President Barack Obama and?Mitt Romney?chased each other through politically competitive states, with Obama accusing his Republican challenger of running on a ?rerun agenda? while Romney pressed voters to fire the incumbent who he said has failed to create U.S. jobs.

Kicking off a series of stops leading into next week?s Democratic National Convention, Obama told?Iowa?voters that when he formally accepts his party?s nomination to a second term Sept. 6 he?ll offer ?a better path forward? for improving the economy than have the Republicans. The president said that Romney and other Republicans provided no new ideas to help middle-class Americans earlier this week at the party?s national convention in Tampa,?Florida.

?What they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century,? Obama said at Living History Farms in Urbandale. ?You might as well have watched it on a black and white TV.?

Romney, speaking to about 3,000 voters at the Union Terminal in Cincinnati on the opening Saturday of the college football season, likened Obama to a coach who?s had a losing season.

?If you have a coach that?s zero and 23 million, you say it?s time to get a new coach,? Romney said, referring to the number of unemployed and underemployed in the U.S. ?It?s time for America to see a winning season again, and we?re going to bring it to them.?

Battleground Sprint

With fewer than 70 days until Election Day, Obama, 51, and Romney, 65, have zeroed in on fewer than a dozen battleground states. After Iowa, the president plans stops over the next few days in?Colorado,?Ohio?and?Virginia?before flying to?Charlotte,?North Carolina, to accept re-nomination. The five states combined, all won by Obama four years ago, hold 61 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

Romney will spend next week starting to prepare for his October debates against Obama, campaign strategist?Kevin Madden?told reporters today. The former Massachusetts governor will huddle in?Vermont?with advisers including U.S. Senator?Rob Portman?of Ohio, a veteran of debate preparation for Republican presidential nominees, to get ready for the three face-offs, Madden said.

Surrogate Use

Asked whether the campaign was concerned about the prospect that Romney would surrender the media spotlight to Obama during the Democratic convention if he took a break from campaigning, Madden said: ?We?ve spent a good deal of time on the campaign trail. We?ll still have surrogates out.?

Republican vice presidential nominee?Paul Ryan?will stump in North Carolina, Madden added.

Romney told supporters in Cincinnati he expects the Democratic gathering starting Sept. 4 in North Carolina will be a more somber affair than the Tampa event.

?They?re going to be having a convention, I guess, in Charlotte next week, and it?s not going to be as happy as ours was,? Romney said.

Later, appearing with Ryan in Jacksonville, Florida, Romney asked supporters to find voters who backed Obama in 2008 and persuade them to abandon him this time, contending that the president failed to keep promises he made four years ago.

?Each one of you needs to find one person who voted for?Barack Obama?and convince them to vote for Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney,? he told a rally on the St. John?s River.

Ryan said while Obama ?inherited a difficult situation when he came into office,? he has ?made things worse? and broken his promises. ?We?re not better off, we?re worse off,? Ryan said.

Afghanistan, Iraq

Obama sought to deflect criticism about campaign promises in Urbandale by contrasting his stance with Romney?s on national security.

?Governor Romney?had nothing to say about?Afghanistan? in his convention speech, Obama said.

Romney also has said ?ending the war in?Iraq?was tragic; I said we?d end that war, and we did,? the president said. ?I said we?d take out bin Laden and we did,? he said, referring to the raid last year that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Iowa helped catapult Obama to the nomination in 2008, and today?s visit was his seventh to the state this year, with three of those trips since Aug. 1.

?There?s reason for me to begin the journey right here in Iowa, where it all began more than four years ago,? Obama said.

Courting Women

The president has aggressively courted women and younger voters as polls of Iowans show the race in a dead heat. According to an average of surveys compiled by the RealClear Politics website, Obama is leading Romney 45.0 to 44.8 percent.

?Iowa is very important – its six electoral votes could make the difference between Obama or Romney as president. Lately the polls have tightened up and both candidates want to get Iowa in their column,? said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at?Iowa State University?in Ames.

The state?s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in July, up from 5.1 percent the month earlier.

?Obama basically needs to re-energize young voters in Iowa and widen the gender gap with the Republicans so he can squeak by in November,? Schmidt said.

Obama?s campaign is working to mobilize and register new voters, particularly students, so they can cast ballots in states with early voting. They cited Iowa as one example, where their field operations have been in place since 2007 and where early voting begins the end of September.

?At this stage, it?s so important we go to states where people are starting to vote soon,? campaign spokeswoman?Jen Psaki?told reporters traveling with Obama. ?A vote on Election Day is not better than a vote before. A vote is a vote.?

In 2008, 77 percent of Colorado?s voters cast early ballots or voted by mail, Psaki said, adding that Iowa has had a tradition of that, too.


Source: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Jacksonville


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