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Momentum vs. math in election's final full week

Saturday - 10/27/2012, 2:26pm  ET

Associated Press

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - One final jobs report before Election Day and the big storm threatening the East Coast loom large as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney head into the final full week of campaigning in a race polls show is extraordinarily close.

Democrats claim math is on the president's side. Republicans insist Romney's got the momentum.

"We're seeing more and more enthusiasm, and more and more support," a confident Romney says in messages to supporters, arguing that his performances in the three presidential debates has reinvigorated his campaign and created a national movement.

Obama is banking on his get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive states. He's also making personal appeals as he encourages Americans to stick with him for a second term. During a whirlwind tour last week through some of the most pivotal states, he said, "After all these years, you know me. You know I mean what I say."

In pursuit of the 270 electoral votes for victory, each nominee is starting to make his closing arguments. The goal is to win over the narrow slice of undecided, independent voters, moderates and women in particular, and to persuade supporters to vote on Nov. 6, if not earlier in the many states where voting is under way. Roughly one-third of the electorate will have voted before Election Day.

The question now is whether the momentum Romney picked up after the debates is growing and can overcome the president's strong voter-identification and early voting efforts in the tightest states.

The campaigns are scrambling to tweak schedules, shift manpower and pump millions of more dollars into TV ads in the nine states that will determine the outcome. Deep-pocketed outside groups are paying for direct mail, automated phone calls and other get-out-the-vote efforts.

Total campaign spending has exceeded $2 billion, making this presidential race the most expensive in the history of electoral politics.

But there's a risk that all those commercials, phone calls and mailings have caused many people to tune out.

"I'm so sick of those commercials," said Cora Blakey, a retiree who stood in long lines with about 13,000 people to see Obama last week at an outdoor park in Las Vegas. "Everybody's bashing everybody. When they come on, I turn the channel."

Any number of factors still could shift the race.

A massive weather system bearing down on the East Coast threatens to complicate the final days of campaigning and early voting across at least four pivotal states _New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

With each man claiming to be best able to revive the struggling economy, the latest jobs report due Friday from the Labor Department will shine an 11th-hour spotlight on the country's health four days before most people vote. Last week, the most recent snapshot of economic growth showed the U.S. recovery remains tepid.

At Romney's Boston base and Obama's Chicago headquarters, aides are focused on the factors they can control. That means how and where their candidate spends his time and money in the nine states that will decide the outcome _ Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia.

Both sides acknowledge that Obama has a larger campaign organization on the ground in most states, and that Democrats have an edge in the push to get supporters to the polls early in many of the most competitive states.

Obama advisers insist he is leading or tied in all nine of those states, though strategists in both parties say North Carolina has shifted toward Romney in recent days. Romney aides insist that state-based polling underestimates the former Massachusetts governor's popularity with independents.

Obama's campaign is confident about Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and Wisconsin; the race looks tighter in Colorado, Virginia and Florida. Democrats also voiced confidence in New Hampshire, though there is little early voting in the state, making it harder to gauge now.

Despite the heavy focus on turnout, Obama's campaign says it is still working to persuade undecided voters and soft Romney supporters to back the president. That's why Obama is focusing much of his travel in the campaign's final stretch on swing areas of competitive states, including Green Bay, Wis., Orlando and Denver. Romney is focused on Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin and expects to travel to New Hampshire on Tuesday.

Obama aides say they expect the demographics of the electorate to look similar to the 2008 election, with slight increases in black and Hispanic voters. They attribute that both to natural population growth and the campaign's efforts to boost minority voter registration.

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