When Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign plane headed east from Iowa to New Hampshire on Friday, he might have been tempted to look out the window for his White House rival.
President Barack Obama, it turns out, was on a similar flight to and from the same states — albeit in the opposite direction.
The president, after attending a rally in New Hampshire with First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, took Air Force One to Iowa, even as Romney jetted toward New Hampshire to attend a similar event some 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Obama’s stop in the Granite State.
Welcome to the 2012 cat-and-mouse campaign, where bracketing — the tactic of scheduling campaign or press events after an opponent’s appearance in order to dilute the rival’s message — has become the norm in an increasingly tight race.
The strategy was used in abundance on campaign bus tours and at the recent party national conventions, such as when Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus headed to Charlotte, North Carolina this week to check in on the Democrats and host daily press briefings a stone’s throw from their convention.
Biden had planned to do the same to Republicans in Tampa, Florida the week before, although his plans were scuppered by an approaching tropical storm.
The tactic had rarely been used by the chief protagonists in the 2012 race before Friday, when Obama and Romney could figuratively wave to each other in the skies over the Midwest.
But it shows how their campaigns are increasingly honing in on a handful of battleground states, any of which could determine the election outcome on November 6.
Experts say there are about 10 key swing states, including Florida, Ohio and Virginia, where both candidates have spent considerable time.
Obama heads to St. Petersburg, Florida, later Friday. Romney was in the state last weekend, days after attending the Republican convention in Tampa.
On Saturday he attends a NASCAR race and a rally in Virginia, the same state where Obama campaigned on Tuesday.
They are also making stops in smaller but still-vital swing states such as Colorado, Iowa and Nevada, courting independent or undecided voters where the race is seen as too close to call.