Updated 3:11 p.m. - President Barack Obama's campaign manager cautioned Thursday that the election is "far from over," just as polls show GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney gaining on Obama.
"This thing is far from over," campaign manager Jim Messina said on a conference call, "and every single day, across the battleground states, voters are voting and we are able to affect that vote every single day."
Messina was speaking on a call to boast of their campaign's efforts to register voters in key swing states, and, beyond that, encourage early voting where it's allowed.
There are signs that this strategy has paid dividends, too. Almost 1-in-5 respondents in the Thursday NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll of Ohio said they had voted early; 63 percent of those who had already cast ballots said they had voted for Obama.
At the same time, though, Romney has eaten into Obama's lead in swing states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida on the strength of his debate performance last week against the president. The tightening polls have prompted Democratic nervousness that Romney stands a better-than-expected chance at winning the election.
Messina sent out a clarion call to supporters to warn against complacency.
"The most important think I learned when I was running track was to finish strong," he said. "At the end of a race, you sprint and lean into the tape, you don't let up. And quite simply, we're not going to let up until Election Night when we win this thing. And the ground game we've built up over the past few years will help us drive hard right through that finish line."
Romney political director Rich Beeson said in response: “Since the debate, we’ve seen a 63 percent increase in volunteer hours, a growing enthusiasm gap that continues to favor Governor Romney, a strengthening of our already strong ground game, and we’re seeing the effects of this in polling numbers across the battleground states. What the Obama campaign didn’t tell you is that we are leading or even with them in early vote in key states across the country – FL, NC, CO, NV, and NH. Our early vote numbers are outperforming voter registration in battleground states, demonstrating the strength of our ground game and the excitement for the Romney/Ryan ticket. Not only are we keeping pace with the vaunted Obama machine, but we believe our ground game will put us over the finish line on Election Day.”