In a press conference call Wednesday afternoon, senior Romney campaign officials fired off a rat-a-tat of early voting statistics and polling figures to prove victory was still comfortably within reach — if not quite inevitable.
“This is a very tight race that’s very far from being decided,” said campaign pollster Neil Newhouse, summarizing the campaign's message.
The favorable metrics they cited — some of them legitimate, others less so — added up to a relatively persuasive case that the election indeed remains too close to call. But that argument is a long ways from the chest-thumping bravado the campaign has been projecting over the past month.
On the stump, Romney has grown fond of eliciting loud applause from his crowds by saying "If I become president," and then correcting himself, "No, when I become president..."
But if the cautiously optimistic tone of the call was any indication, Romney's senior staff in Boston remain very much on the "if" side of the scenario.
Most national polls remain tied, or show Romney ahead, but polls in the key battlegrounds of Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire continue to give the incumbent a stubborn, if slight, edge.
But Newhouse pointed out that in Ohio, for instance, Romney has maintained a solid lead among independent voters in 20 of the 26 state polls released in October. Barring a massive Democratic turnout similar to 2008, he argued, the state will go to the candidate who's winning independents — and that appears to be Romney.
Senior strategist Russ Schrieffer also noted that Obama has continued to poll below 50 percent in most state and national surveys, suggesting that undecided voters will break for the challenger. He also noted that Romney favorability rating is now roughly similar to Obama's — a dramatic upswing since last month.
"This is a change election," said Schrieffer. "Let's not kid ourselves. Voters are looking for change. They are not happy with the way things have gone over the last four years... and Governor Romney is the change candidate."
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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