular outside of it. In particular, he could lose young voters on gay marriage, women on abortion and Latinos on immigration.
Essentially, Romney has to hope women and young voters decide to vote on the economy, and that some Latinos stay home. He must quickly distance himself from the comments of Mourdock and other Republicans who oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
2. Win Ohio
3. Convince voters he can fix the economy -In truth, presidents have little power over the American economy. And non-partisan analysts are particularly dubious about Romney’s five-point plan to create 12 million jobs in his first term. (Many of the ideas would create few jobs, and the economy could create 12 million jobs if you or I were president but growth in the private sector took off as in the 1990′s.) But if Romney’s most obvious path to victory is keeping the election about the economy.