By Dan Balz
The Washington Post
It is easy to get confused in the final week of a presidential campaign, and we are at that point in Campaign 2012. There are conflicting polls in battleground states, unexpected moves by the campaigns into new states, widely varying assessments from the partisans in both parties and persistent spinning by the candidates’ advisers.
There are also certain realities about campaigns that offer some anchors, if not real answers, for assessing what is happening now and what may happen Tuesday. Where candidates spend their time in the final days is one clue. How states have performed, relative to one another, in past elections is another. Another is how different groups of voters are leaning.
One question in dispute right now is whether Mitt Romney can actually expand the electoral map by putting Pennsylvania, Michigan and even Minnesota into play. Republicans are advertising in those states, claiming there is an opportunity for the GOP nominee to win. President Obama’s campaign has countered with ads of its own, which Republicans say is a sign of weakness.
Obama officials claim that Romney is probing those states because he’s run into trouble in true battlegrounds. Obama advisers say they decided to air ads in those states out of prudence rather than concern. Chief Obama strategist David Axelrod even promised on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday that he would shave off his moustache if the president lost any of those states.
Money spent in unexpected places by the campaigns or their supporting super PACs tells us little at this point. That’s because, unlike past presidential campaigns, resources are not an issue for either Romney or Obama and certainly not for the super PACs.
Neither candidate is taking federal funds for the general election, which means there are no limits on spending. Both campaigns are flush with cash and budgeted for the battlegrounds long ago. Both have extra funds to play with down the stretch.