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Dean, Thompson say their guy's leading presidential race

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Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has maintained the momentum he gained from the first debate and is close enough to President Obama in key states that he can win the presidency, onetime GOP presidential hopeful Fred Thompson said Thursday.

“The debate got him the exposure that he needed and he came on as someone who is plausible as a president ... and the rest is a gradual moving in that way,” Thompson said.

But, Howard Dean, whose 2004 Democratic presidential candidacy ran aground after a famous rant to supporters, said that Obama has regained the momentum he lost to Romney after the first debate.

Obama accomplished that “by doing very well in the two subsequent debates, especially the foreign policy debate” and getting endorsed by retired four-star Gen. Colin Powell.

“I think we are going to win... but nothing is left to chance,” said Dean, a former governor of Vermont.

The two men gave their assessments of the presidential race on Thursday afternoon before they squared off for a debate that evening at St. Vincent College in Unity.

Dean, a former Democrat National Committee chairman, predicted that Obama will win the important battlegrounds of Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin and Nevada — with the possibility of New Hampshire — on his road to retaining the White House.

Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, said he believes Romney will be very close to capturing the White House. Thompson predicted Romney would win Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia, plus all the states claimed by GOP nominee Sen. John McCain in 2008.

Romney could go over the top in the Electoral College by winning either Ohio or Pennsylvania or Wisconsin or a state like Iowa or New Hampshire, he said.

“There's about 90 electoral (college) votes he has a shot at,” Thompson said.

A Rasmussen poll of 11 swing states showed Thursday that Romney had 50 percent of the vote to Obama's 46 percent. The poll showed that only 2 percent remain undecided.

“Most people made up their minds a long time ago,” Dean said.

Both Dean and Thompson said Pennsylvania has not been “in play” — a close race — until recently. “There's indications now it may be,” Thompson said.

Polls have Obama leading Romney in the state by 3 to 5 percent.

The Democrats “have to take Pennsylvania very seriously. We have to win in Pennsylvania,” Dean said.

With less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election, the two former presidential candidates said Obama and Romney must focus on galvanizing their bases.

“It's all about vote turnout; anything you can do to help voter turnout,” Thompson said.

Dean believes Obama's political machine is doing a better job in getting the vote out, even though Republicans have improved over their efforts in 2008.

The 2012 victor will face a great challenge in turning around the nation's economy, Thompson said.

“In the short term, a lot depends on who wins the election. Long term, it's a terrible dilemma the country faces that I don't think we have faced up to yet as a people. A presidential campaign ... is a terrible time to discuss serious issues,” Thompson said.

“We have extremely dangerous levels of debt ... and no side can cram major change down the throat of the other side and get away with it,” he said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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