CLEVELAND – President Obama’s reelection campaign is invoking Al Gore’s narrow loss to George W. Bush in the Florida recount of 2000 to spur voters in battleground states to the polls in a close White House race that either side could lose if even a small band of supporters fails to cast ballots.
In an ad that began airing in Ohio on Wednesday, Obama’s campaign reminds television viewers of the 32-day drama that unfolded when the 2000 election in Florida finished in a near-tie. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling stopped the recount, effectively naming Bush the winner of Florida by 537 votes out of nearly 6 million cast.
The ad shows scenes of Florida protests during the recount and opens with a narrator saying, “537 votes.”
“The difference between what was and what could have been,” the announcer says. For voters “thinking that your vote doesn’t count, that it won’t matter,” he continues, “back then there were probably 537 people who felt the same way. Make your voice heard.”
The ad is also airing in Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, Wisconsin and Florida.
It reflects the danger that Obama faces if dampened enthusiasm among Democrats diminishes turnout of his base. In Ohio, arguably a must-win state for both Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, the president’s campaign is concerned about turnout, among others, of younger voters, African Americans and single women in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and other urban areas.
Another sign of the same challenge: Obama’s campaign is targeting Democrats with spotty records of showing up at the polls in Ohio for repeated home visits by volunteers in the days leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
More than 800,000 voters have already cast absentee ballots in Ohio.
The Florida spot is one of at least three new ads that the Obama campaign has begun airing in Ohio since the third and final presidential debate on Monday night.
One of the others is a spot showing Romney saying repeatedly that he backs the overturning of the Roe v. Wade abortion rights case, the latest in a series of spots aimed at maximizing Obama’s edge among women and offsetting Romney’s advantage among men. Another new Obama spot criticizes Romney for opposing the federal bailout of the auto industry. It, too, is the latest in a sequence of similar ads.
For his part, Romney’s ads currently running in Ohio are focused mainly on the sliver of undecided swing voters, especially those who backed Obama in 2008 but are susceptible to supporting his Republican rival this year. The Romney spot most frequently aired in Cleveland this week casts him as a former Massachusetts governor with a proven record of working with Democrats, a notable pivot from Romney’s emphasis on his conservative credentials during the Republican primaries.
Political ads are reaching a peak this week on Ohio television stations, dominating most commercial breaks. Added to the mix on Wednesday was a pro-Romney ad featuring actor Clint Eastwood, whose stand-up routine with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention was widely panned.
“We need someone who can turn it around fast, and that man is Mitt Romney,” Eastwood says in the ad. “There’s not much time left, and the future of our country is at stake.”
The Eastwood ad is being aired by American Crossroads, a super PAC that also started running an ad Wednesday that attacks Obama over U.S. debt to China.