Obama, Romney fight toward finish line
DUBUQUE, Iowa (UPDATED) - President Barack Obama and opponent Mitt Romney darted across the United States on Saturday, November 3, in an 11th-hour blitz for votes, with the battle for the White House heading to an ill-tempered climax.
Sharp political arrows flew furiously as they have throughout the bitter, months-long battle between the two parties' flag-bearers, but the rivals also turned to soaring rhetoric as they made their closing arguments.
Three days before voters choose whether to give Democrat Obama a second term, the president dashed from small rural towns in Ohio to the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for a large rally with a rowdy crowd.
Republican Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan trumpeted a "put country first" message to voters as he campaigned in New Hampshire, Iowa and Colorado.
In Milwaukee, Obama had pop star Katy Perry -- wearing a tight blue dress embossed with the incumbent's "Forward" slogan -- warm up a crowd estimated at 20,000.
When the main act appeared, however, the tone was more like a bar fight than a pop concert. Obama hit out at what he said was Romney's plan to let Wall Street return to the days when it had "free rein to do whatever" it liked, which he said had led to economic woes "we're still cleaning our way out of."
"Governor Romney now is a very talented salesman," Obama said. "So in this campaign, he is trying as hard as he can to repackage the same old ideas that didn't work and offer them up as change."
Wisconsin had been considered safe Democratic territory, but a combination of a resurgent Republican Party, waning enthusiasm for Obama and home state hero Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate has tightened the race.
Later, the president stopped in Iowa, the rural state that nurtured his dreams of the White House back in 2007, and wrapped up against the chill dusk air in a central square of the city of Dubuque spoke to a crowd of 5,000.
"I started my presidential journey right here in this state ... after two years of campaigning and after four years as president," he said, his voice increasingly hoarse.
"You know me by now," he added, implicitly comparing his trustworthiness to that of Romney.
Iowa is one of eight or so battleground states that the campaigns are obsessing over in the final 72 hours of the race. Obama will later head to Virginia, a state with strong conservative roots that he won in 2008.
Romney started his day in New Hampshire, which has only four of the 270 electoral votes needed to claim the White House but could punch above its weight in a tight finish, and accused Obama of "demonizing" political foes.
"I won't represent just one party, I'll represent one nation," Romney told a crowd at an airport rally outside Portsmouth, and warned that Obama would find it impossible to work with congressional Republicans if he wins re-election.
Romney also debuted a new political ad Saturday, seizing on Obama's comment in Ohio a day earlier when he told supporters angry at the Republicans not to boo but to vote, saying "voting's the best revenge."
The ad featured Romney telling his biggest crowd of the campaign in Ohio Friday that Obama "asked his supporters to vote for revenge -- for revenge."
"Instead, I ask the American people to vote for love of country," said Romney, who repeated the message at a rally in Dubuque, Iowa where he blasted Obama for high unemployment and high gas prices, before traveling to Colorado.
Tied nationally, but...
In Colorado Springs, Romney said he saw Tuesday as "a moment to look into the future, and imagine what we can do to put the past four years behind us."
"We're that close right now," he said. "The door to a brighter future is there."
Ryan sounded the same message of patriotism that the Republican ticket trumpeted in the earlier attack ad.
"We are asking you to vote out of love for country," Ryan said in Richmond, Virginia.
Latest polls show Obama and Romney tied nationally, but the president appears to be solidifying his position in enough swing states to support his hopes of a second term.
New surveys by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News Saturday showed the president up by 49 to 47 percent in Florida and leading Romney 51 to 45 percent in Ohio, double the margin in the current RealClearPolitics average.
A Mason Dixon poll for the Miami Herald, however, had Romney up by six points in Florida, which the Republican, who also needs Ohio, cannot afford to lose if he is to be elected America's 45th president. - Stephen Collinson, Agence France-Press
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