President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney entered the final two weeks of their White House race on confident and combative notes, using different themes to bolster a common message: Each claims a plausible path to victory.
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“The president said he was a president of change, but in fact he’s become a president of status quo,” Romney told more than 10,000 supporters last night at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado.
Romney was joined by his vice-presidential running mate, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who said Obama will try to “distract” voters because he has run out of ideas on the economy. “Paul and I can handle two more weeks of attacks, but I don’t think America can handle four more years,” Romney said.
Obama, during an earlier appearance, said his Republican challenger’s policies are “all over the map” and sought to sow doubt about his opponent’s trustworthiness and consistency.
“I hope I made clear that there’s a big difference between me and Mitt Romney,” Obama told supporters in Dayton, Ohio. “And it’s not just that he’s got better hair.”
With their three debates now behind them, both men encouraged supporters to vote early and advanced economic arguments designed to appeal to the narrowing sliver of undecided voters.
Obama will try to build intensity today, as he began a two- day blitz that will take him across four time zones and to six competitive states. Obama’s trip takes him to Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Virginia and Ohio.
Romney for the second straight day is wooing voters in Nevada and then in Iowa. He’ll spend the night in Cincinnati before embarking on a two-day bus tour of Ohio.
The candidates are focusing on the nine states that the two campaigns say probably will decide the Nov. 6 presidential election. The others are New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
Among the tossup states with the most electoral votes, Obama leads Romney 50 percent to 45 percent in Ohio, according to an Oct. 17-20 CBS News/Quinnipiac poll of likely voters. In Florida, an Oct. 17-18 CNN survey of likely voters found a virtual tie, with Romney at 49 percent and Obama at 48 percent. And in Virginia, an Oct. 7-9 NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll found Romney with 48 percent to Obama’s 47 percent, while a CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac survey Oct. 4-9 found the president leading his Republican challenger by 5 points.
Romney has been striking a confident tone on the stump, in an effort to convince undecided voters of his chances and boost turn-out from supporters.
Heading into Iowa, Obama told the Des Moines Register newspaper that he’s “absolutely confident” that he can get a budget deal with congressional Republicans to avoid the triggering of automatic spending cuts and tax increases at the end of the year.
“It will probably be messy,” Obama said, according to a transcript. “It won’t be pleasant.”
He also said he expected to be able to get an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws passed next year if he’s re-elected.
“Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community,” he said.
The White House initially insisted that the interview yesterday with the newspaper’s publisher and its editor be conducted off-the-record. After editor Rick Green wrote on the publication’s blog about the conditions set by the administration, the White House released a transcript.
The newspaper is considering its endorsement in the presidential race and Romney already has met with the Register’s editorial board for an on-record interview.
The Republican National Committee seized on the Register editor’s blog posting, saying Obama was trying to hide his positions from voters. That’s the same charge that Obama has leveled against Romney.
Yesterday in Florida, Obama argued he is a more trustworthy leader, saying his challenger can’t be counted on to do what he says because he has switched positions on such issues as national security and health care.
“You know me,” Obama told about 11,000 supporters at a rally in Delray Beach, Florida. “You can trust that I say what I mean and I mean what I say.” Romney’s approach is to “hide his real positions and try to win this election,” the Democratic president said.
Kevin Madden, a Romney adviser, told reporters yesterday that Obama’s tactics -- including accusing the Republican of “Romnesia” over his policy stances -- suggest Obama’s re- election effort is under stress.
“Here we have the leader of the free world playing word games 14 days from Election Day,” Madden said. “It’s emblematic of the fact that the president doesn’t have a closing argument for the American people about why he should be re- elected.”
Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, said he remains confident the president has more avenues than Romney to reach the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win.
“We continue to feel very good about our prospects two weeks from tonight,” Messina told reporters on a conference call yesterday.
While Romney hasn’t been able to “knock us out” of a single battleground state, Messina said the Obama team has forced the challenger’s campaign to expend significant resources in states such as North Carolina and pull some firepower out of Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Mexico.
To contact the reporters on this story: John McCormick in Chicago at firstname.lastname@example.org; Margaret Talev in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at firstname.lastname@example.org