MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried to win Ohio voters Wednesday by promising new jobs, while President Barack Obama urged his supporters to stay focused even though he acknowledged losing his first debate because he said he "was just too polite."
"I think it's fair to say we will see a little more activity at the next one," Obama told radio host Tom Joyner, looking forward to the second of three debates the White House rivals have planned this month.
Romney got some preparation for Tuesday's town hall-style debate at New York's Hofstra University by taking questions from voters at a manufacturing plant. Confusion over what action he'd take on abortion, if elected, forced the candidate to reiterate, "I'll be a pro-life president."
The Romney campaign has new hope it can win over working-class voters after his sharp debate performance last week, with polls in Ohio and elsewhere showing signs of a bounce. A new CNN poll showed Obama leading Romney 51 percent to 47 percent among likely Ohio voters, depicting a tighter race. "Great response here in Ohio," Romney told reporters traveling with him as he shook voters' hands. "Love it."
The Romney campaign tried to maintain his momentum by revealing two television ads Wednesday that feature video from the first debate. Both use video of Romney criticizing Obama's stewardship of the economy while the president looks down silently.
In his radio interview, Obama said the race would always be close after Americans have "just gone through four really tough years."
"Gov. Romney kept on making mistakes month after month so it made it look artificially like this was, might end up being a cakewalk," Obama said. "But we understood internally that it never would be."
Obama compared his debate performance to losing one game of a seven-game championship series in basketball. Joyner interjected, saying "Yeah, but you had the open shot and you didn't take it."
"Yeah, I understand," Obama said. "But, you know, what happens though is that when people lose one game, you know, this is a long haul."
The president predicted that "by next week, I think a lot of the hand-wringing will be complete because we're going to go ahead and win this thing." He encouraged his supporters to pay close attention to approaching voter registration deadlines.
Before Obama and Romney face off on Tuesday, attention first turns to the vice presidential debate Thursday night in Kentucky. While both campaigns tried to downplay expectations before the first presidential debate, the pair expressed confidence in their running mates.
"Paul Ryan will do great," Romney said. Obama, who plans to watch from Air Force One on a flight back from a campaign stop in Miami, said Vice President Joe Biden "will be terrific."
While he's made some gains since his strong debate performance, Romney is still trying to recover from his secretly videotaped remarks that 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes believe they are victims, especially among working-class voters. He targeted those voters in a visit to the Ariel Corp., which makes compressors to extract and distribute natural gas, touring the factory floor and shaking workers' hands.
"My whole passion is about helping the American people who are struggling right now," Romney said in his town hall after the tour. "That's what this is about. The president says he's for the middle class. How have they done under his presidency? Not so well. I want to help the middle class get good jobs and better take-home pay. I know how to do that."
Romney's comments on abortion to an Iowa newspaper brought new attention to social issues.
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