CONCORD, N.H. – The final, exhausting 48 hours of a long and contentious campaign are bringing a laser focus and frenetic pace to the web of battleground states where voters will choose the country’s next president.
Straight from the start of Sunday’s crowded schedule—from a chilled rally for President Obama in the shadow of the New Hampshire State House to an appeal for votes in Iowa by Republican challenger Mitt Romney – the candidates turned the finish of their marathon campaign into a mad sprint to Election Day.
The race remains extremely close, with both men predicting victory on Tuesday but passionately urging their supporters to vote. The goal is to reach as many voters as possible—through personal appearances, countless phone calls, and ubiquitous television ads in every media market in every swing state.
“We will win New Hampshire,” Obama told an estimated 14,000 people jammed shoulder to shoulder behind the state Capitol, many of whom had been waiting three hours to hear him. “We will win this election. We will finish what we started.”
Dressed in an aviator-style jacket and sweater, Obama appeared buoyant and smiled often as he launched into a 30-minute stump speech after a spirited introduction by former president Bill Clinton.
“As long as I’m president, I will work with anybody of any party to move this country forward,” Obama said, adding that he would not sacrifice his principles in the process. “That’s not bipartisanship. That’s certainly not change. That is surrender to the same status quo that has squeezed middle-class families for way too long.”
The thin margins separating the candidates in the polls, most of which favor Obama slightly, has turned the late stages of the campaign into a frantic battle for the battleground states. Even New Hampshire, with only four electoral votes, has been visited by the president three times in the last 17 days.
Romney campaigned in the state on Saturday and will return to Manchester, N.H., on Monday for a final rally.
Obama attacked Romney on his tax-cut plan, which the president said would unfairly benefit the wealthy, and on declining to be specific about budget cuts if elected.
“He’s a very talented salesman, and in this campaign he has tried as hard as he can to repackage the same old ideas and pretend they’re new. In fact, he’s offering them up as change; says he’s the candidate of change,” Obama said.
“We know what change looks like, and what he’s selling ain’t it.
Those criticisms have become familiar in this campaign. But on Sunday, the president also became introspective, acknowledging that he is frustrated that he did not accomplish as much as had been hoped in his first term.
“I’ve got the scars to prove it. I’ve got the gray hairs to show for it,” Obama said.
The president summoned some of the soaring cadences and rhetoric of idealism that had characterized much of his 2008 campaign.
“As long as there are families who are working harder and harder but still falling behind, our work is not yet done,” Obama said. “As long as there is a child anywhere in New Hampshire, anywhere in this country, who is languishing in poverty and barred from opportunity, our fight has to go on.”
Ann Hyland, 66, of Concord, said before Obama’s appearance that she is confident of victory.
“It appears the polls continue to improve for Obama. Plus, I told all my seven adult children to vote,” Hyland said. When asked whether they would vote for Obama, Hyland answered emphatically, “I know they will!”
After the rally, Obama departed for appearances in Hollywood, Fla., and Cincinnati, Ohio.
CONCORD, N.H. – Offering to compromise but pledging not to sacrifice his principles in the face of partisan opposition, President Obama opened a three-stop, whirlwind tour of battleground states on Sunday with an appeal for support before 14,000 people crowded in the cold behind the state Capitol.
“As long as I’m president, I’ll work with anybody,” Obama said after a spirited introduction by former president Bill Clinton.
However, Obama added, he will not compromise simply for the sake of an agreement that would jeopardize broad social programs such as Medicaid and financial aid for students.
“That’s not bipartisanship. That’s certainly not change,” Obama said to cheers. “That’s surrender.”
After a 30-minute speech, Obama departed for more stops Sunday in battleground states that are likely to determine whether he is reelected on Tuesday. With four electoral votes, New Hampshire could provide the difference in a race that remains close nationwide.
His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, appeared at Portsmouth International Airport on Saturday and is scheduled to hold his final campaign rally on Monday in Manchester.Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at email@example.com.