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Romney primary message shifts as election nears

Associated Press Modified: October 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm •  Published: October 17, 2012

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — On immigration, taxes and women's issues, Mitt Romney is abandoning his "severely conservative" talk of the Republican primary season and moving sharply to the political center as he looks to sway on-the-fence voters in the campaign's final three weeks.

At the same time, the GOP presidential nominee's advisers and the Republican National Committee are looking to give Romney more routes to reaching the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory. They are weighing whether to shift resources from North Carolina, where Republicans express confidence of winning, into states long considered safe territory for President Barack Obama, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The evolving strategy comes as both candidates work to capitalize on their second debate-stage meeting, a Tuesday night face off in which Romney emphasized his bipartisan credentials as well as his efforts to hire women while Massachusetts governor, and declared, "I'm not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people."

One day after the debate, Romney's camp conceded that Obama had a strong performance and mapped out a plan for the Republican to focus on the economy in the coming days, including delivering a speech on spending and debt early next week. Romney also intends to continue aggressively reaching out to the narrow slice of moderate, undecided voters.

The former Massachusetts governor, who described himself as "severely conservative" in February, offered a moderate message while appealing directly to women voters Wednesday in Virginia, which Obama won four years ago and is up for grabs now.

"This president has failed America's women," Romney told an estimated 3,500 supporters Wednesday gathered outside Tidewater Community College in Chesapeake. "They've suffered in terms of getting jobs. They've suffered in terms of falling into poverty."

At an evening rally in Leesburg, he cited the struggle of single mothers and called for more cooperation in politics.

"I want to ensure that we come together as Republicans and Democrats. People of all the states, come together," Romney said at an evening rally that drew 8,500 to northern Virginia.

He also has softened his tone on women's issues as he looks to cut into Obama's polling advantage among women.

Romney's opposition to Planned Parenthood was a common theme during the primary, and Obama hammered the Republican on Tuesday over his plan to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, the network of clinics that provide women's health care and also provide abortion services.

Romney hasn't backed away from that stance; his plan to cut Title X, which funds family planning health services, is still listed on his website. But he isn't quick to talk about it either. Earlier this month, he told the Des Moines Register's editorial board that he didn't intend to pursue any abortion-related legislation as president, and then back tracked.

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