By M.D. Kittle / Wisconsin Reporter
The Republican National Committee chairman stopped into the GOP’s Waukesha Victory Center for the Wisconsin campaign’s last “Super Saturday” before the election.
Priebus swept into the battleground state just in time for a new liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling poll showing Romney trailing President Barack Obama by just 2 percentage points, making up big ground from recent polls that showed Obama’s lead widening.
Priebus sounded pumped.
“What we have here in Wisconsin is a ground game that will blow the doors off of political history,” the Kenosha native and former Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman told Wisconsin Reporter in a phone interview Saturday evening. “We’ve already made 60 times the door knocks we did in 2008, and six times the phone calls.”
“We are crushing the Democrats on the ground, and having an army like that on the ground is like having a bigger, stronger and faster defensive line in football,” Priebus said, adding, in the parlance of pigskin politics, that the Romney campaign is within a field goal with a little over a month to go before Election Day.
PPP’s latest Wisconsin poll found a “big debate” bump for Romney, trailing Obama 49 percent to 47 percent, within the 3.1 percent margin of error. Two weeks ago, the Republican trailed the Democrat incumbent by 7 points, 52 percent to 45 percent.
“There’s not much doubt it was Romney’s strong debate performance on Wednesday night that’s given him this boost,” according to a release on the poll, which surveyed 979 likely voters between Oct. 4-6.
Voters think Romney won the debate by a 61 percent to 25 percent margin, including a 60 percent to 19 percent margin among independents, according to PPP. The poll found 50 percent of Democrats thought Romney won, while 95 percent of Republican gave the challenger the victory.
“Romney’s image has seen significant improvement over the last couple weeks with 49 percent of voters now expressing a positive opinion of him to 48 percent with a negative one. That’s up a net 8 points from a 44/51 spread on our last poll,” noted PPP.
That’s a much different take than Wisconsin’s own Marquette Law School poll, released Wednesday, showing Obama outpacing Romney by 11 percentage points.
“Governor Romney is suffering from … having the least net favorability rating, the lowest net favorability rating, of any presidential candidate since we’ve been keeping track of this in the early ’70s,” said Marquette pollster and University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Charles Franklin.
Romney’s favorable rating was a dismal 37 percent in that poll.
Republicans have criticized the poll for oversampling Democrats likely to vote.
Priebus said he doesn’t understand where the poll is coming from, although it was conducted before Wednesday’s first presidential debate of the election season.
While he doesn’t deny the election will be close, Priebus said the RNC wouldn’t be transferring “boatloads” of money into the Wisconsin campaign if Romney wasn’t within striking distance. And Obama wouldn’t have made two campaign stops in Wisconsin within less than two weeks if his campaign didn’t feel challenged, Priebus said.
The Obama campaign did not return an email seeking comment, and media coordinators from the Democratic National Committee could not be reached for comment.
But in a donation appeal following Wednesday’s debate in Denver, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said “Mitt Romney may have impressed the pundits with his performance, but he sure lost on facts.
“Romney repeatedly and blatantly lied to the American people about his plans and the President’s record. He failed to deliver the specifics that voters deserve to hear, and he doubled down on the same failed policies that hurt the middle class and led to the economic crisis,” Wasserman Schultz, U.S. congresswoman from Florida, said in the campaign appeal.
Priebus countered that what many pundits described as Obama’s lackluster performance is a “reflection of his presidency.” Priebus, however, took the criticism a step further.
“I think it was an offensive performance, when he (the president) owed it to the American people to communicate and explain,” his vision to the 67 million Americans who tuned in.
The RNC chairman discussed some other areas of the campaign. Here’s what he had to say.
Rumors that Romney planned to campaign in Wisconsin soon – “I can’t confirm that. The only thing I can tell you is Wisconsin is a high-level target for the campaign and we intend to play here and be here nonstop.”
The Joe Biden-Paul Ryan vice presidential debate Thursday in Kentucky – Can you say damning with faint praise?
“Joe Biden has been debating since the 1800s. He’s been around forever. I wouldn’t take Joe Biden lightly. It would be foolish for people to believe (Biden) is going to plant his foot in his mouth the whole night. He’s quick on his feet, and pretty relatable to people,” Priebus said, adding that no one is as knowledgeable as Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan on budget, fiscal policy and the U.S. debt.
On the cash haul taken in by the Obama campaign and the DNC, taking in $181 million in September – “They’re good at raising money. We’re pretty good at it, too. But they never thought we would be right on their heels.”
“We made history,” said Jim Messina, campaign manager for Obama for America, in a fundraising appeal. He noted that the re-election effort surpassed 10 million donations in 2012.
Romney as of late Saturday had not announced his September fundraising totals in advance of the Oct. 20 deadline.
“This election is not going to come down to money. It’s going to come down to heart and who’s willing to work harder,” Priebus said.