Romney In OH And PA On Election Day: Sign Of Confidence, Or Desperation?

The Romney campaign doesn't seem too confident of its path to victory.

Up until four years ago, Presidential campaigns would usually end on the night before Election Day, usually with a big rally in an important state. Four years ago, President Obama ended his campaign with a massive rally in Prince William County, Virginia that drew tens of thousands of people, but then he went to Indiana on Election morning.  This year, the President will be ending his campaign in Des Moines, Iowa. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, will be holding his finally rally of the evening in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he started his campaign. But, that won’t be the end of campaigning for him:

Mitt Romney has added two last-minute stops in the Rust Belt to his campaign schedule.

The Republican presidential candidate will stop in Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Penn. on Election Day, instead of ending his campaign in New Hampshire Monday night as previously planned.

Barack Obama campaigned in Indiana on Election Day in 2008, a Republican-leaning state he won in an upset that will likely n ot be repeated this cycle. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) rallied supporters in Colorado and New Mexico; he lost both states.

The last-minute decision is in keeping with a campaign that has continually pushed to find new openings and has edged up relentlessly in the polls, with Romney essentially deadlocked with Obama over the past two weeks in most nationwide surveys.

There’s no word on whether or not the President will add any Election Day trips to his schedule, although if he did it would likely be to someplace like Ohio or Iowa so that it wasn’t too far away from Chicago, the site of his Election Night gathering. Additionally, it’s far more difficult for the President of the United States to schedule a last minute trip like this given security concerns so it’s possible they’ll just stick close to home.

As for Romney, though, the announcement of Election Day campaigning is likely to set off a round of speculation regarding why the campaign might be choosing to do this. To supporters, it might look as though the campaign is confident of victory, but if that were the case then why continue the mad dash that Romney has been on all weekend through Election Day? And, why Pennsylvania, a state that Republicans haven’t won since 1988 and where Barack Obama still maintains a lead? Commenting on the weekend dash, Nate Cohn sees it as evidence that the Romney campaign isn’t particularly confident about its path to victory:

[I]t is clear that Romney’s campaign does not feel especially confident in any particular alternative route to the presidency that doesn’t involve Ohio. While the Obama campaign visited Wisconsin more than anywhere other than Ohio, the Romney campaign visited Wisconsin just twice—as many as long shots like Pennsylvania and Nevada, and only one more than the longer-shot of Minnesota. The fact that the Obama campaign only made one stop in Nevada suggests that they’re not especially concerned by any of those states.

Candidate time is valuable and finite. If the Romney campaign felt that any of these options were especially strong, the campaign would have chosen to emphasize one of Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. The fact that Nevada and Wisconsin can be grouped in the same category as Pennsylvania and Minnesota doesn’t speak well to Romney’s chances in the former two, where presumably Romney would have spent more time if their data showed a tighter race. And the fact they felt compelled to make three stops in Minnesota and Pennsylvania might say something about how they feel about their main path to victory. Is it possible that the Romney campaign feels so comfortable with their position in Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado that they’re on the offensive going for 300-plus? I suppose, but I doubt it.

The decision to go back to Ohio on Election Day is, perhaps, understandable. Barack Obama went to Indiana on Election Day 2008 in part no doubt because his campaign saw the traditionally Republican state as a winnable target, and to the extent that an appearance there early on Election Day  might motivate supporters it’s likely worth the time. Ohio is one of the keys to the election this year, so a similar rally there this year could potentially be valuable. I must admit, though, that I’m not sure why they’re going to the Cleveland area, which is heavily Democratic. Instead, it would make sense to go down to Hamilton County near Cincinnati, a traditionally Republican County that went marginally for Obama four years ago. That’s an area where they could possibly benefit from a last minute push. But, that’s nitpicking somewhat and I’ll just assume the Romney campaign knows what its doing in Ohio.

Pennsylvania, though, makes little sense at all.  The President has a 3.9 point lead in the RealClearPolitics average there, every poll within the last two weeks but one has shown the President with a lead outside the margin of error, and the last poll that showed Romney leading there was back in February from the same pollster that shows the race tied. The odds of winning Pennsylvania but not Ohio, which appears to be what the decision to concentrate on the state at this late hour is based on, is incredibly low. If the Romney campaign really wanted to utilize their Election Day trip effectively, why waste it on a state they’re unlikely to win. Why not go to Virginia, which is far more likely to slip into Romney’s camp?

I will readily admit I was wrong if Romney ends up winning this thing, but I tend to agree with Cohn that these last minutes trips are more a sign of desperation than confidence at Team Romney.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares? When the polls close tomorrow, Mitt Romney becomes the answer to a trivia question and all of the pundits will be writing about what the second Obama Administration will be doing or about what the Republicans could have done differently.

    The real question is why did the media feel forced to pretend that Romney has a real chance to win when all of the polls show that he is going to lose? Why can’t the media admit that on the national level, the U.S. is a one party state and the Republicanism are irrelevant.

  2. DJ Drummond says:

    The facts are annoying for those who prefer their assumptions.

    Wednesday morning, you will finally know what I mean.

  3. Geek, Esq. says:

    Romney’s deciding to not leave anything on the field. I can respect that.

    But, PA is so not going to happen for him. But he has to put on a good show for the base.

  4. Markey says:

    “Why not go to Virginia, which is far more likely to slip into Romney’s camp?”
    Alas, this is the Romney campaign we´re talking about.. *laughs*

  5. Rob in CT says:

    Why not go for it? If his path to victory requires that he not only take VA, but also OH and some others, and VA is the most likely… hell, why go to VA? You need more. So go to OH. Why not?

  6. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t see it as desperation, I see it as a rational effort in a very tight race. I respect hard work, and let’s face it, Romney must be exhausted by now. So many lies over so many venues. All that wildly energetic flip-flopping. It can’t be easy pretending to give a damn about anyone but yourself for that long.

  7. legion says:


    The real question is why did the media feel forced to pretend that Romney has a real chance to win when all of the polls show that he is going to lose?

    That’s a completely reasonable question, SD. My view is that the media, whether you think it’s left- or right-biased, only keeps viewer interest if it’s a real horse-race & can’t be guessed at until the final tallies come in. They have a huge incentive to focus on aspects that are really meaningless if the overall truth doesn’t support that – just take a look at the vitriol heaped on Nate Silver (who’s been keeping track of electoral votes, which actually determine the winner) by pundits (who have only really gone on about the closer popular vote numbers, which don’t).

  8. Jr says:

    This is sign two in Matthew Dowd’s column from yesterday.

    PA has a built in Democratic advantage(mainly Philly) and while Obama won’t win by the margin he won it in 2008, he will win it by 4-6 points.

    This move and along with the Jeep Ad shows Romney is in serious trouble.

  9. legion says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I don’t see it as desperation, I see it as a rational effort in a very tight race.

    Knocking on doors in OH is rational. But PA? That’s not desperation, that just seems a waste of time. It’d be more logical to spend time in a tighter state, IMHO.

  10. David M says:

    For Romney (and in general) it’s actually not a bad idea to try and compete in states that aren’t currently thought of as in play instead of ramping up in OH or VA? How many more ads can they possibly run in those two states, and will they really matter? If Romney isn’t confident of either OH or VA, getting some airtime in PA or WI is probably a smart decision.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    The cycnic is me thinks Romney is trying to boost his Popular Vote numbers even though the Electoral College is supposedly out of reach The closer the race appears the more credence his nuisance lawsuits and pointless recounts seem to have.
    Another possibility is that even though Penn. is a slim-to-none chance…so are all his options at this point.
    Then there is “C”…all of the above.

    I still have my doubts that Obama will win even though all signs seem to be pointing that way…well, all signs except the outcome of the Redskins game.
    Both 538 and PEC have Obama up far enough that any statistical bias doesn’t matter.
    If Romney does lose I am very anxious to see his concession speech.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    He’s going to Pittsburgh? They are probably counting on media overlap from Pittsburgh into Eastern Ohio..trying to kill two birds with one stone.

  13. Dave Anderson says:

    @legion: Disagree —
    IF Romney and his campaign believe the following 2 things, it is rational:

    1) Ohio is out of reach

    2) An alternative path is plausible

    Then going to the spot on the alternatiev path that needs the greatest lift makes a bit of sense as the assumption of a national, or at least national excluding Ohio bump in support will take care of the other neccessary but insufficient states (Virginia, Colorado) while Pennsylvania would be the biggest lift above the national swing in Romney’s favor so any marginal resources should be devoted there.

    It is a shitty play, but it is a rational one given the circumstances of the Romney campaign.

    Virginia is neccessary to a Romney non-Ohio win but it almost never sufficient.

  14. Jr says:

    Another sign that they are losing…….

    Whenever you leak internals…..that isn’t a good sign.

  15. Geek, Esq. says:


    Rational and desperate are not mutually exclusive. 1/100 shot is probably better than a 0/10 shot.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Anderson:
    Yeah, I think that’s right. They feel blocked by Detroit in Ohio and since they have plenty of money, why not throw a hail-Mary in PA?

  17. Tsar Nicholas says:

    This sort of post and that hysterical article to which it cites only can exist on the Internet and in media circles. Seriously.

    It’s a presidential campaign. There’s a lot at stake. Romney is trying to get every possible vote. You don’t need a ouija board to know that OH and PA are very tight. You also don’t need a divining rod to know that if Romney wins both of those states then he’s in like Flynn, but if Romney loses both then it’ll take a veritable political meteor strike for him to win this thing.

    Sometimes cigars merely are cigars and sometimes reading the proverbial tea leaves merely is an exercise in mental masturbation.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @ Dave and Michael…
    But he’s probably strong in Pittsburgh already…If he’s serious about PA he needs to stay in the Philly suburbs, no?

  19. Jr says:

    @C. Clavin: That would be correct, the problem is Romney won’t do well enough there to make up the difference in the city……..he will do much better then McCain, but Obama is still going to do well with women in the suburbs. And then clean house with African American turnout in the city.

  20. wr says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “This sort of post and that hysterical article to which it cites only can exist on the Internet and in media circles. Seriously.”

    As opposed to where? On a ham sandwich? A bus bench? The head of a pin? Of course a post and article only can exist on the internet and in media — because posts are made on the internet and articles published in the media.

    If you ever release a compilation of the most useless things you’ve ever said, I hope you’ll put this near the top.

  21. PJ says:

    @michael reynolds:
    No wonder he’s using teleprompters, how else would a sleep deprived Romney be able to remember which lies he should tell people in Ohio and not people in Pennsylvania?

  22. Geek, Esq. says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Pittsburgh is a Democratic stronghold too.

  23. David M says:

    Romney In OH And PA On Election Day: Sign Of Confidence, Or Desperation?

    Desperation all the way.

  24. MBunge says:

    Romney only looks bad in comparison to Obama in 2008. There, it was someone cruising to victory deciding to see if he could nab an extra winnable state. Ohio and Pennsylvania in a tight race in 2012 aren’t the same as Indiana where one guy is safety ahead of the other.


  25. david anderson says:

    @C. Clavin: a marginal vote in Pittsburgh counts just as much as a marginal vote in Philly. And the marginal voter in Pittsburgh is more Republican friendly than the marginal voter in Philly.

    The GOP path to win PA is to not get crushed in Pittsburgh, run up the margins in the Pgh suburbs and the T and hold on for dear life on the Main Line and Philly itself

  26. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT: Romney was in Virginia today–he had a big rally at GMU’s Patriot Center this afternoon.

    I figure he’s got to be somewhere on Election Day, why not Pennsylvania and Ohio? Maybe they think he’s close enough that showing up might stir up enough enthusiasm to tip one. I doubt there’s any chance of that in PA, but OH? Who knows?

  27. legion says:

    @Dave Anderson: I would counter that there is a difference between “rational” and “logical”. Your points are logical, given those two assumptions, but I don’t agree that those assumptions are themselves rational.

    IF Romney and his campaign believe the following 2 things, it is rational:

    1) Ohio is out of reach

    2) An alternative path is plausible

    I personally don’t think OH is a given for Obama, but who really knows what the Romney camp believes (or what their internal polls look like)? They could just as easily be all-in for #1. But your #2 I have a harder time with… there may be some alternate routes without OH that are mathematically possible, but that’s not at all the same as being plausible. I get what @Geek, Esq. says about a minute chance being better than no chance, but I think there are several better places to spend that last possible moment on the campaign trail than PA… it just feels more like wanting to “go down swinging” rather than an actual long shot at wining…

  28. jan says:

    @DJ Drummond:

    The facts are annoying for those who prefer their assumptions.

    The poll ‘facts’ indicate an Obama win — only if those polls truly represent the mood of the voting public. That’s really what at issue here….

  29. Ed in NJ says:



  30. MM says:

    The poll ‘facts’ indicate an Obama win — only if those polls truly represent the mood of the voting public. That’s really what at issue here….

    Ah yes. The polls are skewed. Probably by thermite.

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  32. Mikey says:

    This story in the Daily Mail might shed some light on Romney’s Election Day plans. (Then again, it’s in the Daily Mail, so…a grain of salt might be in order.)

    Exclusive: Romney UP one point in Ohio and TIED in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to his campaign’s internal polling

  33. Crusty Dem says:

    Can’t believe nobody’s mentioned the obvious, as with everything else from the Romney campaign, they’re playing WWKRD. Karl Rove had George W Bush campaigning in California on the eve of the 2000 election, claiming that victory was clearly at hand. A bluff that people touted as “genius” when Bush pulled out the ultimate squeaker (never mind the details, and that it might not have been close if he had allocated resources more effectively)…

  34. mattb says:


    The poll ‘facts’ indicate an Obama win — only if those polls truly represent the mood of the voting public. That’s really what at issue here….

    True. And it is possible that the polls are all wrong. But give the sheer number of polls that would have had to be consistently wrong for the last year, it should also be acknowledged that there is a very low probability that this is the case.

    Those who are going with Romney — especially large margins — are basing their predictions on their feeling that the polls are wrong, with little actual evidence to support it. Granted those feelings might be correct, but that seems unlikely.

    I give credit to Scott Elliot for admitting that his models all predict an 303 EV Obama victory (though he’s hoping for Romney) –

    BTW, another bad indicator for Romney is that even Dean Chambers of has a tight final prediction (Romney wins 51% and 275 EVs).