DENVER — Now in the presidential campaign’s final two weeks, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney crisscrossed the nation Wednesday in search of support from the remaining undecided voters in swing states who will determine the next occupant of the White House.
Romney, appearing in Reno, Nev., declared that a trio of presidential debates left Obama’s campaign “slipping and shrinking.” He exuded confidence, twice correcting himself, replacing “If I’m elected,” with “No, when I’m elected.”
“We’ve had a number of debates lately, did you notice that? And they have really propelled our campaign,” he said. “We’ve seen that across the country – and at the same time I think in some respects they’ve diminished the president’s campaign because he’s now been reduced to talking about Sesame Street characters, word games and misplaced attacks on me.”
Obama embarked on a marathon tour of a half-dozen battleground states Wednesday, attempting to chip away at Romney’s apparent momentum. He flew from coast to coast with stops in Iowa, Colorado and Nevada on Wednesday and Florida, Virginia and Ohio on Thursday.
He also stopped Wednesday in California to tape an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” While traveling on Air Force One, he made calls to undecided voters and to 50 disc jockeys, most of them African-American, in swing states.
Obama continued to criticize Romney for flip-flopping on issues – which he has dubbed “Romnesia” – but returned to a familiar plea for voters to give him the time he needs to finish his goals.
“We haven’t finished everything that we want to get done,” he said. “That’s why I’m running for a second term. But every single day that I set foot in the Oval Office, I’m fighting for your families. And with your help, I’ve kept many of the major commitments that we made.”
Romney has an edge in national rankings, according to a compilation of surveys by the website RealClearPolitics, though Obama continues to lead in some battleground states, including Ohio, New Hampshire and Iowa.
Romney spoke to 2,500 supporters, many retirees, at an event center in downtown Reno before heading to Iowa. He called the election a "defining" one for the "families of the nation, for your family."
Supporters cheered lustily as Romney said, "People will elect me to repeal Obamacare and replace it."
He repeated his charge that Obama "doesn’t understand what it takes to get this economy going. I do and that’s why I’m going to win." The president’s plan, he charged, is only "more spending, more borrowing. . . . You could boil down what he’s saying to four simple words: more of the same." And he pledged that his five-point plan would "get America cooking again."
Dave Tammen, a Sparks, Nev., retiree wearing a “Romney-Ryan 2012" button, said he’s "much more optimistic than I was a month ago” about Romney’s chances. "He put in a solid performance in all three debates, we were thrilled," Tammen said. "The polls are heading his way, the spread is widening.”
Obama spoke to 3,500 in Davenport, Iowa, before heading to a pizzeria where he lunched with a trio of campaign volunteers. A crowd outside the restaurant cheered loudly as Obama walked out.
In Denver, an energized Obama spoke to an estimated 16,000, one of his largest rallies this campaign.
Obama accused Romney of having an economic plan that “isn’t any different than the policies that led to the Great Recession.”
He urged voters to endorse his jobs plan to create jobs – ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, rewarding small businesses and manufacturers that are creating jobs in the United States, and cutting oil imports in half by 2020.
“That’s how you build a strong, sustainable economy that has good, middle-class jobs to offer,” he said. “That’s how you encourage new businesses to start right here. That’s how you help small businesses. That’s how you increase take-home pay. That’s how you build an economy where everybody who works hard has a chance to get ahead. That’s what we can do together.”
Clark reported from Nevada, Douglas from Iowa and Colorado and Kumar from Washington. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @williamgdouglas, @lesleyclark @anitakumar01