Image: Mitt Romney on plane
Brian Snyder  /  REUTERS
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney talks to staff and advisors, including Bob White (rear), onboard his campaign plane enroute to Sterling, Va. Nov. 5, 2012.
NBC News
updated 11/5/2012 3:26:53 PM ET 2012-11-05T20:26:53

President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney set about a “barnburner” of a schedule on Monday, the penultimate day of the 2012 election, courting voters in the must-win states of the 2012 campaign.

The president hit stops in Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio – the three states composing his Midwestern “firewall,” where a total of 24 electoral votes were at stake, and where winning would put the president tantalizingly close to the 270 votes in the Electoral College he needs to secure re-election.

Romney was set to make a four-state tour through Florida, Virginia and Ohio – states that are critical to his hopes of becoming president – before concluding in New Hampshire, the cornerstone of Romney’s victory in the GOP presidential primary earlier this year, and the state neighboring Massachusetts, where Romney served as governor and his campaign is now headquartered.

But Romney’s campaign also made late plans to take the unusual state of adding additional campaign stops on Election Day itself.

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Romney adds Election Day stops in Ohio, Pennsylvania

His campaign said Romney would visit Cleveland, having trailed Obama by a slim but consistent margin in post public polls. And Romney would make his second trip to Pennsylvania, a state in which Republicans have made a late play in hopes of expanding Romney’s path to 270, when he visits Pittsburgh.

Their schedules, coming on the heels of a jam-packed weekend of campaigning across the country by both the candidates and their surrogates, was nothing short of a “barnburner,” as Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan put it at first rally of the day, in Nevada.

Video: In Reno, Ryan touts Romney’s leadership

“We're doing a barnburner today,” Ryan said in the state, which is seen as leaning toward Obama in NBC News’ battleground map. “We are crisscrossing the country – Mitt and I are because we are asking you to work with us, to stand with us to get our country back on the right track.”

Campaign comes down to who votes

Both Obama and Romney stuck to well-worn scripts that they had used throughout the frenetic final days of the campaign. The candidates at times seemed to acknowledge that much of the campaign’s outcome might be out of their hands, pleading with supporters to sway a winnowing number of swing voters over to their cause.

“Your voices are being heard all over the nation loud and clear, thank you,” Romney said in Virginia. “I also want to thank many of you in this crowd that have been out there working on the campaign – making calls from the victory centers, and by putting up a yard sign, in your neighbor’s yard and maybe convincing a coworker to vote for Paul Ryan and me.”

Obama kicked off his first rally of the day with rocker Bruce Springsteen, who would hitch a ride with the president to Columbus for an afternoon rally, which was also to feature rapper Jay-Z.

Slideshow: Election 2012

"I get to fly around with him on the last day I'll ever campaign, so that's not a bad way to end things," he said of Springsteen, who will accompany Obama to Columbus, Ohio, on Air Force One.

Both Obama and Romney’s schedules, though, sent a powerful signal about their fundamental strategy for Election Day.

The states Romney is visiting, for instance, are virtually essential for his hopes come Tuesday. Failing to win Florida, for instance, would force Romney to have to win every single other remaining battleground state.

Obama’s stops, meanwhile, suggested attentiveness to his so-called “firewall,” which Republicans have argued is cracking amid surging Republican enthusiasm in battleground states. Video: Obama: 'I'll fight for you and your families'

Vice President Joe Biden, during a stop at a cafe in Sterling, Va., predicted the bloc would hold.

“I think we’ll win Ohio, I think we’ll win Wisconsin, I think we’ll win Iowa. I think we’ll win Nevada, I think we’ll win new Hampshire,” he told reporters. He added that Florida would be “close,” but said he thought “have a real shot of winning” the Sunshine State.

As they made their final arguments to sprawling crowds throughout the day, both Romney and Obama got an assist from additional superstars who entertained audiences before rallies had begun.

Obama was traveling with Springsteen and Jay-Z on Monday, but Katy Perry and John Mellencamp had played before other Obama audiences over the weekend. Romney’s rally on Monday in Ohio was also slated to feature the Marshall Tucker Band.

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Video: Virginia remains key to the road to 270

  1. Closed captioning of: Virginia remains key to the road to 270

    >> the republican chances in his state . thank you very much, mr. leader. thank you for being with us. what are you seeing in virginia ?

    >> well, andrea , i have been with mitt romney and paul ryan over the last week be here in virginia and the enthusiasm is off the charts with republicans and people who want to see mitt romney elected because he's actually got a plan to create jobs to make this economy come roaring back and people that really are dissatisfied with the way things have been over the last four years. i think that's what it comes down to. i think you're going to see a win in virginia for mitt romney a lot wider than what people are expecting to see and a win for george allen here in the commonwealth.

    >> the nbc news/" wall street journal "/marist poll had it at a one point race within the margin of error, 48 to 47. shouldn't mitt romney be doing better than that in virginia , shouldn't he have a comfortable margin given the advances you have, strong military presence, the rural communities . why is it as close as it seems to be?

    >> well, as you know, andrea , this state of ours has been a growing state , increasingly diverse, and a state whose economy has actually done a lot better than the economy nationally. and it has been a competitive race since the very beginning as you know. this state went for president obama last time for the first time in i think 44 years that our state went for a democratic nominee for president. i think what you're going to see this time, virginia come to the center right, common sense conservative vision that is prevalent throughout the state and large metropolitan areas as well as the rural areas of the state . you hit on the issue of defense , andrea , and it's an extremely important issue here. and voters especially in the areas of hampton roads , which is the home of the world's largest naval base in norfolk as well as the defense community up around the pentagon and northern virginia , are extremely worried and concerned about the president's defense cuts. mitt romney has said that he would have and will avoid those defense cuts so we don't see a loss of 100,000 jobs in the commonwealth, an issue --

    >> defense cuts sir, republicans, paul ryan voted for the sequester, those were agreed to in the agreement on the debt ceiling and whoever is elected --

    >> you know, you know the origin of that. the origin was the white house and the president said he wouldn't sign the debt ceiling increase unless we went along with it and when we found out that our trust in the process was misplaced what we did in the house and paul ryan joined us in the house and substituting those defense cuts with cuts that are more appropriately placed across the budget arena and no so disproportionately aimed at our defense --

    >> let me ask you --

    >> that is the issue and those are the jobs at stake in virginia .

    >> let me ask you what happens after the election. mitt romney has been talking about bipartisan, harry reid has been criticized by many for saying he would not work with mitt romney if he is elected. will you work with president obama if he is re-elected on his agenda, which is raising taxes on the wealthy, draw down the deficit and pay for some of the programs that need to be preserved for the middle class ?

    >> andrea , this election is being fought on the issue of taxes and it is my position and mitt romney 's and paul ryan 's and our party now is not the time to raise taxes on anybody when we have an economy where you're seeing almost 8% unemployment, where you're seeing at least 8 million people under employed or a part-time working because they can't find anything full time . we don't think that taking more people's money right now is the answer. and it is the prospects of seeing tax rates for everyone go up. it is seeing the prospects of the marriage penalty being implemented. the fact that the death taxes will go back up. all of these things are what is at stake this election which is why i believe strongly mitt romney will win big here in virginia and win nationally tomorrow night.

    >> and --

    >> and if for some reason that doesn't occur, of course, we will always work with whoever is elected and really must all come together. i mean that's been the issue that we've seen that's been the real problem over the last four years with this president. had he has been and demonstrated in either an inability or unwillingness to bring both sides together. and that's the difference you see in mitt romney . he is a proven leader when he was a republican and probably the most democratic state in the country, massachusetts, and was able to work with both sides of the aisle bringing them together to produce results for the voters there. that's what i believe the voters of virginia want right now and america is to see everyone understanding you're not going to agree on everything, but setting things aside so we can get results and people back to work.

    >> thank you very much, eric cantor , majority leader, thank you


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