Romney campaign: Internal polls indicate race remains close in battlegrounds

VANDALIA, Ohio—Mitt Romney's campaign insists its internal polls say the race remains very close, as aides pushed back on the perception they are losing ground to President Barack Obama in important swing states.

Ahead of Romney's appearance here with his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, Rich Beeson, the candidate's political director, and Zac Moffatt, who oversees the campaign's digital outreach, came to the press cabin of Romney's plane to refute claims made by the Obama campaign that its ground effort is superior to Romney's.

Beeson acknowledged the Obama campaign has more staff on the ground, but said they are not taking into account the "quality" of their voter contacts. He insisted Romney's campaign is making a lasting impression with voters who will decide the campaign and is doing so with a smaller staff.

"There's been a lot of talk from the Obama campaign about how their staff and offices are going to put them over the top in this close election. And that's the only metric we've heard from them is, how many staff, how many offices they have," Beeson said. "We use a little bit different method. We use the quality of the contacts and the effectiveness of those contacts."

Among other things, he said Republicans are "2 million door knocks" ahead of where the party was at this point four years ago.

Beeson's comments came just hours after a Washington Post poll of likely voters in Ohio found Obama opening up his largest lead to date in the state. According to the Post, Obama now edges Romney by 8 points in Ohio—52 percent to 44 percent.

But Beeson rejected those numbers, suggesting the campaign's internal numbers presented a different picture. But he repeatedly declined to offer details on what the campaign's internal polls exactly say—beyond indicating the race is close.

"The public polls are what the public polls are," he said. "I kinda hope the Obama campaign is basing their campaign on what the public polls say. We don't. We have confidence in our data and our metrics. Again, the public polls are [what they are]. I feel confident where we are in each one of our states. I have great faith in our data."

But the mere fact that Beeson, who rarely travels with the candidate, was on the plane and was dispatched to talk to reporters suggested nervousness among Romney aides that they are at least losing the perception wars when it comes to Romney's standing in the battleground states.

Employing a litany of football analogies, Beeson noted there are 42 days left in the campaign and accused Obama aides, including campaign manager Jim Messina, of "spiking the ball on the 30-yard line."

"We are by any stretch inside the margin of error in Ohio. And the Obama campaign is going to have some problems there," Beeson told reporters, pointing to areas of the state where conservative Democrats are unhappy with Obama's record in office. "Our ground game by any metric is matching their ground game. They have 100 offices and I think they're making the mistake of mistaking action for progress. Again, they're the reigning champs. They won. But I will put our operation up against anybody's. But at the end of the day, Ohio is going to come down to the wire and we'll be in it down to the wire and I'm confident that we will win."

He told reporters Romney's ground game "is good for a field goal" and "if you are within 3 points, it can make a difference."

But asked if Romney has a path to victory should he lose Ohio, Beeson dodged the question.

"We're going to play this thing out and that's why we play the game," Beeson said. "We've got a candidate up there who is working his tail off and who's got a message that's gonna win. So, I just don't deal in 'if-then' statements."