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On The Campaign Trail: Obama's Final Push


This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. With just 10 days to go in a tightening race, both campaigns are out in force around the country trying to win over voters. Today, Governor Mitt Romney is in Florida. President Obama is in New Hampshire. We're joined now by Ben LaBolt. He's national press secretary for President Obama's 2012 campaign. He's on the line from Chicago.

Mr. LaBolt. Thanks for being with us.

BEN LABOLT: Good morning, Scott. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Just a few weeks ago, it looked like you were well ahead. Now it's tied. What happened?

LABOLT: Well, you know, we never thought we were 10 points up in states like Iowa and Ohio. What's remarkable is how stable this race has been for the past year and a half - a small, but important feat for the president in key battleground states that will decide the election.

But the results that matter, right now, are the early vote results, states like Iowa and Ohio and Nevada are already voted and the president is winning those states by two-to-one. We've got to keep up that turn out of our supporters and reach the remaining undecided.

SIMON: The - one of the ways in which, according to the polls, the race might be tightening is among women voters. The AP released a poll on Thursday showing that Mr. Romney and the president were tied at 47 percent. Does this indicate...


SIMON: Yes, sir?

LABOLT: We actually think that the gender gap will be maintained on Election Day. Ultimately Governor Romney is somebody who wouldn't stand up for equal pay for women, who said we should get rid of Planned Parenthood, who hasn't stood up for tax fairness, who's comfortable with...

SIMON: Well, I - let - let me - I think those of us who have been listening can probably finish those sentences now, but let me point to you to what the polls say. Does it suggest to you that economic issues are as important to women voters as what you even began to detail as women's health issues?

LABOLT: Well, we thought all along that they would be. Certainly equal pay is an issue that's critical to woman. Mitt Romney refuses to say that he supports it. And ultimately, it's going to come down to that economic choice.

Do you believe that a $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, paid for by the middle-class, will unleash job creation when it hasn't in the past? Or do you believe that we should continue to make investments in areas like education and research and developments that are creating good paying jobs for the middle class?

SIMON: Mitt is...

LABOLT: We were losing at least 800,000 jobs a month when president came into office, and more than 5 million jobs have been created. Mitt Romney wants to cut back in all the areas that have lead to that job creation.

SIMON: Mr. LaBolt, you mentioned the concentration in states with electoral votes that are in the balance. There's a headline, I imagine, you might have seen in the Washington Post today that says polls raise prospect, Obama may win without popular vote. Now, in October 2004, at senatorial debates at the city club of Chicago, Mr. Obama was asked about the electoral college.


SIMON: Now, in a news conference thereafter, State Senator Obama said he'd be in favor of awarding electoral college votes in proportion with the popular vote. So with today's headline in mind that the president may need the electoral vote to win, is this still President Obama's position?

LABOLT: Well, the position of the president is the law that's on the books, and the electoral college elects the next president of the United States. Our campaign effort is built around getting to 270 electoral college votes. That's why we've built such a strong organization on the ground in key states across the country. That's what will get us over the finish line, and obviously we paid the most attention to state polls, not national polls. That's how the election is decided.

But I think once Americans - those undecided Americans - take a look at the choice on the table, at the progress that we've made and the fact that Mitt Romney would return to all the same sorts of economic policies that got us into the crisis, crashed the economy, and devastated the middle class in the first place...

SIMON: Mr. LaBolt, let me - let me follow up with, because you've spent a lot of time pointing out Mitt Romney's past positions. Is this different from the position President Obama took just eight years ago, that people in the electoral college ought to vote for the winner of the popular vote?

LABOLT: The president's position is the law that's on the books, which is the electoral college decides the next president of the United States. The winner will be the winner who wins those battleground states.

But, again, I'm confident that once that economic choice crystallizes for those undecided voters who've been focused on their daily lives and maybe haven't tended to the race right until now, they'll take a look at the fact that we were losing manufacturing jobs before he came to office. Now we've created more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs. These guys plan to create a million more.

SIMON: Mr. - Mr...

LABOLT: When we take a look at the back...

SIMON: And Mr. LaBolt, I'm afraid we've run out of time, but I do thank you for joining us.

LABOLT: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Ben LaBolt, national press secretary for President Obama's 2012 campaign. Tomorrow we've invited a representative of the Romney campaign to speak with my colleague Rachel Martin on Weekend Edition Sunday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.