Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are in an around-the-clock dash to canvass as many undecided voters as possible in battleground states.
With just a week left for the US presidential election, the inevitable conclusion one draws, looking at the schedule of the two presidential candidates, is this: All roads and airways lead to Ohio, Colorado, Florida and Virginia, and a handful of other battleground states.
Both President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, are in an around-the-clock dash to canvass as many undecided voters as possible in states that are likely to decide the election.
For instance, last Wednesday, Obama covered as much as 5,300 miles, prompting the Associated Press to call it “the busiest single day of his re-election bid”. In a span of 39 hours on Wednesday and Thursday, the president visited Davenport (Iowa), Denver (Colorado), Los Angeles, Las Vegas (Nevada), Tampa (Florida), Richmond (Virginia), Chicago and Cleveland (Ohio).
Except the Los Angeles and Chicago trips, all other stops were for campaign events in battleground states. The president was in Los Angles to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno while the visit to his hometown was to cast an early vote.
Similarly, Romney also had a busy Wednesday – though not as hectic as Obama’s – hosting campaign events in Nevada, Iowa and Ohio. Their VP nominees – Vice-President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan – also hit the road and air, hosting campaign rallies in towns and communities that are seen by their campaigns as places that have the potential to influence the election.
Battleground states are not concentrated in any one part of the United States. They are spread across the country, from New Hampshire in the northeast to Nevada in the mountain west, and Florida in the south to Wisconsin in the Midwest.
What allows the two candidates to crisscross time zones to be at multiple swing states the same day are their flexible schedule in the home stretch of the campaign and a heavy use of the state-of-the-art airplanes.
Obama, as is well known, flies aboard the presidential Air Force One, a highly customised plane that has a floor space of 4,000 square feet.
Even during non-campaign events, senior White House officials, secret service agents and dozens of reporters travel with the president. In the election season, the entourage is even bigger, with the addition of key campaign officials and reporters covering the campaign. During short road trips, the presidential entourage normally consists of motorcades with more than a dozen vehicles.
Like Obama, Romney also travels with senior aides, travelling press secretaries and secret service agents. Since he clinched the Republican nomination, the entourage of the GOP leader has grown to rival that of the president in size – especially in the number of aides and reporters covering the campaign. According to news reports, more than three-dozen reporters travelled with Romney during his foreign trip to Britain, Israel and Poland earlier this summer.
Romney’s entourage, according to news reports, also includes his wife, Ann, and some of their children.
To accommodate the bigger crowd, the former Massachusetts governor, who used a 30-seat charter plane during the primaries, switched to an MD-83 in late August. The current plane, built by McDonnell Douglas, can easily carry 150 passengers and fly more than 4,500 kilometres without refuelling, meaning the candidate can fly from New York to Los Angeles non-stop. The plane has his campaign slogan “Believe in America” emblazoned on it.
It is the same plane the legendary Irish band U2 chartered during its 360° Tour, which ended last year.
Romney’s vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, uses a slightly smaller plane, DC-9-32 while Vice-President Biden uses Air Force Two, a modified Boeing 757.
Interestingly, the Washington Post reported earlier this month that Romney’s campaign staffers and the travelling press corps routinely stay at the Marriott. The candidate’s father, George Romney, was a close friend of J Willard Marriott, founder of the hotel chain. Mitt Romney once served on the board of Marriott.
“It’s our home away from home,” said Rick Gorka, a Romney spokesman, told the paper. “We’ve converted a lot of press.” That’s important because in this tight race for the presidency every conversion counts.