Obama, Romney pumped for dash to the finish
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — With just two weeks until Election Day, President Barack Obama on Tuesday began a cross-country rush to hold onto office in tough economic times with a new booklet outlining his second-term agenda and a closing argument that the choice comes down to trust.
The president emerged from the last of his debates with Republican Mitt Romney fueled by a rush of adrenaline matched by thousands of boisterous supporters who filled the outdoor Delray Tennis Center to hear him speak. The crowd repeatedly interrupted Obama's 22-minute speech with applause and chants of "four more years" that drowned out his remarks.
Obama, with sleeves rolled up, held up a copy of the full-color, 20-page "Blueprint for America's Future" that his campaign planned to distribute across the country — a booklet that offered a repackaging of his ideas in response to GOP criticism that he hasn't clearly articulated a plan for the next four years. He argued that voters want to know what a presidential candidate will fight for and said Romney isn't offering a clear vision.
"We joke about Romnesia," Obama said, a reference to his joke that his challenger has a habit of vacillating positions. "But you know what? This actually is something important. This is about trust. There is no more serious issue in a presidential campaign than trust."
Neither side can claim the lead at this late stage with polls showing a neck-and-neck race nationally and in some of the key swing states. Obama's challenge is to convince voters who may be hurting financially that he is better qualified to lead the country back to economic prosperity than Romney, who made a fortune as a successful businessman.
"Florida, you know me," Obama said. "You can trust that I say what I mean and I mean what I say. And yes, we've been through tough times. But you've never seen me quit."
Both campaigns predicted victory, trying to ward off worries among the supporters they need to get to the polls. "In two weeks, a majority of Americans will choose Gov. Romney's positive agenda over President Obama's increasingly desperate attacks," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams in a statement responding to the president's Florida rally.
Obama senior strategist David Axelrod said he was confident Obama would win and that Americans soon will know who's been bluffing in their dueling declarations of victory. "We have the ball, we have the lead," Axelrod told reporters on a conference call.
Axelrod said the campaign was printing 3.5 million copies of his second-term agenda to reach the "small universe" of voters who haven't made up their minds. The booklet, which they plan to distribute at events and campaign offices across the country, outlines the president's plans to improve education, boost manufacturing jobs, enhance U.S.-made energy, reduce the federal deficit and raise taxes on the wealthy.
Romney policy director Lanhee Chen responded that Obama was trying to fool people into thinking he has new ideas when all he's offering is more of the same plans that Chen said have been ineffective. "A glossy pamphlet two weeks before an election is no substitute for a real agenda for America. As much as President Obama might try, you can't gloss over four years like the last four," Chen wrote in a memo.
Obama also touted economic gains in a new 60-second television advertisement in which he speaks directly to the camera about his plans for a second term. The ad will air in the nine states whose electoral votes are still considered up for grabs — New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada and Colorado.
Those states were sure to see a burst of activity in visits from the two campaigns, political commercials and voter mobilization in the race that's likely to cost upward of $2 billion by the time it all ends. Obama campaigned Tuesday in Florida and was headed to Ohio, while Romney's campaign plane taxied past Air Force One on Tuesday morning as he headed West to Nevada and Colorado.
With 270 electoral votes needed for victory, Obama at this point appears on track to win 237 while Romney appears to have 191. The other 110 electoral votes are in the hotly contested battleground states.