Romney Chases Obama in Swing States as Race Intensifies

Romney Heads Out of Convention to Tour Storm-Hit Louisiana
In his acceptance speech, Mitt Romney sought to identify with the dreams and disappointments of U.S. voters amid unemployment that’s stuck above 8 percent, presenting himself as a unifying figure with the expertise to create jobs and heal partisan rifts. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney chased votes in swing states, with Obama accusing his Republican challenger of running on a “rerun agenda” and Romney arguing the incumbent has failed to create jobs and deserves to be kicked out of office.

Starting off a four-state campaign swing leading into next week’s Democratic National Convention, Obama told Iowa voters yesterday that when he formally accepts his party’s nomination to a second term Sept. 6 he’ll offer “a better path forward” for improving the economy than have the Republicans. The president said Romney provided no new ideas to help middle-class Americans at the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, which ended Aug. 30.

“What they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century,” Obama said at Living History Farms in Urbandale. “You might as well have watched it on a black and white TV.”

Romney, speaking to about 3,000 voters at the Union Terminal in Cincinnati on the opening day of the college football season, likened Obama to a coach who’s had a losing season.

“If you have a coach that’s zero and 23 million, you say it’s time to get a new coach,” Romney said, referring to the number of unemployed and underemployed in the U.S. “It’s time for America to see a winning season again, and we’re going to bring it to them.”

Battleground Sprint

With less than 70 days until Election Day, Obama, 51, and Romney, 65, have zeroed in on fewer than a dozen battleground states. After Iowa, the president plans stops over the next few days in Colorado, Ohio and Virginia before flying to Charlotte, North Carolina, to accept re-nomination. The five states combined, all won by Obama four years ago, hold 61 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

Romney will spend the next week starting to prepare for his October debates against Obama, campaign strategist Kevin Madden told reporters yesterday. The former Massachusetts governor will huddle in Vermont with advisers including U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a veteran of debate preparation for Republican presidential nominees, to get ready for the three face-offs, Madden said.

Surrogate Use

Asked whether the campaign was concerned about the prospect that Romney would surrender the media spotlight to Obama during the Democratic convention if he took a break from campaigning, Madden said: “We’ve spent a good deal of time on the campaign trail. We’ll still have surrogates out.”

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan will stump in North Carolina, he said.

Romney told supporters in Cincinnati he expects the Democratic gathering starting Sept. 4 in North Carolina will be a more somber affair than the Tampa event.

“They’re going to be having a convention, I guess, in Charlotte next week, and it’s not going to be as happy as ours was,” Romney said.

Later, appearing with Ryan in Jacksonville, Florida, Romney asked supporters to find voters who backed Obama in 2008 and persuade them to abandon him this time, contending that the president failed to keep promises he made four years ago.

“Each one of you needs to find one person who voted for Barack Obama and convince them to vote for Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney,” he told a rally on the St. John’s River.

Ryan said while Obama “inherited a difficult situation when he came into office,” he has “made things worse” and broken his promises. “We’re not better off, we’re worse off,” Ryan said.

Short on Ideas

Obama, ending the day’s campaigning at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, said Romney’s convention message was big on platitudes and short on ideas. The Republican message, Obama said, is that only Romney “knows the secret to creating jobs and growing the economy.”

“When Governor Romney had his chance to let you in on his secret sauce, he didn’t offer you a single new idea,” he said.

Obama sought to deflect criticism about campaign promises in Urbandale by contrasting his stance with Romney’s on national security.

“Governor Romney had nothing to say about Afghanistan” in his convention speech, Obama said.

Romney also has said “ending the war in Iraq was tragic; I said we’d end that war, and we did,” the president said. “I said we’d take out bin Laden and we did,” he said, referring to the raid last year that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Iowa helped catapult Obama to the nomination in 2008, and yesterday’s visit was his seventh to the state this year, with three of those trips since Aug. 1.

“There’s reason for me to begin the journey right here in Iowa, where it all began more than four years ago,” Obama said.

Courting Women

The president has aggressively courted women and younger voters as polls of Iowans show the race in a dead heat. According to an average of surveys compiled by the RealClear Politics website, Obama is leading Romney 45.0 to 44.8 percent.

“Iowa is very important -- its six electoral votes could make the difference between Obama or Romney as president. Lately the polls have tightened up and both candidates want to get Iowa in their column,” said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University in Ames.

The state’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in July, up from 5.1 percent the month earlier.

“Obama basically needs to re-energize young voters in Iowa and widen the gender gap with the Republicans so he can squeak by in November,” Schmidt said.

New Voters

Obama’s campaign is working to mobilize and register new voters, particularly students, so they can cast ballots in states with early voting. They cited Iowa as one example, where their field operations have been in place since 2007 and where early voting begins the end of September.

“At this stage, it’s so important we go to states where people are starting to vote soon,” campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters traveling with Obama. “A vote on Election Day is not better than a vote before. A vote is a vote.”

In 2008, 77 percent of Colorado’s voters cast early ballots or voted by mail, Psaki said, adding that Iowa has had a tradition of that, too.

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