The presidential campaign of Mitt Romney has begun shifting staff out of North Carolina, saying Thursday it was feeling confident enough that the state would go Republican next month.
Although the campaign declined to specify how many individuals were involved in the shift, it did acknowledge that its chief spokesman, Robert Reid, had been moved to Ohio.
“With the increasingly widening polls in North Carolina, we will continue to allocate resources, including key senior staff, to other states,” said Michael Levoff, a Romney campaign spokesman in Boston.
“Our victory centers throughout the state will remain open and we expect our supporters and volunteers to remain engaged in our unprecedented get out the vote efforts through the election,” Levoff said.
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Romney campaign advisers had telegraphed the move on Wednesday, saying it was considering moving staff from North Carolina into states long considered safe for President Barack Obama such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Associated Press reported.
The Obama campaign said rather than downsizing, it had in recent weeks added organizers in North Carolina. “This signals to North Carolina voters that the Romney campaign is taking their votes for granted,” said Cameron French, the chief spokesman for the state Obama campaign.
“The Obama campaign remains fully committed to North Carolina, while Republicans are adopting a reverse strategy from 2008,” French said. “On the first day of early voting, as our supporters turned out in droves to cast their ballot for President Obama, the Romney campaign is pulling up stakes and turning its back on hard working North Carolinians.”
In 2008, the campaign of Republican John McCain did not mount a major effort in North Carolina – which had gone Republican in nine of the 10 previous presidential contests – until the final weeks of the campaign, when it realized it was in trouble here.
Thursday’s move came on the same day that the latest Rasmussen Reports poll, a Republican-leaning firm in New Jersey, showed Romney up over Obama in North Carolina by a 52-46 margin. The survey of 500 voters taken Oct. 17 and had a margin of error 4.5 percent.
A survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm in Raleigh, showed Romney up 49-47 percent. The PPP poll of 1,084 voters was conduced Oct. 12-14 and had a margin of error of 3 percent.
Based on a accumulation of polls, the website Real Clear Politics Thursday moved North Carolina from toss up state to leaning Republican in the presidential race.
North Carolina has the widest margin in the polls for Romney of any of the nine battleground states with a 5.6 percent spread, according to Real Clear Politics.
There has been a flurry of speculation in recent days that both campaigns were considering downsizing their efforts in North Carolina. David Plouffe, a top Obama strategist, said after the second presidential debate that the Democrats’ campaign felt very good about Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. But he left off Obama’s Southern strategy of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.
On Wednesday, Jen Psaki, Obama’s traveling campaign press secretary, walked back the comments, saying the campaign was “absolutely not” giving up efforts in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. “North Carolina,” shesaid, “has one of the best ground games in the country. They’ve registered more voters than I think most other swing states, which is an enormous accomplishment. We believe we can win those states. And nothing has changed in the state of play in terms of the math of where we’re competing.”
The Obama campaign said it had 600 early-vote events on Thursday, the first day of early voting.First Lady Michelle Obama in Chapel Hill on Tuesday, and Second Lady Jill Biden stumped the state on Saturday. Romney campaigned in Asheville last week.
Staff writer John Frank contributed.