"We're going to make sure that veterans have jobs when they come home from Afghanistan," Romney said. The GOP nominee had been preparing for the fall debates at a private home in Vermont but headed back to his vacation home in New Hampshire on Thursday afternoon.
His party released a new ad Thursday, called "The Breakup," in which a woman tells the president: "This just isn't working ... You're not the person I thought you were. ... I think we should just be friends."
Anticipating a strong speech from the president, Republicans diminished the importance of Obama's performance in advance.
"Great speeches do not make great policy," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said at an event organized by the Republicans in Charlotte.
Among those giving warm-up speeches for the president Thursday night: Vice President Joe Biden and actress Eva Longoria.
Longoria, appearing on NBC's "Today," said she's "been in the trenches" for Obama defending his record and promised her speech will be very different from Clint Eastwood's meandering remarks to the Republicans a week earlier.
"No empty chairs," she promised, referring to Eastwood's conversation with an empty chair representing Obama.
Others adding to the celebrity quotient in Thursday's convention lineup were performers James Taylor, Marc Anthony, Mary J. Blige and the Foo Fighters. Actresses Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington both had speaking slots.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was speaking too, and he gave voice to the Democrats' nervousness about the GOP advantage in fundraising during a morning interview on CNN, citing the dollars pouring in from Republican-leaning super PACs.
"We've got 17 angry, old, white men who are pouring in millions of dollars, carpet bombing every candidate in sight," Durbin said.
First lady Michelle Obama aimed to help the Democrats catch up, appearing at a private meeting of Obama's national finance committee. And Clinton popped out his second fundraising email in as many days.
Underscoring the importance of a turn of phrase, the president said in a TV interview that he had "regrets for my syntax" when he told a campaign crowd last month that people who had a business "didn't build that." Romney turned the president's line into a rallying cry, claiming Obama overstated the importance of government's role.
But Obama said he stands by his point that the government has provided strong support to small businesses. "Everyone who was there watching knows exactly what I was saying," he said in the interview with WWBT in Norfolk, Va.
GOP running mate Paul Ryan, campaigning in Colorado, needled Obama about the phrase anew on Thursday, saying government shouldn't get the credit for business owners' achievements. He lamented "the most partisan president, the most acrimonious climate, the bitter partisan environment."
Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Ken Thomas, Matt Michaels, Jim Kuhnhenn and Leo Buckle in Charlotte; Jennifer Agiesta, Jack Gillum and Josh Lederman in Washington; Kasie Hunt in New Hampshire and Thomas Beaumont and Steve Peoples in Colorado contributed to this report.
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