Obama Campaign Claims the Lead: `We Have the Ball,’ Axelrod Says

Photograph by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Pohto

President Barack Obama greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event at Delray Beach Tennis Center on Oct. 23, 2012 in Fla.

The election is up for grabs with two weeks remaining? — Not so fast, say President Barack Obama’s top campaign strategists.

While polls show the president and Republican challenger Mitt Romney deadlocked nationally and in the battleground states that will decide the winner, political strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager Jim Messina are saying they have the upper hand.

“We have the ball, we have the lead, we have a great push-off as a result of these last two very strong debate performances,” Axelrod told reporters on a conference call this morning. “We know what we know and they know what they know, and I’m confident that we’re going to win this race and we’ll know who’s bluffing and who isn’t in two weeks.”

The campaign strategists projected an air of confidence heading into the contest’s final days, saying they have more pathways to 270 Electoral College votes than Romney has and enthusiasm and organizational strength were giving them an edge in early voting.

Messina said they’re winning early votes in Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin and the president is winning overall by margins ranging from 15-35 points among people who already have voted.

“The math for Republicans and what they have to beat us by on Election Day gets harder and harder” especially in states like Nevada, Iowa and Ohio, Messina said.

Messina and Axelrod poured cold water on polling that shows the president’s support slipping and Romney gaining ground in the swing states, saying the surveys aren’t accurately reflecting the electorate.

“We continue to think it’s going to be a higher percentage of minorities and young people than some are forecasting,” Messina said, singling out North Carolina and Florida, where strategists on both sides this week say Obama has all but lost.

“The math continues to look better and better for us in North Carolina,” Messina said, adding that voter registration has surpassed expectations and youth turnout in early voting is higher than it was in 2008.

They also disputed reports that Obama’s campaign is pulling resources out of states where Romney has established a consistent lead.

“We are not pulling back at all,” Axelrod said.

While Romney hasn’t been able to “knock us out” of a single battleground state, Messina said the Obama campaign has forced its rival’s campaign to spend significant resources in states like North Carolina and pull resources out of Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Mexico.

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