Rivals stress differences and bipartisanship hopes
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — Two days from judgment by the voters, President Barack Obama raced through four far-flung battleground states on Sunday while Mitt Romney ventured into traditionally Democratic Pennsylvania, seeking a breakthrough in a close race he mused aloud he might lose.
Appearing before some of the largest crowds of the campaign, the two rivals stressed their differences on the economy, health care and more while professing an eagerness to work across party lines and end gridlock in Washington.
"You have the power," Obama, the most powerful political leader in the world, told thousands of cheering supporters in New Hampshire, his first appearance of the day. It was after midnight in the East when Obama wrapped up the day's campaigning with a rally in Aurora, Colo., that drew some 20,000 people.
In Cleveland, boos from Romney's partisans turned to appreciative laughter when the Republican nominee began a sentence by saying, "If the president were to be elected," and ended it with, "It's possible but not likely." It was a rare public acknowledgement that despite expressions of confidence from him and his aides, defeat was a possibility.
In a campaign that began more than a year ago, late public opinion polls were unpredictably tight for the nationwide popular vote. But they suggested at least a slim advantage for the president in the state-by-state competition for electoral votes that will settle the contest, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada.
Conceding nothing, Romney flew to Pennsylvania for his first campaign foray of the general election. The state last voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 1988, and Obama's aides insisted it was safe for the president. Yet the challenger and his allies began advertising heavily in the campaign's final days, and public and private polls suggested the state was relatively close.
The theme from "Rocky" blared from the loudspeakers as he stepped to the podium. "The people of America understand we're taking back the White House because we're going to win Pennsylvania," Romney told a large crowd that had been waiting for hours on a cold night.
Earlier, Romney launched a new television commercial, possibly his last of the campaign, as he appeared in Iowa, Ohio and Virginia as well as Pennsylvania. "He's offering excuses. I've got a plan" to fix the economy. "I can't wait for us to get started," he said.
In Des Moines, Romney said he would meet regularly with "good men and women on both sides of the aisle" in Congress. Later, in Cleveland, he said of Obama, "Instead of bridging the divide, he's made it wider."
Obama had New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Colorado in his sights for the day, and, judging from the polls, a slight wind at his back. So much so that one conservative group cited a string of surveys that favor the president as it emailed an urgent plea for late-campaign donations so it could end his time in the White House.
In Florida, the president said he wants to work across party lines, but quickly added there were limits to the sorts of compromises he would make.
"If the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals that will kick students off of financial aid, or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood, or let insurance companies discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, or eliminate health care for millions who are on Medicaid .... I'm not willing to pay that price," he said, reciting some of the charges he has leveled against Romney.
The two rivals and their running mates flew from state to state as the last of an estimated 1 million campaign commercials were airing in a costly attempt to influence a diminishing pool of voters.
Obama, his voice growing hoarse after four straight days of heavy campaigning, spoke briefly to an overflow crowd of 2,000 at a Cincinnati basketball arena Sunday night. The president projected confidence in his off-the-cuff remarks, telling backers he would need their support "even after the election."
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