CINCINNATI (AP) — Both presidential candidates tried to fire up supporters and court the remaining undecided voters in battleground Ohio on Friday, ahead of a hectic weekend filled with political rhetoric and big-name music.
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney also will be in Ohio the day before the election, both in the Columbus area, and both sides had rallies and surrogate appearances planned in all corners of the state through the weekend.
Obama was working Republican areas Friday, looking to win over undecideds and cut into GOP margins in Tuesday's election.
Romney was in the Columbus area and then was headed for a massive Friday evening rally in the Republican-dominated northern Cincinnati suburb of West Chester. The lineup there included his family, running mate Paul Ryan and a slew of GOP politicians and sports celebrities for a crowd expected to be in the tens of thousands.
No detail goes unnoticed on the campaign trail, especially with just a few days left.
Obama staffers asked the scoreboard operator at Lima Senior High School to tweak the numbers on the scoreboard before Obama took the stage for an afternoon rally in the basketball gymnasium.
At first the sign said Home: 53, Guest 47 — perhaps a wishful prediction for next Tuesday. But within minutes it read 44-44 — a nod to the nation's 44th president.
Obama had begun his day in the heavily GOP Columbus suburb of Hilliard, where he drew some 2,800 people to a fairgrounds rally.
"I guess I just wanted to see a little bit of his personality in person," said undecided voter Becky Szajnuk, a 44-year-old florist. She walked to the rally with her fiance Joe Dombroski, also undecided, and an Obama-supporting boss. "I just don't like Mitt," she said.
Szajnuk said she spent 20 years as a Democrat and 20 more as a Republican, and was looking to connect with the president on a personal level before deciding her vote.
From Hilliard, Obama headed west to Springfield — where he was greeted by a crowd of about 4,000 at Springfield High School.
Among onlookers was Olivia Mavreau, 20, a junior accounting major at Wittenberg University. She said she plans to cast her first presidential vote for Obama.
"Another four years would be good for him," she said. "He's on the right path. I mean, why stop now, right?"
Her friend Josh Hayes, 20, a junior political science major, decided to back the president because: "I look at the alternatives and to me they don't work."
Walter Myers, 75, of Springfield, protested the event with placards, including one that said "NOBAMA." He said he's an independent who "voted for Sarah" in 2008.
Of job growth figures released Friday, Myers said, "I think it's a lie. I don't believe it's true ... I know too many people looking for jobs and can't find them."
Obama ended his day in Lima where volunteer Alice Jackson, 64, had a photo taken with the president just before he picked up her 3-month-old son in front of the stage.
"You can't top that," she said. "You couldn't have a better day."
Aside from the battle of words, there was a battle of the bands: Romney's campaign said he would be joined by southern rockers the Marshall Tucker Band on Sunday and Monday and by country music star Rodney Atkins on Sunday. Michigan native Kid Rock was the headliner for Friday night's rally.
Obama has Bruce Springsteen and rapper Jay-Z joining him Monday. The campaign said Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz is on the bill Sunday for stops with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill in Lakewood, Fremont and Lancaster, Ohio. Motown hit-maker Stevie Wonder will be with Obama on Sunday in Cincinnati.
The music stars not only can warm up supporters in rallies, they are a good way to lure potential voters off the sidelines in the tight race.
"The benefit is that the folks who perform are likely to bring people out to the rallies, just to see them for free, who may be marginal voters," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University political scientist. "They see the candidates alongside the performers they like and hear them talk about them; that's a good way of raising your turnout a couple of percentage points."
Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth in Hilliard, Ann Sanner in Springfield and John Seewer in Lima contributed to this report.
Contact the reporters at http://twitter.com/dansewell and http://twitter.com/jcarrsmyth