Washington (CNN) - Top aides to President Barack Obama's re-election campaign say they don't buy a new Bloomberg poll that indicates Obama leading Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 13 points.
"We got the race we expected," one top aide said, describing "a close race" that will remain that way up until Election Day.
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The adviser also said the Romney campaign and Republicans in Congress are "rooting" for the economy to get worse so voters will turn on the president and Democrats and "throw them out."
The remarks came during a background briefing for reporters held just before new fund-raising numbers were made public. The briefing seemed designed to re-set expectations on both message and fund-raising at a time when the media is portraying the president's campaign as suffering a tough couple of weeks.
Prolific fund-raisers themselves, the Obama campaign aides warned that the Romney campaign is nonetheless going to out-spend them, significantly. One aide predicted Romney's haul will reach $100 million this month and, all told, the GOP side – including outside spending groups – will blitz voters with more than one billion dollars in campaign cash.
On the message front, the team indirectly acknowledged they've taken heat from Democratic surrogates for parts of their anti-Romney message – especially their attacks on Bain Capitol, the private equity firm co-founded by Romney – but they're sticking to it. Don't expect something new.
To explain their logic this aide cited Republican pollster and Fox News regular Frank Luntz saying if the campaign "is couched as a battle over the middle class, Democrats will win."
So they will keep with a theme that Romney supports policies that benefit him or "people like him at the expense of the middle class," and they'll have a debate over "growing the economy from the top down or from the middle class out."
But that message is being narrowcast. Unlike 2008 when team Obama enthused about their success expanding the map, this time the president's strategists are focused narrowly on a handful of battleground states where they're targeting swing voters and supporters in key demographic groups. They insist for the last six weeks the race has remained nearly tied in the states such as Colorado, Virginia, and Nevada. And they say their internal polling shows they are winning women in those states; they will match their 2008 percentage among Latinos nationwide, only this time they expect more to turn out; and believe African American voters remain their "bedrock of support" despite grumbling within the community that the administration hasn't done enough to address their concerns.
After months of insisting voters aren't paying attention and they'll have plenty of time to define their opponent, the campaign aides did say voters "are getting tuned in now."
In other words, game on.
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